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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora