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Caught in the Middle: The Mexican State's Relationship with the United States and Its Own

Citizen-Workers, 1942-1954
Author(s): Deborah Cohen
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 20, No. 3, Migration and the Making of
North America (Spring, 2001), pp. 110-132
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27502714 .
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Caught in theMiddle:
The Mexican

State's Relationship

with the United States and Its


Own Citizen-Workers,

1942-1954

DEBORAH COHEN
The problem
of braceros
. .
of.
hunger.1
As

is.

. .a

problem

..

as Mexican

workers
[can]not
find
their own
[on
[or] guarantees
a resolution
to their
look for
soil],
they will
a
in
land
because
ad
tragedy
foreign
hunger
mits no hope.2
work,

long

food,

4 AUGUST

and United
States governments
1942, the Mexican
a deal, laying the foundation
be the first in a
for what would
as
in
the vernacular
series of contract labor agreements,
lumped together
to
in
this
force
from
1942
the Bracero
program
Program.3 Through

ON

closed

1964, men would


in United
States

inMexico
and toil
friends, and pueblos
do
the
fields.
would
and
They
planting
agricultural
and
Latino
domestic
done
white,
black,
previously
by poor
harvesting
States
better paying
laborers now finding
industrial jobs in a United
leave families,

Mexi
economy geared up for war production. This mid-twentieth-century
can migration
to the United
and regu
States was at times sanctioned
lated, at others
ining it reveals

impeded and challenged


by the Bracero
state's relationship with
the Mexican
toward its own citizenry.
Increasing

Program.
the United

Exam
States

and increasingly
the government's
and presence "from below" constrained
the United
States as well as the
power and options vis-?-vis
diplomatic
consensus
for
of
available
and
space
engagement
mobilizing
demanding
at home.
and

visible

its posture
pressure

the Bracero
Program, Mexico's
During
was
still under construction.4
Analyzing
1948, another in 1954?juxtaposes
to them and reveals
reaction
tween Mexico

and the United

Program
the
States,

Nationalism
Revolutionary
two border incidents?one

in

to each government's
be
relationship
diplomatic

rhetoric

shifting
and the mounting

pressure

that the

111

Cohen

Mexican

would

government
zen-workers.
Aspiring

United

States,

face from

workers

would

limiting their government's


between
the needs of workers

the disparity
ability to satisfy

those needs

undermined

on the road to industrialized

securely

its economically
go to great lengths

strapped citi
to labor in the

diplomatic
options. Ultimately
and the Mexican
government's
the latter's

progress,

claim

democracy,

of a nation
and moder

nity.

MODERNITY, STATE DISCOURSE, AND


REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM
the United

When

in early 1942
government
approached Mexico
to a domestically
it appealed
labor shortage,
a popularity
in 1938
secured
government,
partially

States

of a growing

complaining
strong and popular
when
then-president
under

L?zaro

control. While

foreign

its outstanding

C?rdenas
Mexico

nationalized

had repeatedly
the United
States

financial

oilfields

previously
to settle
attempted
had rebuffed
these

claims,
that the compensation
offered
for nationalized
oil
attempts,
claiming
insufficient.
In 1942, however,
this United
States
wells was grossly
a hemispheric
faded. Very much wanting
intransigence
ally, it was now
to
oil
In
settle
claims.
Mexican
the
addition,
company
govern
willing
ment

found

in United

itself broached
States

about

the possibility
of sending men to work
its domestic
Given
and
popularity

fields.

agricultural
few incentives

to approve a transfer of laborers that


to
its inability
symbolized
satisfy the needs of citizenry.5 The govern
ment would have to legitimate
its participation
in the Bracero Program
to a domestic
It mobilized
consent during the war by linking
audience.6
to membership
its participation
in a world democratic
and,
community
it had

legitimacy,

that the Program would modernize


the country and
a "backward"
into a modern
nation-state.7
country
the role that United
States multinationals,
and
technology,

later, by claiming
it from
transform
Recognizing
investment

would

Manuel

Avila

stance

towards

in this modernizing
President
metamorphosis,
a
to
for
soften the government's
way
angled
to a
the United
States and to shift from a confrontational

play
Camacho

II and United
posture. The onset of World War
a domestic
for help in mitigating
labor shortage
his needed opportunity.8
gave Avila Camacho
was not a new phenomenon;
men had been emi
Mexican
migration
ever
was
in the
since "the border"
created and institutionalized
grating

mutually-advantageous
States growers'
clamor

112

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

a fear of
lured by plentiful
salaries,
jobs, higher
or simply the rumblings of children's
stomachs.9
violence,
revolutionary
men
as
Jobs beckoned
numbers
of
northward
United
States
ever-greater

nineteenth

factories
United
more

century,

increased production
and soldiers headed off to war. But when
a
to Mexico
States Ambassador
advocated
George Messersmith
stream in 1942, Undersecretary
approach to this migrant
Relations
Jaime Torres Bodet dismissed
his offer.10 While

formal

Foreign

of
he

Mexico's
Torres
acknowledged
unemployment
problem, Undersecretary
was gearing up for an unprecedented
Bodet asserted that Mexico
indus
sector. The country, he
and modernization
of its agricultural
trialization
a widely-held
soon need all those
claimed?voicing
opinion?would
men
was haunted
northward.
Mexico
arms.11
Still,
working
kept heading
men
on
had suffered working
United
States
by the specter of abuses that
of long-time
residents
soil during World War I and by the "repatriation"
to Mexico
in the mass
of
the
The
1930s.12
government
deportations
that workers
faced growing
be pro
pressure from a press demanding
tected from

and discriminatory
exploitation
practices.13
to exert some control over this exodus.14

It grabbed

the

opportunity
After Mexico

its support for the Allied


in early
announced
powers
tone
its
the
and
1942,
press changed
crops rotting on
depicted unpicked
as
to better-paying
flocked
United
States vines
jobs in urban
people
in the newspaper Excelsior
the essential
factories. Editorials
publicized
the
workers
could, and indeed should, play in helping
to fight the enemies
of democracy.
With
titles such as
in the US" and "Mexican Work
"They are Requesting Mexican Workers
ers Urgently Needed
in the US" to "Only Mexicans
Can Save California
role that Mexican

United

States

soon be touted
editorials
laid the foundation
for what would
Harvests,"
as a beneficial
elevated work
official policy.15 "These reports specifically
same
as
ers needed for harvesting
level
those shiny-faced
crops to the
in
American
Europe.
"boys" fighting
The Mexican

as
its role in the Program
also portrayed
to keep the world free from authoritarianism.
fascism,
Undersecretary
Foreign Relations
that "a victory
by the democracies
predicted

government
alliance
part of a democratic
the threat from
Discussing
Jaime
would

Torres Bodet
. ..
bring progress,
called

harmony,
the United

and a just peace to the world.16 The


demo
States to respect Mexico's

upon
a
The Program was
revolutionary
accomplishments.
was
Mexico
that
in
form
of
"the
the
good contract," proving
partnership
sufficient
and that it also wielded
respected
by its northern neighbor
outside its territory.
influence to protect its citizen-workers
government
cratic roots

and

113

Cohen

The first contract, the result of the July 1942 negotiations,


in fact was
on
a
some
of the problems
(at least
paper)
good contract and itmitigated
of previous migrants.
First and foremost,
it made
the United
States
the
Not
would
all
braceros
be
afforded
the
government
employer.
only
same protections
in addition,
the United
and rights;
States government
as
case
not individual
in past informal
?and
had been the
growers
the
the contract's
for
responsibility
arrangements?undertook
upholding
contract
and
conditions.
the
obligations
Secondly,
guaranteed
(again, at
live in sanitary housing
and be paid
least on paper) that migrants would
for the crop they picked?protections
far stronger
the prevailing wage
than those historically
farmworkers.
States domestic
accorded United
The Mexican
ing the details
and September
men
working
countries. With

government made much of this good contract, trumpet


success in the press. Throughout
of its diplomatic
August
that humble, hard
1942, national newspapers
proclaimed
the two
between
would
promote
greater understanding

States
stronger than those allotted United
Mexicans
citizens
and guarantees
would
against racial discrimination,
no longer hold second-class
to
status. The United
States also attempted
protections

of the Program17?in
opponents
particular,
large land
placate Mexican
owners
that
that relied on low-waged
labor?by
migrants
guaranteeing
return in time to attend to Mexican
brazos
would
fields.18 Lending
during

the war would

modernizing

Mexico

Complications
can government

only
would

developed
announced

of what
be the beginning
offer the United
States.

a democratic

and

immediately. Only eight days after the Mexi


the first request for a mere 6,000 workers,
swarmed the offices of the Mexican
Ministry

thousands of hopeful men


"Lines ex
the government's
wildest
of Labor, exceeding
expectations.
men...
at
4:00 am,"
and
tended
[for several blocks]
began arriving
on the office that morn
Those who descended
reported one newspaper.19
conditions
of the countryside
and
ing came to escape the impoverished
or
serve
war
earn the money
to
in
the
would
this opportunity
bring,
for an adventure.20
against tyranny, or just maybe
contract found themselves
to win
the coveted
lucky enough
the
the
them
about
how
would make
government
Program
regaled by
the
modern.
The
Mexican
sug
government
nation)
(and through them,
Those

gested
would

that migrants
learn modern

in the technologically
skills and be
agricultural

working

superior United States


to "modern"
exposed

forced saving plan


and work habits.21 It also touted the Program's
as promoting modernization.22
would
buy modern
migrants
Returning
return
with money
had
farm machinery
saved,
ultimately
enabling
they

values

114

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

on their own land but to


to not only modernize
production
ing braceros
this
Mexican
process
promote
gradually
throughout
agriculture.23 As
were not mere poor
instructed by the Mexican
government,
migrants
were field soldiers who, with callused fingers
and
farmworkers?they
the duty to save crops needed
for combat
in hand, fulfilled
machete
of harvesting
these
soldiers.24 In the process
cotton, beets or lemons,
in a truly modern
be modernized
field soldiers would
by participating
war.

or not Mexican

Whether

that performing
the entire
modernize
lieved

officials whole-heartedly
government
most
the
un-modern
of tasks,
stoop labor,
a modernizing
it offered
discourse
nation,

be
could
as

its

use of a moderniz
for the Program. The government's
public
so
a
to
anti-modern
demon
program
promote
intuitively
ing language
state
strates the fervor to modernize
that permeated
every
program.25 As
rationale

a subaltern

state juggling
and
and highly-charged
international pressures
to
would
have
the
domestic
demands,
government
preferred
competing
and
labor"
within
its
borders.26
strategi
Symbolically
employ "surplus

a
laborers had provided
cally, migrant
way of creating enough jobs to satisfy
could only put a positive
government
as the strategic,
if not
Mexico
portrayed
the United

States.28 And with

sufficient

sign of its failure.27 Yet with no


the country's need, the Mexican
It
situation.
spin on a negative
equally modern partner of
the labor program
justification:

quite

not
idea; it had approached Mexico,
government's
its southern neighbor.
the other way around; it needed an alliance with
a powerful
the Mexican
suitor brought
government
significant
Having
a
that had (en)gendered
rewards. It could redefine
relationship
diplomatic

was

the United

States

States as the
country and the United
(female)
both
As
country and gov
stronger (male) power.
semi-partners, Mexico,
ma
The
democratic
and
"became"
ernment,
government
modernizing.
secure
treatment
to
the "good
the good contract, emphasizing
neuvered
... in the US."29
the Mexicans
[would] receive
of the Bracero
anchored its public promotion
The Mexican
government
the
of
la
Mexican
in
the
notion
mexicana,
family, an
Program
familia

Mexico

as the weaker

with great success


out of the Revolution
and mobilized
ideal emerging
the
This image subordinated
in the aftermath of the oil expropriation.
or faction
to the ideal of a unified
and created a
individual
pueblo
it made
the
Most
of
Mexican
notion
interests.30
importantly,
working
Mexican
legitimate

of these
the protector
the
of
Revolution's
upholder

state

collective
ideals.31

interests

and

the true,
ex

It simultaneously

115

Cohen

in this artificial

national unity and contradictions


as
in the
subaltern state. Revealed
government's
position
an
state
to
in
that
the
"chose"
labor"
"export,"
agricultural

posed inherent
in the Mexican

cracks

"surplus
sector that could not feed

the nation's

to create
too weak
The state was forced

trial sector
as-father.

sufficient

and in an indus
hungry mouths,
was
an
state
emasculated
jobs

to demand sacrifices from the very people


men who couldn't feed fami
and protect ?humble
in
left behind
and children
plots of land, and women

to defend

it claimed

lies from meager


or national patriarch,
to carry
Mexico,
by either household
unprotected
to provide
out men's
tasks. Unable
for its citizens,
the state retained a
as patriarch.
tenuous grasp on its position
Mexico
relative

into the Program with strong bargaining


strength
a
undercut
States,
by the
leverage rapidly
to
lives
of
numbers
of men
escape
clamoring

had entered

to that of the United

ever-increasing

and insultfs]."32 As word of the Program spread, demand


their number. Seeing family,
friends, and neigh
outpaced
bors returning with dollars in the pockets of new clothes, men unable to
to the border.33
obtain contracts
journeyed
through formal mechanisms
"exploitation]
for contracts

While

some awaited

future possibilities,
others sneaked across the terri
an all-too-visible
human stream neither
sanctioned

torial line, forming


nor regulated by the Program. The growing presence
of workers without
an
in
but not unno
official
contracts,
turn, gave growers
unforeseen,
to
work this parallel stream
and they immediately
ticed, advantage;
put
of

laborers

United
enacted

not covered

States

by official
to put
government

under

the

Mexico
protections.
in place
sanctions

to the
appealed
similar to those

and Reform Control Act four de


Immigration
cades later, but the United
States government
refused to do so, instead
to
that
both
nations
take
control
the rapidly-growing
steps
proposing
flow of undocumented

1986

men.34

the war

States upped the number of contracts


ended, the United
available, partly at the behest of growers who saw in this system a way
and partly to offset non-docu
of exerting downward
pressure on wages
its
mented migration,
southern
neighbor. Yet even raising the
appeasing
to migrate
the seemingly
insa
did not meet
number of men permitted
After

for labor, and the result was fierce competition


for con
more
men
and enor
de mojado
tracts,
(without documents)
crossing
mous corruption among Mexican
In October
police and local officials.35
were
that "at least 70,000
1948, reports estimated
illegal Mexican[s]"
sources
in
the
United
States
while
reliable
by 1952,
put the
working
tiable demand

116

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

and a half.36 These


of the
facts spurred an official
figure at a million
to tour the United
Mexican
of Foreign Relations
in
States
Ministry
search of"
'first-hand
information'
about the illegal traffic of Mexican
This

braceros."37
"conservative

1948

figure,

a
the official, was merely
... who had
workers
semi-illegal

announced

calculation

[of mainly]
States after their contracts
stayed in the United
include those who had entered without
official

however,

that "[t]he border

patrols

from

both

and did not


expired"
contracts.38 He added,
countries were
[now] co

operating to impede the [flow] of illegal traffic" denounced by both


Mexican
United
visible

and many United


officials
States communities.39
government
States growers' push to keep the "gates open" coincided with
on the southern side. Even as the Mexican
countermeasures
gov

ernment

non-contracted
vociferously
argued that continued
migration
a
source
own
of
for
its
labor
necessary
depleted
agricultural production,
it simultaneously
found its negotiating
hand forced by the multitudes
to sneak across the border?the
very labor force it was working
waiting
to protect.40 From 1947 to 1949, about twice as many men
(142,000)
were "legalized"
once over the border than were originally
contracted
in effect
those who had migrated
outside
74,000),
rewarding
channels.41 This constant stream of hopeful migrants
undermined
to with
the government's
Unable
ability to secure worker protections.

(about
official

stand pressure
States

United

its own citizens, Mexico


lost diplomatic
to
refused
function
any longer
government

from

ground; the
as the em

individual growers
The
that "responsibility."42
ployer, awarding
was widespread
the growers directly benefiting
abuse of workers:

result

the Program were charged with protecting


whose
labor they directly profited.

from

the welfare

of workers

from

CROSSING THE LINE: NORTHERN OPENING, SOUTHERN


CLOSURE; INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE INTERESTS
Two

border

incidents,

one

in 1948 and the other

in 1954,

reveal

the
state

loss of negotiating
clout. By examining
government's
to the nation, we
in which
and the ways
responses
they were portrayed
see the increasing constraints
in the government's
room.43
maneuvering
in 1954
in
El
the
second
The first took place on 13 October
Paso,
1948,
the
border.
entire
along

Mexican

In El Paso

in 1948, United
States border officials
blatantly
in their efforts to stop the illegal entry of Mexican
agricultural

"desisted
workers

117

Cohen

on the southern side of the border] into North Ameri


[waiting anxiously
can territory."44 Towards
the end of September
the Mexican
government
to allow men living in or congregated
at border towns to be
had decided
as United States growers had urged.45
contracted for work "immediately,"
men "waded [across] the shallow river in
days in mid-October,
of
the
Border
which
received
them with formality,
herded
Patrol,
sight
them
into temporary
and immediately
them
enclosures
paroled
once
to...
cotton growers, who
at
to the fields."
trucked
[them]...

For five

This

La Opinion,
the newspaper
for the Mexican
was
"in
to...
contradiction
the
community
Angeles,
flagrant
states
in
the
authorities
force,
agreement
[which
that]
corresponding
from both governments
will
all measures
[needed] to avoid
[undertake
announced

action,

in Los

the illegal [sic]migration ofMexican


While

press coverage
refrained from carrying
that "[n]o arrests were

[men].47

that United States officials had merely


suggested
out their duty of stopping men at the border and
...
made
because
had...
Agents
Immigration

to cross," in actuality, United


States border guards
workers]
and
the
border, stating that fall harvests
intentionally
unilaterally
opened

permitted
"were

in danger
themselves

upon
cross.49 The
tary border
wetbacks,
diately
case of

took it
States officials
[of being lost]."48 Local United
to pull back the gates, allowing waiting men to freely
it across during the momen
7,000 to 8,000 men who made
were
"dried
out," a play on the term
reprieve
instantly
imme
migrants.50 These men were
to be standing by in
who happened
this act as a
denounced
event.51 Mexico

slang for non-documented


offered contracts by growers

an unexpected
violation
and an assault on the basic "spirit of cooperation
treaty
and the Good Neighbor
policy," and the United States government
apolo
such

blatant

action further
gized for the incident a few days later.52 This unilateral
an already unequal power relationship.
It broke Mexico's
destabilized
to the fields.53
that delivered workers
grip over the procedures
the Mexican
rushing across the border crippled
for its citizen-workers
and
government's
ability to secure protections
was
It
States.
the
its
clout
with
United
essentially
diplomatic
hampered
The

human

bodies

the now patently visible "never-ending


poverty"
so many
With
of field workers."54
facing
. and work
to leave Mexico..
in the United
"strugglfing
everyday]
.
.
was
the government
States.
through
legal or surreptitious means,"
States to
citizens at home and in the United
called upon by prominent
...
truth
the
about...
uncontestable
ag
nation's]
[the]
[that
"stop lying
forced

to acknowledge
"hundreds
of

thousands

118

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

in crisis."55 Squeezed
vocal and vis
continue[d]
by escalating
ible pressure
from "below,"
the government
found its ability to broker
it sought
undercut by the very people
adequate protections
increasingly
to safeguard.56 The United
States government
and growers had a new

riculture

and formidable
The border

bargaining
edge.
incident at El Paso

occurred because
the Mexican
govern
to concede
to new United
had been unwilling
States demands. The
over the location of recruitment
two had long haggled
centers and dur

ment

ing the summer of 1948, the United States government


persuaded Mexico
to locate a recruitment
center inMexicali
(the capital of Baja California
on the international border) in exchange
for allowing
others to be estab
in the interior. For Mexico,
centers at
the location of recruitment
the
United
States
the
shouldered
government
expensive;

lished

the border was


cost

of moving

braceros

from

"border"

recruitment

centers

to United

its Mexican
farms, while
counterpart
picked up the tab to this
to placate pow
the
Mexican
felt
government
point.
compelled
in Sonora, Chihuahua,
erful large agriculturalists
and Sinaloa
that paid
States

Second,

less than workers


could earn north of the border and who
significantly
centers located in the country's
wanted
recruitment
interior, where
they
were less visible.57 Lastly,
the Mexican
believed
that inland
government
enabled it to better regulate the selection process.58 The struggle
coun
centers was over which
the physical
location of recruitment
the power to define the border, physically,
and
try wielded
symbolically,
In
these
the
border
itself
became
debates,
destabilized,
ideologically.

centers
over

and disconnected
territorial
site,

divide.

and became

from
No

the physical

line-in-the-sand

or jurisdictional
or
from a single

the border was wrested

longer fixed,
a moveable
abstraction

haggled

over

in bi-national

treaty negotiations.
In the end, the Mexican
the Program;
it continued

its need for


government
tacitly acknowledged
a
to participate
blatant
encroachment
despite
on its negotiating
of its bluster about a forthcoming
power. Regardless
and heightened
demand for domestic
modernization
labor, the govern
as a "safety valve" for rural unemploy
ment knew migration
functioned
ment

and poverty.59 An outpouring


of anti-state
the
violence
during
with
its potent
of
Cristero Rebellion,
militant
peasant
images
in the North, weighed
minds.
bureaucrats'
outrage
heavily on Mexican
recent

to claim leadership of
continued
by this specter, the government
the treaty between
the nation through the Program and heralded
"good
and diplomatic
neighbors"
equals.60

Driven

119

Cohen

In 1948,

in El Paso, United

States

officials

had acted

on their own

to

open the border; in 1954, they did so with authorization from "the
of government."61
of
On 15 January 1954, after months
new
a
not
had
formal
United
States
agreement,
negotiation
produced
of Labor, State, and Justice took matters
into their own
Departments
hands.62 Together
they issued a press release
stating that the United
levels

highest

the border.63
begin awarding contracts to migrants
crossing
turn
of
this
the
Mexican
denounced
the
events,
government
by
men
to
and implored
stay home, and retaliated by halting all

States would
Outraged
decision

It retorted that the United


States was wielding
negotiations.64
... to
force ... Mexico
conditions"
accept...
[unacceptable]
stalemate over the agreement.65
the scales in the diplomatic
But Mexican
and

men

its threats

"a stick, to
and to tip

north. They dismissed


government
kept heading
to increase the number of troops stationed at the

pleas
that no one would be permitted
border.66 They ignored Mexico's
pledge
to cross and its promises
for those who did.67
of swift, stiff punishment
the large pool of waiting
laborers, the urgent needs of United
Noting

in negotiations,
Texas Representative
States growers,
and the break-off
Ken Regan publicly
lamented the two countries'
inability to settle their
of
whether
Mexico's
tactic
differences,
doubting
closing the border would
deter persistent migrants.68
he concluded,
"need
"Mexicans,"
effectively
North

American

dollars

the Mexican

and we
and

need

their labor.

[Migration]

to ours."69 Not

is an aid to
the Mexican

economy
surprisingly,
on the unilateral
deci
put sole blame for the predicament
government
It accused
its northern neighbor
sion of the United
States government.70
of "encouraging
them in physical

men

to [cross

the border

and] violate

the law," putting

danger.71
in Mexicali
did not care whose
fault it
throngs of men gathered
was. After waiting
for as long as seven months, most men
there, many
of workers,"
had no money.
"Thousands
claimed Baja California's
head
streets ... in desperate
"are milling
around in Mexicali's
of Migration,
the delays
and
need of...
food and a place to stay," impatient with
The

At first the federal


diplomatic
finger-pointing.72
counter
this impatience with
threats, dispatching
Nuevo Laredo, Nogales
and other border points.73

tried to
government
troops to Ensenada,
InMexicali,
500 men

on the governor's
food and
palace demanding
by marching
fire
hoses.74
their
soldiers
and
found
work,
protests greeted by
wielding
tense
to
the
situation
diffuse
President Adolfo
Ruiz Cortines
attempted
land
by instituting a plan to extend greater credit to communally-held
retaliated

120

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

and small landowners,


relieve
plans that it hoped would
to cross,75 while Baja California Governor Braulio Maldonado
over 12,000 men congregated
at
into his own hands. With
took matters

communities
men's

need

and more

the border
by dangling
Some men

arriving
an offer of free

he hoped to entice them


transport home and possibilities
daily,

into leaving
of work.76

As
took up Maldonado's
offer but most
stayed inMexicali.
...
one newspaper
saw
"the
of
here
hordes
braceros
don't
it,
reporter
to
want help from
the government;
all they want
is to be allowed
...

cross

and

work."77

The Mexican

about
government's
publicity
that
and pleas with men to stay home, declaring
not
in the United
work
States, did
persuade
at
to
return
to
the
border
their
villages
gathered
heading
ous by

the termination
no more

of

braceros

talks

would

hungry,
desperate
or deter more men

men
from

a commotion,
there. A reporter described
growing more danger
as "a house over a barrel of
the day, as being as flammable

some men
dynamite."78 On one particular morning
threw rocks at photographers
impatient and weary,
while

during

with

passengers

another

incident

and driver,

in the restless

crowd,
on rooftops,

perched
the same day, men
lifted a bus, complete
into the air in what was termed "a playful

occurrence."79

When
the United
States actually pulled back the gate and opened the
of hopeful migrants
rushed
border on January 22, chaos ensued. Hundreds
arms
Border
the
extended
of
United
States
the
aided
barrier,
past
by
soldiers charged the men,
agents, even as Mexican
trying to pre
vent them from crossing.
their countrymen,
often by
Soldiers grabbed
them back as they were pulled towards the other
the shirt, and yanked

Patrol

States border guards. Troops pelted men with fists, guns,


side by United
to contain
this rush of bodies.80
and clubs in a vain attempt
water,
as waiting men
to cross the border,
unfolded
Pandemonium
struggled
and growers
instructed those men already
while United
States officials
authorization
in the United
States but who had entered without
working
a
move
over
their presence.
to step briefly
the invisible
line,
"legalizing"
workers met the official
of having
this "step-over,"
With
requirement
or returned to Mexico,
to
"re-enter"
with
them
been expelled
allowing
sanction and an official contract.81 Often these men,
too, found
as
beaten
and
themselves
they tried to
by [Mexican police]"
"grabbed
one
on
return
to
States
United
then
the
land
of
their
birth
and
foot
plant
the INS'

soil.82
The Mexican

government,

watching

this chaotic

situation

develop,

121

Cohen

an astute

tactical move. Recognizing


that its assertive diplomatic
was
a
an earlier decision
at
crisis
it
and
reversed
home,
posture
igniting
declared
that no Mexican
official would
impede anyone from crossing.83
The United
States, in turn, stated it would
regulate migration
by putting

made

in place an interim program


to begin the following Monday.
But ten
sions continued. On January 27, more than 2,500 impatient men "rioted"
at the border at six in the morning,
for about an hour. Gathering
they
to cross into "the promised
their way towards the gate, hoping
the
land."84 A photo in La Opinion
captured
agitated crowd pressed up
the
fence
from
steel
southern
northern neighbor.85 With
against
dividing
United
States Immigration
and police forming a human chain
officials
inched

this "avalanche
of braceros" was
[an] attack" by waiting men,
broken up by a torrent of water
from fire hoses and by local
driving squad cars into the agitated crowd. Miraculously
only one

to "resist
finally
police

person was
seriously
injured and others
termed as only light bruises.86
The Mexican
of the Interior
Minister

received

what

one newspaper

instruc
specific
to
cross; guards
anyone wanting
were to ask only for a man's name, his age, and occupation.87
Officials
also found themselves
that
repeatedly
denying
charges
they had in
creased the border force or that they had ever issued orders to obstruct
to border

tions

officials

workers'

crossing.88 Yet
defuse
the strained

not

again

issued

to detain

these measures

and pronouncements
still could
not
Men
had seen their companions
atmosphere.
in the previous
shoved, stepped on, and kicked
day's skirmish to cross
on
authorities
the border.89 And with the Monday
date fast approaching,
both

sides feared new bracero

uprisings.90 They were


lining up on the border's

started
Migrant
hopefuls
wee hours of Monday
At first subdued,
morning.
the
small
of allotted
turned
when
number
quickly
ran out

in a mere

right.
southern

side in the

the crowd's

mood

contracts,
only
one newspaper

five

As
de
hundred,
twenty minutes.91
masses
of men
toward the
scribed the spectacle underway,
streaming
to prevent
local Mexican
them
border encountered
police determined
from crossing.
"This morning,"
the reporter on the scene, "be
claimed
over the gate
threw themselves
8,000 and 10,000 farm workers
on
US
aided by police and
the
side authorities,
posts in Cal?xico, while
of braceros
that they
fire fighters,
stood [ready] to repel the avalanche
that the gates were opened....
Officials
found on top of them the moment
tween

used
A

tear gas and hoses to turn the crowd around."92


close-up photo on the front page of the same newspaper

depicted

122

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

worker"
from lack of air."93
"exhausted
caught in the melee,
one point, the men heading up the crowd could neither advance nor
to
officials
retreat; they faced a "human chain" of Mexican
Immigration
their front and were blocked from behind by thousands of other disillu

"a humble
At

sioned men

to take each inch of forbidden


straining
territory.94 With
men
and
shove
forward
every prod, push,
by
straining toward the bor
were
a
to
and
then
few
der,
collapsed
trampled by others attempting
their
vacated spaces. Even the border guards, attempting
to
into
squeeze
control

the crowd,

at times

lost

their balance

space to the advancing


yielded momentary
on the northern side also got into the fray,

from

the pressure,
and
force.95 Border agents

human

doing what they could to help


across.
a
man
it
A photo captured
being literally fought over
States border guard and a Mexican
his arm
by a United
policeman,
one
was
in
while
in
his
After
direction
another.96
yanked
body
pulled

men make

confusion,
only five hundred men had entered the
three attempts by the crowd to ram through
United States, but not without
the human blockade.97 Over the following
several days, almost ten thou
sand desperate men broke through lines of officials
and scrambled onto
two hours

of mass

States

United

to fi
the United
States government
prompted
that it lacked funds and needed
under the pretense

soil. This

nally halt the process


further authorization

from

to downplay
attempted
the "incident
[as one]

President
Ruiz Cortines
Congress.98 While
the diplomatic
nightmare,
publicly
portraying
that could be resolved within
the norms of the

to the United
the Mexican
ambassador
States
policy,"
President
Eisenhower
and
that
labor
nego
requested
quietly approached
a plea that the latter accepted
on February
tiations recommence,
11."
good

neighbor

a victory
in the Mexican
to save face at home
government

Declared

allowed
the
press, this rapprochement
and gave it a way out of the interna

tional

imbroglio.
the melee
Could

long threatened

have

been

to call home

The Mexican

had
government
In early June 1952,
demands
for hard-line

of workers.

States grower
the unacceptably
low wages paid to bracero
a fair,
It denounced
cotton pickers.100
assaults on its ability to negotiate
the Program,
and
and higher, wage,
insisted on its right to oversee
a more comprehensive
contract for its citizen-workers.101
Yet
demanded
facing

increasingly
negotiating, Mexico

in 1953 congressional
of Minnesota
spoke
United

States. Most

Iowa Senator Bourke

vocal

avoided?
thousands

United

decried

hearings on the Program, only Eugene McCarthy


in the
out against the abuses braceros
confronted
United

States

Hickenlooper,

congressional
who demanded

members

sided with

that the United

States

123

Cohen

to
and called upon all Mexicans
program
wanting
or subsidies.
work to do so with no safeguards
"Come on, boys," thun
"
to the Senate,
dered Hickenlooper
'there is work here, come in under
"102
your own power and go back under your own power.'
In the months
States
leading up to the 1954 border incident, as United
the entire

abandon

to the agreement
in force,
for substantive
negotiators
pressed
changes
Mexico
had dug in its heels.103 Although
"aware
of
the
unoffi
painfully
cial threats of unilateral
actions emanating
from Washington
circles,"
to abdicate
the Mexican
refused
its responsibility
to its
government
citizen-workers.104
effects,
diplomatic
First the Mexican

Richard
attributed

B. Craig,
Mexico's

an expert on the Program


to three
determination

and

its

factors.

that in a time of deteriorating


reasoned
government
...
"United States-Mexican
relations
Washington
surely would not adopt
a go-it-alone
"sense of [political]
attitude."105 The second was Mexico's
timing

to use] pressure

and its [ability

politics."106

Lastly,

the country's

national pride was being displayed daily on the editorial pages of the
Mexico

in the week
City daily Excelsior
as
one
the
between
Program
portrayed

to the incident.107 Having


Mexico
could not
semi-equals,
prior

to protect its citizen-workers.


its responsibility
in
these
crucial
the editorial pages of newspapers
months,
During
in the United
Mexico
and newspapers
States for Mexican
published
abdicate

communities
gram. They
of braceros'

an

of the Pro
increasingly
negative
portrayal
rhetorical
and
gave increasing
print space to charges
weight
were the headlines
and
Gone
discrimination.108
exploitation
presented

States soldiers
that only Mexicans
could save crops destined for United
men happy to swing machetes
or en
and quotes from proud Mexican
dure sweat-inducing
labor as crucial to the war effort as lugging rifles.109
No

longer did the media minimize


as time away from family, friends,

without

the "hardships"
of bracero
and country, or adjustments

life, such
to meals

salsa and tortillas.

