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The Bracero Program, history’s forgotten story

Ryan McCullough

A Smithsonian exhibit telling the story of the Bracero Program is on display in the Chandler-Gilbert Community College library until April 30. “The exhibit is a bilingual exhibit telling about the guest worker program that the United States and the Mexican government started in 1942 and continued to 1964,” said Larry Miller, an employee at the CGCC library.

During World War II, there were not enough laborers because many men had gone off to fight.

“(The exhibit) tells the story of the response of the people of Mexico to the U.S. people’s needs for someone to harvest the crops, to repair railroads,” Miller said.

For some Braceros, the program was advantageous.

“Over here your life changed because you earned more money, you could buy more things that you wanted, buy clothes, eat better. For me, it was a positive experience. Maybe some would say not,” said Audomaro G. Zepeda, an ex-Bracero.

Though, eventually the American people started to feel resentment towards the guest workers.

“Then people began to feel that they were taking jobs away from working Americans,” Miller said.

“We came to work. We didn’t come to take anything from anyone,” said Isaias Sanchez, an ex-Bracero.

Even the migrant workers faced hardships. Braceros were often housed in poor conditions.

“It didn’t work in some ways for the Mexicans . they were usually sprayed with DDT to make sure they didn’t bring any diseases . and they were in fields all day,” Miller said.

“I thought we were going to see a different world. Well, sometimes it was worse than my farm,” said Saturnino Gonzalez, an ex-Bracero.

The exhibit tells a story not often told.

“The story usually doesn’t make it to social studies and history textbooks. So, it’s a real good opportunity for people to understand a forgotten part of human history,” Miller said.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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