|From 1916 to 1986, "los campos", or "the camps" located in Litchfield Park were home to hundreds of Mexican men and women and their families. Women in these camps worked in the fields, in the Wigwam Resort, and in private homes as domestics. While initially enduring segregation and adverse conditions, multiple generations raised their families and celebrated their culture, organizing festivities, such as the 16th of September celebrations. Throughout Litchfield Park's history, the women helped to build institutions and to create a community, which is one of their legacies in the southwest Valley of the Sun.
Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women at Work & Women and Community Building
|In 1916, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, through its subsidiary Southwest Cotton Company, purchased thousands of acres of land in and around Litchfield Park to plant long-staple cotton for their tires. As a result, Litchfield Park became the headquarters of all the Goodyear Farms operations in Arizona and one of the most prosperous company towns and regions of the Southwest. The company recruited approximately 2,000 men from Mexico in 1916 to help clear and till the land, dig the canals, and plant hundreds of acres of cotton needed for large-scale agricultural production. Until 1928, men, women, and their families lived in tents and adobe houses built on Litchfield Park's original city blocks.
As the demand for cotton grew, a more expansive and permanent workforce was needed to guarantee production, propelling Goodyear Farms to build and offer housing for members of its workforce. Hence, the "camp" and its communities were moved to the outskirts of town, where houses were built, identified by the following numerical designations and locations: Camp Algodón, Camp #50, known as "Centro" (Indian School and Dysart Road); Camp #51 (south of Indian School on Dysart Road); Camp #52 (West of Litchfield Road south of Roosevelt Irrigation District); Camp #53 (corner of Indian School Road and Alsup Road, 3 miles west of Litchfield Road); and, Camp #54 (two miles south of Camp #53).
The women from the camps participated in numerous ways in the public and private spheres of Litchfield Park's history. Many worked as agricultural laborers for Goodyear Farms, even as young children and through adulthood. Others worked for the Wigwam Resort, but in the early years, segregation limited their access to its public facilities. Still others became domestic workers in the private homes or offices of the local doctors and teachers of the local, largely Anglo community. Some of the women helped to build and maintain St. Thomas Aquinas, the most important religious institution, where many were married and raised their children in the Catholic faith. One of Litchfield Park's early Postmasters was Sara A. Serrano, who was appointed by the Governor of Arizona. During WWII, when hundreds of men joined the armed services, the women from the camps temporarily took over the responsibilities and duties previously held by men at Goodyear Farms, enabling the company to remain in operation. They also worked at Goodyear Aircraft during the war years.
Today, physical evidence of the camps no longer exists. In 1986, Goodyear Farms closed its operations and demolished the last of the camp structures, making way for new housing and economic developments. The remaining families were given the option of being moved to Canada Village Mobile Park in Perryville, Arizona, where they were provided housing. Many former camp residents are buried in the Goodyear Farms Historical Cemetery (Santa Fe Trails & Indian School Road). This cemetery and the St. Thomas Aquinas Mission, A.D. 1919, are the key landmarks to this community. Many of the descendants of these families live in the nearby cities of Avondale, Tolleson, and Glendale.
Litchfield Park's City Hall building at 214 Wigwam Blvd. is built on land that previously held the offices of Goodyear Farms. This is a drive-by site on the Arizona Women's Heritage Trail. For more information, consult oral histories at the Litchfield Park Historical Society, 13912 West Camelback Road, Litchfield Park, AZ.
Photos courtesy of Litchfield Park Historical Society