Instead,

the press

focused

on the Mexican

government's
negotiating
the United
States for the tense and nearly uncon
"successes,"
blaming
a good con
It suggested
trollable situation.
that Mexico
had negotiated
even
tract and secured additional
for
workers
when
noth
"protections"
or advantages were
and El
surrendered.110 El Nacional
on the
to a lesser extent, Excelsior ?also
expounded
the
undertaken
country, the
modernizing
projects
throughout

ing was gained


Universal?and,
large-scale
factories being

of how soon the


built, and over-optimistic
projections
to imports.111
its foodstuff
needs without
country might meet
resorting
in the North, necessitating
Even the outbreak of hoof-and-mouth
disease

124

Journal of American

a complete
cattle, and
national

Ethnic History

of heads

and the slaughter of thousands


border-closing
in
the
formation
of a Mexico-United
resulting
was

commission,

positively

/ Spring 2001

States

as cooperation

portrayed

of
bi

between

equals.112
Throughout

this period,

complishments?whether
mexicana.
The
familia

the government
successes

state

to frame

continued
or failures?in

actual

called

sectors

all

terms

of

its ac
of

la

from

upon
society,
to
to factory and transportation workers,
and campesinos
as
a
needs
and
consider
the
future
aside
their
individual
put
country's
Even as newspaper
articles enumerated
the reasons braceros en
whole.
industrialists

the extreme

dured

conditions

of United

States

was

the
work,
agricultural
for the Mexican
fam

in terms of its benefits


portrayed
the
Program could formerly humble men, now ex
ily.113 Only through
trans
to
of modern
the
and
agricultural work,
rhythms
techniques
posed
own
to
in
the United
States
their
fields what they had learned
plant back

Program

and teach

those whom

the
had not gone, a process
that would
"advance
of rampant corrup
survived media publicity
to
revealed
schemes
Each time newspapers

Such portrayals
tion and document
selling.

nation."114
wrest

sums from

ob
for documents
normally
aspiring braceros
or
officials
chastised
low-level
tained without,
government
police
they
the national
for their greediness
and "sins" against
collective.115 And
paltry

the trustwor
the state as the nation's
genuine protector,
they portrayed
and thus the
arbiter of the Mexican
needs,
family's
thy and objective
once
But
true
of
the
Revolution.
and
purveyor
again, the
guiding Light
of
and defender
embodiment
of the Revolution
supposed
most
those
found its diplomatic
needing
impeded by
options
protection?the

the masses
its help and

migrants.

CONCLUSION
The Mexican
a substantial

government

had entered

into the Bracero

vis-?-vis

the United

Program with
States. Gained

advantage
diplomatic
States labor
1938 oil well nationalization
and United
through Mexico's
over
Bracero
the
the
life
of
this
declined
Program
advantage
shortages,
so many Mexican
to participate
in it. In
workers were desperate
because
inherent
leverage, the inconsistencies
tracing out this loss of negotiating
of
in the Mexican
became
apparent. Regardless
position
government's
as
a
of
show
how the government
spun the Bracero
experience?first
as
a
a
and
in
selfanti-fascist
zeal
fight and, later,
global
patriotic

125

Cohen

nation-modernizing
nancial rewards

journey?in
reality, migrants
that United
States work offered.

can government
tried to muscle
its
itwas
citizen-workers,
protect
destitute
tween

workers.
national

This
and

question
ever resolve

time

Every
stronger

the fi

the Mexi

to
agreements
from Mexico's

by pressure
a tension be
not only highlights
it also raises the fundamental
interests;

and under what

a "subaltern

conditions

state" can

them.

The Mexican

to negotiate
effective
and
sent to the United
States.

government
attempted
for citizen-workers
protections

forceable

needed

contradiction

individual

of whether

through
undermined

ever

badly

en
To

and justify initial support for the Program,


it constructed
and
a
set
both
of
national
interests
and
the
projected
diplomatic
strength to
on salary,
realize them. It sought agreements with
stringent guarantees
encourage

and working
enforcement
vigilant
behalf of the nation
living

the Mexican

doing,
disputes

and other benefits;


and it fought
conditions,
and constant verification
of these conditions
and
state

and the voice

individual
situated

of Mexican

for
on

In so
that it represented.
migrants
itself as both the arbiter of domestic
national

interests

to a global

audi

ence.

