Marshalltown … are we the new Miami?

Editor’s note: This column was originally published in October of 2015.

Believe it or not, Marshalltown is just like Miami. All right, maybe not exactly like Miami, where swaying palm trees, sandy beaches, cigars and mojitos are in order.

But Marshalltown, in many ways, is the much smaller Midwestern version of a city that was transformed and enhanced by the arrival of immigrants.

After a week’s vacation in Miami and South Florida earlier this month, I could not help but see how a diverse population has changed the culture and the flavor of a city that was many, many years ago, a sleepy oceanside community.

After World War II, tourism efforts, improvements to infrastructure and the influx of thousands of immigrants from across the globe, made Miami an impressive example of diversity. Everywhere I traveled within the city, the influence of the Latino culture, as well as other ethnic groups, was ever present.

Now there’s no question the Miami metropolitan area, population 5 million, has had a number of challenges — all big cities do. But witnessing the interaction and camaraderie between folks of different backgrounds while I was on vacation, served as a positive reminder that we are making great strides toward diversity efforts here in Marshalltown.

Yes, there are plenty of issues related to immigration in the Midwest and Marshalltown specifically — challenges that will continue to be a focus on the United States for years to come.

But I believe Marshalltown is a richer, more progressive community because the vast majority of recent immigrants to our area, whether they originated in Mexico, Central and South America, Southeast Asia or the African continent, are bringing new ideas and new perspectives that will make Marshalltown a truly stand-out community in Iowa.

Last weekend, the Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown marked its fifth anniversary.

Organizers, volunteers and supporters gathered to celebrate the group’s effort is providing support and friendship for Marshalltown’s immigrant population, especially those who are undocumented but who are seeking a pathway toward citizenship — citizenship in a country that was built on respecting and recognizing diversity and the contributions we can all make to our collective society.

On the surface, I will admit it may be a stretch to compare Marshalltown to Miami. But I do believe our two communities are linked by the same desire that if we work together despite our differences, we will create a stronger, more prosperous future for generations to come.

A wise friend of mine often shares the following motto:

“Mano a mano, poco a poco, vamos a ganar!”

In English: “Hand in hand, bit by bit, we will win!”

If we embrace our diverse population, share in the triumphs of all our neighbors, Marshalltown will win.


Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or