Another Maine Metaphor is coming out, this one with a new geographic focus, Maine’s eastern uplands, a construct from my Maine undergraduate studies, in the late 1980s as a nontraditional student. But today I’m posting about a neighboring town and author, in part because of personal connections with the town. The town is Mexico, Maine.
You read that right. Mexico, Maine. Maine is more than half the geographic area of New England, and so far there is only a beginning immigrant quantity of Mexican-Americans in the White- Anglo-Saxon Protestant-founding of New England, USA. I’m seeing none at all in this part of the Western Mountains of Maine.
So, Mexico Maine? —White Maine? But the mill towns of Mexico and Rumford (over the river) had been home to immigrants from early days of the mill’s founding by Hugh Chisholm in the late 1800s. In those days it was woodland/farmland but possessed of the greatest national waterfalls east of Niagara — where Hugh Chisholm came from on hearing of these remote woodlands and the great unharnessed falls.
When we first drove into Mexico in our secondhand patched together 12-year-old gas hogging Buick, we saw the mill right off, of course. It was almost the whole reason we’d come.
An assignment had been handed off from Brunswick, and before that Freeport, Maine: A Mexico volunteer was going to give us guidance on how to “get going” in the town. At that point we had no idea of these being immigrant towns. All the descendants of economic refugees in Mexico looked like us, WASPs. But they were mostly giant families of Catholic Italian, Lithuanian, Irish, French, New Brunswick, PEI descendants, with a few other white odds and ends (such as ourselves, a 4-person nuclear family), and at least one African-American family.
The Rumford Falls built the mill, and the mill built the twin towns out of immigrants. But to suggest that our little family were not immigrant-descended is wrong. No family on earth, of whatever size, no individual, no babe in arms, is not descended from immigrants. Even First Peoples, Native Americans, and other indigenous people are descended of immigrants. People have been moving around since there were people, some en route to this continent on the (former) land-bridge from North Asia. The Saviour of the world was immigrant descended: I might take that a bit further in a seasonal post. Wherever we are, we are there because of migration.
Escaping the exhausted midwestern rust-belt, our family, at that point, was in need of housing, work, food, gas, everything that keeps a family going. We were on the brink of car-camping in Mexico in November with virtually none of the aforementioned. In the vernacular of the rural town we ended up in a few weeks later, we were “from away.”
From away was a label to cover the unknown quality. Most people in the rural towns we lived in were descended of settlers from Massachusetts, and before that East Anglia in England. “The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Angles, a tribe that originated in Angeln, northern Germany.” (Wikipedia) But that’s getting ahead of this narrative centered in Mexico, Maine. This entry is already lengthy, so I’ll close and hope to continue next post: connecting our story with that of Monica Woods’ memoir, When We Were the Kennedys.
The series continues:
Possibly of additional interest: