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  1. Mexican Migrant (Bracero) Workers Photo Display

    Bracero Guest Worker Program PhotosThe Bracero Guest Worker Program (1942-1964) was enacted through several bilateral agreements signed by the United States and Mexico between 1942 and 1964. It brought thousands of Mexican men to the United States as short-term workers (primarily in agriculture and the railroads), to support the national war effort in World War II and later the Korean War. The term bracero came from brazos (arms in Spanish) and reflected the intense physical labor demanded of these workers. These undated photos come from the Ernesto Galarza archives. He was one of the early activists of the Mexican American civil rights movement who brought to light the abuses endured by braceros. They capture the recruiting process in Mexico: from a large outdoor gathering at a bullring to completing paperwork at an indoor facility, and the final steps for those selected as they lined up for a medical exam and fingerprinting.     Much of the visual bracero imagery focuses on men, with few images of the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and girlfriends left behind. Hence, the poignant moment at a train station of women bidding farewell to the men heading North of the Border.Noted US-Mexico Border historian David Romo notes: The first group of 1,500 braceros were transported through El Paso and arrived at Stockton, California, in September 1942. A musical band greeted them at the train station, the locals made speeches, and Washington politicians sent telegrams hailing the Mexican workers as “soldiers of production” in the global war against fascism.A related collection of letters sent to Bracero workers from their families in Mexico is also available. The letters never reached their intended recipients in the Pacific Northwest. They remained in a United Postal Service warehouse until the early 1990s when they were acquired by the Library. Interested in reading more? The Searchworks catalog lists over 90 online books.The photos are currently on display behind the Circulation Desk, First Floor-Green East until October 15th. Thanks to Pauline Lewis for her suggestions on the text and to Kristen Valenti for her work on the image installation. 

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