Alina R. Méndez is Assistant Professor, American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington, and SAR’s 2020 Mellon fellow.
The Bracero Program, a binational labor agreement between Mexico and the United States, placed approximately two million Mexican men (called braceros) in American farms between 1942 and 1964. In many agricultural regions across the West, braceros are now increasingly recognized as the Mexican “pioneers” of ethnic Mexican communities and celebrated for their contributions to local economies. One of these regions is California’s Imperial Valley, which borders the Mexican state of Baja California Norte. Arguing that “domestic” workers refused to labor in agriculture, Imperial Valley growers turned to braceros and their undocumented counterparts for cheap and flexible labor. If the labor of braceros and undocumented migrants came cheaply for Imperial Valley growers, however, this was largely because their communities subsidized the cost of such “cheap” labor. Méndez argues in her talk that the costs of maintaining a seasonal migrant labor force in the Imperial Valley remained hidden under the Bracero Program because braceros were employed in the United States during seasonal periods of labor need and expected to return to their families and communities in Mexico once they were no longer required in American fields.
This event is part of the 2020 fall scholar colloquia series.
Each year, incoming resident scholars introduce their work to the SAR community through a presentation and Q&A. This year’s talks are hosted online and continue to be free and open to the public. Registration is required.