Abstract: Impacts of the Bracero Program through Poetry

In the early 1940s, the United States entered into an agreement with the Mexican government to create a temporary contract labor initiative. The Bracero Program was meant to address the labor shortage caused by World War II, but soon managed to bring its own specific set of problems. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers flooded towards the border and camped out at migratory stations where they waited before crossing into California. Laborers stayed at these stations from anywhere between a few days to months, often without money to buy food or a place to sleep. Even once a job in the US was found, conditions there were far less than ideal as bracero workers were often exploited by their employers.

The Bracero program institutionalized the system of US dependence on foreign workers for the agricultural labor force, a pattern which has continued up until the present day. Through my project, I would like to study the effects of this program and the subsequent migratory lifestyle on the children of the Mexican workers. My studies will focus on the works of Tino Villanueva, a Mexican-American poet who is the son of migrant workers and has written extensively on his experiences. This analysis will allow me to determine the psychological ramifications of the Bracero program on the following generation, and whether the benefits of the program outweighed the disadvantages. In addition, my research will allow me to formulate an opinion on whether further guest-worker programs should be created, as recent presidential administrations have suggested.