WTVP's Boxcar People Shares The Story of Galesburg's Mexican Railroad Families

WTVP, public media for Central Illinois, broadcasted the premier of Boxcar People, a documentary that tells the story of Mexican workers recruited in the early 1900s to work the railroads in Galesburg, Illinois. At a time when their own country was torn by a bloody civil war, American industry came to Mexico looking for workers to replace the men gone off to fight in World War I. To a culture centered on family, the railroads were particularly attractive to Mexicans displaced by chaos and war. For the rail companies provided not just a job, but a place to raise a family. Each worker was offered a home … a home in the form of a boxcar.

Using historic film, original testimonials and photos from the actual inhabitants of the boxcar camps, Boxcar People goes beyond descriptions of horrible living conditions, dangerous and back-breaking work, and harsh discrimination to tell the tale of a proud people with strong traditions and deep faith who came to love their adopted country and all the opportunities it offered.

Boxcar People is a truly inspiring story of immigrants rising up against all odds. It sheds light upon a rarely heard history of Galesburg and its Mexican population in context of national history. It also puts a local face on the national issues of the generations of “immigrants” who have built this country and fought its wars, but still struggle with acceptance and civil rights.

Boxcar People was written and produced by Will and Luz Schick, created by WTVP Executive Producer William Baker and features original music by Daniel Godsil, Associate in Applied Music at Knox College.

For more information, visit the WTVP Boxcar People website here.

You can watch a brief clip from the broadcast premiere of Boxcar People here: