When U.S. farmers saw a shortage of agricultural workers during World War II, the U.S. and Mexican governments turned to Mexican labor and created the Bracero Program.
The program ran from 1942 to 1964, bringing more than four million Mexican men to the United States to work in the fields. But that work also brought exploitation, low wages and discrimination.
Latino USA has briefly covered braceros during the last three decades of the show. But it’s been a while since we checked in on the program’s aftermath. In this episode, Latino USA visits historian and author Mireya Loza and her uncle, former bracero, Juan Loza, at his home in Chicago.
Mireya, 44, is an associate professor of Latino studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Juan became a bracero in 1960, when he was 21. He returned to the U.S. several times for work until 1964—when the program phased out. He eventually settled and built a family in Chicago.
Mireya gathered Bracero oral histories in grad school, leading to her book “Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual and Political Freedom.” One of her first interviews, of course, was with her uncle Juan.
Today, Juan is 84 years old. He still reflects on his days working in the fields across the country—and the controversy surrounding the program.
Listen to Mireya Loza and her tío, Juan Loza, tell their story of family and legacy.
Special thanks to The Bracero History Archive for letting us use part of their audio in this episode.
Featured image courtesy of Juan Loza.