Long a lightly populated, arid, and undeveloped region, Nevada began its modern development during the mid-nineteenth century, after silver was discovered in its west-central area. Since that time, Nevada has always depended on immigrant labor to help develop its economy. Beginning with railroads and mining and continuing with its modern entertainment and hospitality service industries, immigrant groups have provided a large and effective workforce throughout Nevada.
Nevada became a U.S. territory in 1861 and a state in 1864, but major events in 1859 had a dramatic impact on its future development and began attracting immigrants into the region. Discovery of the famous Comstock silver lode quickly established Gold Hill and Virginia City as major mining centers, and new immigrants began pouring in, hoping to strike it rich in the booming silver mining industry. Along with American investors and miners came large numbers of foreign laborers who worked in the mines and provided essential services to the growing population. Immigrants from Ireland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the Balkan peninsula all came to Nevada seeking employment or fortune. These immigrants joined already established communities of
Although most of Nevada’s immigrant communities had been brought in to provide cheap and efficient labor, many of the immigrants faced discrimination and violence throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1908, Reno’s city government tried to discourage more Chinese from coming by burning down the
As the cities of Las Vegas and Reno established themselves as major national centers of gaming and tourism, new immigrants were drawn to the expanding employment opportunities that the cities offered. Since the late 1940’s, Nevada’s casinos have steadily multiplied and grown ever larger, creating an increasing need for service workers. Immigrants from both foreign countries and other parts of the United States have flooded into the state. A high percentage of the foreign immigrants have been Latin Americans, particularly Mexicans. By 1980, Clark County’s Hispanic population had increased by 600 percent since 1950.
By the year 2007, Nevada was one of the fastest-growing states in the union, with a total population of approximately 2.5 million people. Nevada was also the most culturally diverse state within the Rocky Mountain region, with African Americans accounting for 7 percent of the total population and Asian Americans 6 percent. The state’s Hispanic population was second only to its “white” population in numbers, with approximately 500,000 residents, who accounted for 20 percent of the total population. The state’s largest cities have also developed notable ethnic enclaves. Within the major urban areas, Las Vegas, for example, has a dynamic
BeDunnah, Gary P. A History of the Chinese in Nevada. San Francisco: R&E Research Associates, 1973. Elliott, Russell R. History of Nevada. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987. Hulse, James W. The Silver State: Nevada’s Heritage Reinterpreted. 3d ed. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004. James, Ronald M. Comstock Women: The Making of a Mining Community. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1998. Shepperson, Wilbur S. Restless Strangers: Nevada’s Immigrants and Their Interpreters. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1970.
History of immigration after 1891