Mexican Worker Program (02:24)
In 1942, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to allow Mexican workers (braceros) to come into the U.S. to supplement the labor force. Unions were not allowed and strikes did not work. The U.S. wanted cheap labor and a predictable workforce.
More Men than Jobs (04:30)
Many thousands more workers were available than jobs. Shifts were 12 hours long. Nevertheless, Mexican men were attracted by the possibilities that work in the U.S. could make available.
Process of Bracero Program (03:12)
Men who wanted into the bracero program had to bribe a local official to get on a list. Most of the men who left for the U.S. were married. The effects of the bracero program on Mexican families were devastating.
Waiting Period and Starvation (03:01)
All braceros had to stop at Empalme, where they might wait for 3 months to get sent to the U.S. Meanwhile, they had no money or food. Thousands begged for food and suffered greatly.
Medical Exams, Tests, and Cattle Cars (02:35)
After a waiting period and much suffering, the men underwent medical exams and exercise tests. They had to prove they were hard workers. Those who were selected were loaded onto cattle cars. Standing up, they traveled all night.
Mexican Men: Humiliation and Fumigation (03:08)
Once in Mexacali, the men were exhausted and weary. They were herded into chambers where they were fumigated. The men were a captive group with no say in what happened to them. Their humiliation was great and sustained.
Bracero Selection Process (02:11)
During the "selection "process, well-dressed or well-spoken men were rejected in favor of uneducated, docile workers. Those who were selected then waited to be chosen by ranchers or company representatives.
Bracero Contracts (01:51)
Every bracero received a standard work contract. It promised quality housing, safe and comfortable transportation, and insurance. In actual practice, all of these protections were widely violated.
Working Conditions (02:55)
Men were transported to their work places in animal transport trucks. In the fields, they had short tools that forced them to bend over. Foremen were harsh and demanding. Back injuries were common. Water was withheld to motivate men to work.
Slave Labor/Slave Conditions (01:56)
Braceros suffered greatly in the program. Ranchers and farmers did not provide beds, bathrooms, or kitchens. Men cooked under trees and woke up each morning more tired than before. Many decided to leave the U.S. and return home.
Hardships for Braceros (02:16)
Men were forced to sleep in oven-like aluminum buildings. No matter how hard they worked, or how much they produced, wages were insufficient. One worker made only one cent for a week after room and board were subtracted.
Braceros in Debt (01:30)
A farmer who employed braceros also owned a store where men could buy food, clothing, and other items. Most of the men went into debt. There was no money to send home to their families.
Problems for Women Left in Mexico (02:37)
With their men gone, married women fought for survival for herself and her family. If and when money arrived from the States, debts had to be paid first. Most ended where they started. The Bracero Program failed to help the families.
By terms in the international agreement, Braceros were forbidden to organize, protest, or form unions. Employers used the braceros as strike breakers. Organizers were sent back to Mexico. Government officials lied to them.
Braceros: Sickness and Death (04:46)
Workers protested having to sleep in shelters where temperatures reached 120 degrees. Many got sick and died in the U.S. Though the contracts stipulated that the families would receive $1000, very few ever saw any money.
Failure of Bracero Program (01:43)
The dream that braceros would make enough money to support their families and to buy land never came true. The Bracero Program did not lead to investment in Mexican farmland nor did it end poverty--it only maintained things as they were.
American Corporations and Migration (01:54)
A century of Mexican migration cannot be explained apart from the role played by American corporations. There is no better example of this than the Bracero Program. The flow of undocumented migration began to rise in the 1980s.
Post-NAFTA Problems in Mexico (02:09)
Since the enactment of NAFTA, things got very bad for Mexican farmers. Entire families uprooted to come to the U.S. Mexico stopped producing the majority of its food supply. The Bracero Program established a dependency on working in the U.S.
Guest Worker Program (02:19)
Under the Bush regime, a Guest Worker Program was proposed as a way to deal with the issue of undocumented aliens. America continues to need more workers, but the workers have no opportunities to put down roots.
Bracero Program: Sad Memories (04:02)
Any kind of Guest Worker Program creates a second tier society that does not have the rights of the domestic society. Abuses of guest workers will not stop. Surviving braceros and their families talk about those days with a great deal of pain.
Credits: Harvest of Loneliness: The Bracero Program (02:29)
Credits: Harvest of Loneliness: The Bracero Program
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