News / USA

    Traveling Smithsonian Exhibit Highlights Bracero Worker Program

    Travelling Smithsonian Exhibit Highlights Bracero Worker Programi
    X
    February 28, 2014 11:43 PM
    When hundreds of thousands of American men went to combat during World War II, they left behind a labor shortage on farms and factories. One answer to the shortage was the 1942 Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program, an agreement between the United States and Mexico more commonly known as the Bracero program. It allowed 4.5 million Mexicans to work in the U.S. over the program's 22-year existence. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports, the benefits and pitfalls are now part of a travelling Smithsonian exhibit that comes as some U.S. lawmakers consider a new Bracero worker program as part of immigration reform.
    VIDEO: Benefits, pitfalls of program are now part of exhibit that comes as some U.S. lawmakers consider new Bracero worker program as part of immigration reform.
    When hundreds of thousands of American men went to combat during World War II, they left behind a labor shortage on farms and factories. One answer to the shortage was the 1942 Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program, an agreement between the United States and Mexico more commonly known as the Bracero program. It allowed 4.5 million Mexicans to work in the U.S. over the program's 22-year existence. The benefits and pitfalls are now part of a travelling Smithsonian exhibit that comes as some U.S. lawmakers consider a new Bracero worker program as part of immigration reform.

    The idea to come and work in the United States was something Saturnino Gonzales Diaz's father planted in him early.

    "When I was born, my father was in Chicago. And he put in my mind, Chicago, Chicago," he said.

    Diaz's father was one of the first workers to take advantage of the Bracero program.  In 1943, he found work on the railroad in Chicago. The experience and the money he earned allowed Saturnino and his family to live a good life in Mexico.
     
    "He buy a house and everything at the time. He all the time talk to me about the Braceros, and I want to go to the Braceros," he said.

    When Saturnino was accepted into the Bracero program in the early 1960s, he left for California to pick fruits and vegetables.

    "Before I come to the United States I was a boxer, I do a lot of exercise," he said.  "Fields don't do nothing to me!  I'm a champion at picking strawberries!"

    While Saturnino's experience was positive, Lorenzo Cano painted a different picture of working the fields in Texas.

    He said they would only pay him less than a dollar a day and because of that some of the experiences that he and others had weren't the greatest.

    "I think the experience of Bracero workers really depended on the place, the type of work they were doing, and the proclivities of particular employers," said Geraldo Cadava, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, which is hosting the Smithsonian exhibit Bittersweet Harvest.

    It looks at the best and the worst of the Bracero program. "Some states, like Texas, for example, even had their ability to participate in the Bracero program revoked from them because exploitation was more widespread in Texas than in other places," said Cadava.

    When the program ended, many Braceros eventually immigrated to the United States to start lives in places where they worked.

    Amid the current immigration reform debate in Congress, some lawmakers want to start a new Bracero program.

    "I think that those who are simply saying that we need a new Bracero program today are not paying attention to the full complexity of the program and the conditions of exploitation under which Bracero workers labored," he said.

    Saturnino, who now lives in Chicago where his father worked, thinks a new Bracero program could curb illegal immigration and costly deportations.

    "If you are illegal, they treat you like a dog. Send you back to Mexico. Crippled or whatever. It's better, I think, to get the Braceros, again," he said.

    But proposals for a new program face stiff opposition from labor unions and are one reason lawmakers have not been able to move immigration reform forward.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora