Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xx

This history would have never been written had it not been for Dr. George J. Sanchez’s mentorship. Beginning in 1998 and to this very day, Dr. Sanchez has been a generous mentor to me, and the more I am a part of this profession the more I am convinced that he is one of the best mentors in the nation. Upon enrolling in his undergraduate course “The History of the Mexican American” at the University of Southern California (USC), I became inspired to research further a subject that was at best a fraction of what Dr. Sanchez shared with his students in this course...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Between 1942 and 1964, the governments of the United States and Mexico administered the Bracero Program, an initiative that brought “guest” workers from Mexico to labor in the farmlands of the western United States. In the scholarship about twentieth-century labor history, immigration history, and Chicana/o studies, the Bracero Program has been frequently studied and widely discussed, yet its full contours and consequences have been only partially comprehended. Studying the...

PART ONE: Emergencies

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1. Bracero Recruitment in the Mexican Countryside, 1942–1947

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pp. 19-39

On August 7, 1942, Gabino Preciado, president of the rural town of San Martin de Hidalgo, Jalisco, faced an unenviable challenge. Mexican president Manuel Avila Camacho had ordered him to embrace the spirit behind the recruitment of the townsmen into the Mexican Emergency Farm Labor Program, more commonly known as the Bracero Program.1 With the repatriation of three hundred thousand Mexican American and Mexican immigrant children, women, and men during the 1930s still fresh in their minds, unskilled rural Mexican men would be asked to immigrate to the United States in pursuit of Avila Camacho’s vision of national progress....

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2. The Bracero Program as a Permanent State of Emergency

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pp. 40-65

The Bracero Program was initially named the Emergency Farm Labor Program, and it was announced as a measure to address a temporary state of emergency, namely US shortages of agricultural crops and labor.1 But in fact the program itself created a permanent state of emergency for people of Mexican descent in both Mexico and the United States. This chapter shows how neither the US nor the Mexican government officials entrusted to implement the program wanted to acknowledge this reality. It draws on assessments of the program by Mexican men,...

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3. Special Immigration and the Management of the Mexican Family, 1949–1959

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pp. 66-82

On August 30, 1949, after harvesting lettuce and strawberries, Renato Sandoval and 130 fellow braceros did not retire to their labor camp barracks. Determined to propose a solution to their grievances, they stood in four straight lines outside the office of John Bowen and Montgomery Reynolds. They were silently, patiently awaiting the return of the two men, contractors of a modest bracero labor camp in Tulare, California.1 These braceros had broken labor camp rules, since they were not allowed to enter or assemble in this area. Seven years into the Bracero Program and emboldened by their need to transition out of contract labor to financially better themselves and their families, they took a calculated risk....

PART TWO: Love and Longing

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4. Government Censorship of Family Communication, 1942–1964

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pp. 85-99

On November 3, 1943, one year after the initial implementation of the Bracero Program, German Santander wrote his wife, Estefania Santander, his fifth letter requesting that she pool his remittances, her earnings vending food items door to door in Ameca, Mexico, and their savings so that she would have enough money to finance her undocumented entry into the United States and reunite with him in Fresno, California.1 He had already proposed this in his previous four letters, starting in January of that year, and had become desperate at not having heard from her;...

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5. In Painful Silence: The Untold Emotional Work of Long-Distance Romantic Relationships and Marriages, 1957–1964

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pp. 100-111

In August 1957, Carmela Juarez went to purchase cornmeal and other food items. Immediately her daughter Hermelinda stopped her household chores and rushed to lock their family home’s door.1 Certain that it would take Carmela at least thirty minutes to walk to and from Doña Concepcion’s dry goods and grocery store, nineteen-year-old Hermelinda used the time to retrieve her record of the song “Siempre hace frio” (“It Is Always Cold,” 1956) from under the bed and play it at least a couple times on the family’s record player as a way to indulge her longing for her...

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6. Hidden from History: Photo Stories of Love

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pp. 112-144

On the afternoon of June 13, 1959, sixteen-year-old Esther Legaspi Delgadillo carefully packed into a satchel a dress she had purchased earlier that day along with a curling iron, stockings, and a pair of high-heeled shoes.1 Ordinarily, she used this bag to carry food and other merchandise she purchased when shopping for her family at local stores in their Mexican rural hometown of Nochistlan, Zacatecas, but on this day she used it to hide and carry personal items that would help her...

PART THREE: Decisive Measures

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7. Awake Houses and Mujeres Intermediarias (Intermediary Women), 1958–1964

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pp. 147-184

The Bracero Program was targeted at men with families. Its administrators believed that affective ties across borders would guarantee that contract laborers would return home on the expiration of their contracts. The program ripped families apart but promised them eventual reunifi cation. It promoted the feelings of longing and loss that permeated popular songs, love letters, and staged family photographs. In order to contain the effects of the emotions it provoked—to prevent women from crossing the border and to preclude workers from returning home prematurely—the...

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8. Ejemplar y sín Igual (Exemplary and without Equal): The Loss of Childhood, 1942–1964

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pp. 185-196

The activity of Mexican women as intermediarias establishing awake houses reveals how attempts to preserve the family led to its dramatic transformation. Yet some disruptions in family life were not as easily addressed. An entire generation of children experienced uniquely diffi cult childhoods because of the Bracero Program. This chapter focuses on the ways in which the advantages the program secured for nation-states and corporate farmers came at the expense of the life courses of children in Mexico....

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9. Decididas y Atrevidas (Determined and Daring): In Search of Answers, 1947–1964

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pp. 197-214

On July 15, 1947, Grace Hermosillo was “decidida and atrevida [determined and daring]—all at once.”1 She had finally mustered the determination and daring to admit to Grace Sawyer, a social case worker at the Department of Charities of the County of Los Angeles Bureau of Public Assistance, that she had become estranged from her infant child’s father, Gabriel Rodriguez. In January 1947, a few months after Grace had given birth to her baby Sylvia, Gabriel abandoned her in Los Angeles. Her Mexican American family disowned her for having had a child out of...

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Epilogue: The Generative Potential of Thinking and Acting Historically

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pp. 215-224

In chapter 7, I described the two statues erected on public patios in San Martin de Hidalgo, Jalisco, to honor the spirit of the women whose suffering, struggle, sacrifi ce, and agency enabled their families and their communities to grapple with the challenges of the Bracero Program. One of them is a tribute to a specific woman, Maria Guadalupe Urzua Flores, and has a plaque describing her achievements. The other honors women in general and has no plaque. There is no allusion to the historical...

Notes

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pp. 225-238

Bibliography

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pp. 239-244

Index

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pp. 245-255