Michael Innis-Jiménez is Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Alabama. Before coming to Alabama, he taught in the Department of History at William Paterson University. He has also served as a consultant with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Latino New South Project and as a consultant with the lead museum of the project's consortium, the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina. My book projects include Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago (NYUP, 2013), "Made in Chicago: Mexican Food, Tourism, and Cultural Identity" (in progress and under contract with the University of Texas Press), and "The Latinx South: A History of Migration and Race in Pursuit of the American Dream" (in progress). Additionally, I have published various refereed book chapters and refereed journal articles. Steel Barrio examines how the fortunes of Mexicans in South Chicago were linked to the environment they helped build and offers new insights into how and why Mexican Americans created community. I argue that Mexican immigrant and Mexican American men and women who came to South Chicago created physical and imagined communities to defend against the ever-present social, political, and economic harassment and discrimination to grow in a foreign, polluted environment. "Made in Chicago" analyzes the centrality of culturally distinct food to ideas of “authenticity,” community, and belonging by examining local Mexican restaurants as sites of culinary tourism, cultural tourism, and Mexican community building. Mexican food, and, by proxy, the establishments that sold it, became fundamental to the culture, society, and identity of the Mexican newcomers to Chicago. "The Latinx South" analyzes the twentieth- and twenty-first-century histories of Latin American immigrants to the Deep South and puts twenty-first-century anti-immigrant fervor into historical perspective.
Learning lessons from the experiences of the Mexican and Mexican American community and the actions of “white” society during the Great Depression, The Great Recession, the Trump crisis, and other times of strong anti-immigrant rhetoric can help immigrants, scholars, and advocates find ways to redirect the national immigration debate away from the current “us” versus “them” rhetoric towards a constructive dialogue about the role of immigrants in American society today.