"Mexican farm workers . . . are contributing their skill and their toil to the production of vitally needed food."
"Los trabajadores agrícolas mexicanos . . . están contribuyendo con su habilidad y su esfuerzo a la producción de alimentos vitalmente necesarios."
Franklin D. Roosevelt
President of the United States / Presidente de los Estados Unidos
Monterey, México, 1943
Braceros and U.S. farmers had many hopes for the program. U.S. farmers wanted temporary labor to harvest crops, and Mexico was willing to supply it. Economic depression in Mexico and the prospect of short-term work in the United States encouraged millions of Mexican men to begin the long process of being selected for the program. Men journeyed north for many reasons — most out of necessity, some to seek adventure, and others to start a new life.
Pepper field / Campo de pimienta, Salinas, California
“By agreement between both governments . . . Mexican workers can be contracted for temporary work in the United States.”-Manuel Ávila Camacho president of Mexico / presidente de México; address to the Congress of Mexico / discurso ante el Congreso de México, 1943
Family saying goodbye at train station / Familiadespidiéndose en la estación de trenes, México, 1945
Photograph / fotografía: Hermanos Mayo, Archivo Nacional de México
“. . . tenían que salir para poder mantener a su familia”.
“. . . you had to leave so you could support your family.”
-Jesús Aranda Morales, ex-bracero
“As a kid, I couldn’t understand. . . . Why didn’t [my father] stay here?”
-Felipe Flores, son of a bracero / hijo de un bracero
Photograph / fotografía: Earl Theisen, LOOK Magazine Collection, Library of Congress
“I came looking for a way to send them money. . . . I always thought about my mother and my brothers. I never thought about making my life just for me.”
-Jesús Martínez, ex-bracero