Documenting the Stories of Bracero Guest Workers

Bracero worker ID card for Jose Solano Ramirez, who entered the United States for work in 1961. i i

hide captionBracero worker ID card for Jose Solano Ramirez, who entered the United States for work in 1961.

Smithsonian Institution
Bracero worker ID card for Jose Solano Ramirez, who entered the United States for work in 1961.

Bracero worker ID card for Jose Solano Ramirez, who entered the United States for work in 1961.

Smithsonian Institution

As the Bush administration considers a new "guest worker" program for immigrants, there's a new drive to document some of the experiences of the hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who worked in the United States as part the now-defunct "bracero" guest worker program.

In an undated photo, braceros cross the border across the Rio Grande into Texas.

hide captionIn an undated photo, braceros cross the border across the Rio Grande into Texas.

Smithsonian Institution

The program began as a way to address World War II-era labor shortages, and ended in 1964. Now the Smithsonian Institution, with the help of university researchers, is recording the stories of these workers for a new oral history project.

The project was inspired by the 1998 acquisition of 1,700 photographs by Leonard Nobel that documented the whole bracero process, from recruiting workers in a Mexican town to working north of the border.

The bracero program dramatically changed the face of farm labor in the United States. Steve Velasquez, a curator at the Home and Community Life division at the Smithsonian, says the project is not only part of an important effort to document Mexican-American history, but also a valuable tool for understanding American culture.

Shereen Meraji is a producer and director forDay to Day.

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