For four years, Milwaukee journalist Georgia Pabst and media producer Ralph Pabst worked to document the Latino community’s impact in Wisconsin. Narrated by voices in the Latino community, the documentary film, Latino Wisconsin, looks at five different regions of impact — from farm workers to future entrepreneurs.
What comes through in the film is that while overcoming poverty, education barriers and immigration and civil rights challenges, the Latino community in Wisconsin has and will continue to contribute to the economic livelihood and growth of the state.
The first of five chapters begins with the impact of immigrant Mexican labor in Wisconsin’s most iconic industry — dairy. Pabst explains why: "Dairy is the signature industry of Wisconsin, or the dairy state. And the dairy state would collapse, according to farmers and the dairy industry, were it not for immigrant labor — Mexican immigrant labor."
The film moves on from the frigid farmland to Arcadia, where the influx of Latino immigrants make up the majority of the workforce for the giant Ashley Furniture factory. Latino Wisconsin does not fall to the common trope of measuring the value of Latino immigrants solely by their economic contributions, but the film pushes further by also documenting the civil rights contributions that Latino activist groups pushed for in the '60s in '70s.
Today, it's children, who make up 15% of Milwaukee's population, who are making an outsized impact on the city. Chapter four details how this demographic has sparked competition for students from public, charter and choice schools — reshaping the face of education in the city.
In the final chapter, the film explores how through the years many Latino entrepreneurs have blazed the trail in building business and community. And finally ends with its thesis: Latinos are key not only to the city of Milwaukee’s future, but also to the state of Wisconsin.