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.

Kane Farabaugh
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.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid