Hispanic families in Boulder County

(Contributors: Nick Garcia and Tori Desantiago)

Data about Hispanics in Boulder County in the 1920 Census

Whether one was “Hispanic” was not a census question in 1920, but if you get the census data from IPUMS they have figured out “Hispanic” status by looking at birthplaces, mother tongue, and so on. From this they create a variable called HISPAN, which they define as follows: “HISPAN identifies persons of Hispanic/Spanish/Latino origin and classifies them according to their country of origin when possible. Origin is defined by the Census Bureau as ancestry, lineage, heritage, nationality group, or country of birth.” [1]

In Boulder County in 1920, there were a total of 320 Hispanics. Most of them were of Mexican origin; not surprising since Mexico borders the United States.

Figure 1: Origins of Boulder County Hispanic individuals, 1920

However, the above graph shows origin, not where the individuals were born. In fact, only just over half of the Hispanic individuals in Boulder County were foreign born. Most of the others were children of immigrants, but as Table 1 below shows, 17.5 percent were not even second-generation immigrants: they were born in the United States, and so were their parents (the census does not give us information beyond that; their grandparents might have been born overseas, or not.)

Nativity percent
Foreign born 50.94%
Native born, and both parents foreign 15.63%
Native born, and father foreign, mother native 14.38%
Native born, and mother foreign, father native 1.56%
Native born, and both parents native born 17.50%

Table 1. Nativity of Hispanic individuals in Boulder County (n=320)

However, the vast majority of Hispanic individuals who were immigrants had not gained citizenship or even started the process. In the data, there were only seventeen individuals who either were a naturalized citizen or not a citizen yet but received their first papers – that is, started the process of becoming a citizen. (The N/A (not applicable) category basically means “U.S.-born citizen” – the census does not ask  individuals born in the United States to report their citizenship.)

Citizenship status percent
Not a citizen 45.63%
Not a citizen, but has received first papers 2.81%
Naturalized citizen 2.50%
N/A 49.06%

Table 2. Citizenship status of Hispanic individuals in Boulder County (n=320)

Figure 2. Arrival year of those Hispanic individuals who were not native-bornA part of the explanation for why they had not gained citizenship probably has to do with the fact that most of them had arrived fairly recently, after 1900 and mostly after 1910, as Figure 2 shows.


However, it may also have had to do with the patterns of migration across the U.S.-Mexican border, which involved a lot of back-and-forth travel in the early twentieth century.



Most Hispanics in Boulder County worked as miners or farm laborers or general laborers, but there were also a handful of individuals with a variety of jobs from cooks, nurses, and salesmen to managers, professors, and lawyers, as one can see in Table 3.

occupation individuals
Mine operatives and laborers 32
Farm laborers, wage workers 19
Laborers 14
Managers, officials, and proprietors 4
Foremen 2
Salesmen and sales clerks 1
Stenographers, typists, and secretaries 1
Nurses, professional 1
Professors and instructors 1
Lawyers and judges 1
Farmers (owners and tenants) 1
Tailors and tailoresses 1
Truck and tractor drivers 1
Cooks, except private household 1
Motormen, mine, factory, logging camp, etc 1
Other 25

Table 3. Occupations of Hispanic individuals in Boulder County (excluding those not working; n=106)
A final interesting piece of data about the Hispanic population in Boulder County is that according to the census, a a fairly substantial number of them were of African origin (in fact, the original 1920 data has classified them as “mulatto,” that is, of part African and part European origin – for more on that term, see this page.)

race individuals
American Indian or Alaska Native 1
Other Asian or Pacific Islander 3
Black/African American/Negro 52
White 264

Individual lives

You can also look for more information about individuals on HeritageQuest, a genealogy database. It’s fascinating to dig into individual lives – although it is usually well-nigh impossible (or at least very laborious) to find out that much about a particular individual, just the census sheet provides all kinds of intriguing information.

To take just one example of a Hispanic family in Boulder in 1920, there was a couple called Albino Cortez and Jesusita Cortez. Albino Cortez was a farm laborer; Jesusita did not work. Albino and Jesusita were both born in the United States; he in Texas and she in New Mexico. Albino’s parents were born in Mexico, but Jesusita’s parents had been born in New Mexico like her. They must have lived in Colorado at least a few years, though, since all their children are born in Colorado – they had two sons and one daughter. It seems that none of their children attend school – that’s rather interesting since Albino and Jesusita have a six year old and five year old. 

Juanita’s mother tongue was English (the census did not mark the mother tongue if it was English; for Albino, the enumerator has marked Spanish.) One wonders whether Albino and Jesusita spoke Spanish or English at home? They seem to have spoken English to the kids, at least, since they, like Juanita, have nothing in the mother tongue slot.

census sheet

In Albino’s and Jesusita’s household there is also a person, Urbano Caldron, who was categorized as a “boarder”  (a boarder and is someone who rents a room from a household temporarily.) Urbano Caldron was also working on a farm – presumably on Albino Cortez’s farm. Urbano Caldron was classified as an “alien” (meaning that he didn’t yet have citizenship.) He came to the United States in 1901, probably looking for the economic opportunities and land available that sparked much of Mexican immigration to the U.S. in this period.





[1] https://usa.ipums.org/usa-action/variables/HISPAN