Yet this same government


faced growing
constraints
simultaneously
on its ability to act on behalf of individual workers
and, through them,
the nation. The deep-seated
economic
and social needs of those it repre
sented, made

more

border,
increasingly
This forced Mexico

at the
congregating
by the destitute masses
the very hand the government
could play.
to expend part of its domestic
and diplomatic
legiti
never designed
to alleviate Mexico's
poverty. The

visible

limited

on a program
macy
Bracero
Program barely made
available

since

the United

States

a dent

enough contracts were


exclusive
control of the num

in it: not

retained

Instead, the Program could only act as a limited


industrialization
safely valve in tandem with other labor-intensive
projects
that the government
undertook.
and when.

ber awarded

At

a time when

address
government made all programs
cause
of
its
the
of
national
and
part
unity
sovereignty,
its claim as state patriarch.
inability to address those needs weakened
Even as it lost negotiating
tried to cast itself as
clout, the government
ing citizen

the Mexican

needs

arbiter, as well as the insurer of the nation's


respect
rhetoric mobiliz
prestige. Yet regardless of a collectivist
a government
to
unable
ideology,
people witnessed
ing Revolutionary
an
un
meet
their needs while
the Revolution's
gains with
distributing
the sole Mexican

and diplomatic

126

Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

even hand. They took it upon themselves


to act on behalf of their fami
lies and themselves,
and migrated
formal Program
outside
channels,
further
the
government's
they
reducing
bargaining
leverage, from which
Mexico
could not even keep the Pro
would have benefited. Ultimately,
alive.

gram

The

was

official

one

of

economic

that replaced
the Bracero
program
or factories
in maquiladoras
in the
am
for
neo-liberal
export-oriented
growth

investment

Program
border region. It substituted
bitious state-led
industrialization
that has benefited
inMexico.

people
the inexpensive
maquiladoras,

United

States

Today
electronic

many

on import substitution,
a change
than
far more
capital and consumers

based

consumers

while

and

sectors

products
of the United

north

of the border

clothes
States

produced

can buy
in these

such as res

economy,

and
construction,
services,
factories,
janitorial
food-producing
run
on
is
labor.
This
labor
fueled
daycare,
cheap, "illegal"
by continuing
a (globally-integrated)
between
Mexican
still inca
economy
migration
States
jobs for its citizenry and a United
pable of providing
living-wage
sweat and stamina
it ex
that demonizes
the men and women
whose
taurants,

but whose

ploits,
growing

shortage

a
it cannot fully control or regulate. With
crossings
in the United
of workers
States and an increasing
between
the two countries
luring ever more people

in wages
disparity
over the border, the Mexico
of the mid-twentieth
still exists. Millions
of men
and now women

century in many ways


still search for a living
the Mexican
remains
government

in "the promised
land," while
to stem this growing outflow of people
in
the
unable
middle,
caught
or
their
needs
protect them as they venture into El Norte.
addressing

wage

by

NOTES
Research for this article was supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the
Institute for the Study of Man, the Hewlett Foundation, and grants from the Univer
sity of Chicago Department of History and Center for Latin American Studies. I
would also like to thank Ken Clemments, Robert Curley, Lessie Frazier, Donna
Gabaccia, Michael Sacco, and David Williams for their provocative comments and
on the multiple
copy-editing
1. "Aspetos
de la Pol?tica
Mexicana,"

meticulous

La

the article.

of

incarnations

2 February

Opinion,

1954,

p. 2. Un

less otherwise indicated all quotes have been translated by the author.
2.

"De

la Pol?tica

3. The official
the Loan

of Laborers.

La Opinion,

Mexicana,"

4 February

p. 2.

1954,

States Program of

title of the Program is The Mexican-United


The

word
brazo, which
Spanish
4. For a thorough
review

term

bracero,
meaning
as arm.
translates
of

the Bracero

manual

Program

laborer,
itself,

comes

see Manuel

the

from
Garc?a

Griego, "The Importation of Mexican Contract Laborers to the United States, 1942
1964:

Antecedents,

Operation,

and

Legacy,"

in Peter

G.

Brown

and Henry

Shue,

Cohen

127

eds., The Border that Joins, Mexican Migrants and U.S. Responsibility (Totowa,
1983), pp. 49-98.
5. Garc?a y Griego's concludes thatmigration functioned as a sign of theMexi
can government's
"Mexican
Griego,
6. For a more

historical

to address

inability
Laborers."

Contract
detailed

version

of

these

the nation's

basic

see my

connections,

needs.

Garc?a

"Masculine

Sweat,

Stoop-labor Modernity: Gender, Race, and Nation inMid-Twentieth Century Mexico


and theUnited States (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 2001).
7. As an example of the images and rhetoric in play during the initial period, see
the caption
for an untitled
la Revoluci?n
Mexicana

sive discussion

(Mexico

of the way

see Cohen,

Program,

Blanca

photo,

de

Hacia

Torres,

in which modernity

"Masculine

Sweat,"

la utop?a
Historia
industrial,
exten
p. 42. For a more

vol.

1984),

City,

21,

anchors the framing of the Bracero


2.

chapter

8. Scholars contend that this shortage was invented and sustained by growers
who refused to institute increased agricultural wages to draw sufficient workers and
instead badgered the government for assistance, leading it to approach Mexico. See
Kitty

Inside

Calavita,

The Bracero

the State:

Program,

and

Immigration,

the I.N.S.

(New York, 1992). The Program functioned not just to supply labor but to control
it. See Lawrence A. Cardoso, Mexican Emigration to the United States, 1897-1931:
Socio-economic

Patterns

Ariz.,

(Tucson,

1980);

cans in the making of Texas, 1836-1986


Walls

Mexican

and Mirrors,

David

Mexican

Americans,

Montejano,

(Austin, Tex.,

Anglos

and Mexi

1987); David Guti?rrez,


and

Immigrants,

the Politics

of

Ethnicity (Berkeley, Calif., 1995); and Mae Ngai, "Illegal Aliens and Alien Citi
zens: United States Immigration Policy and Racial formation, 1924-1943," Ph.D.
diss., Columbia University, 1998).
9. Sister Mary Colette Standart, "The Sonoran Migration to California, 1848?
1856: A Study in Prejudice," in David G. Guti?rrez, ed., Between Two Worlds,
Mexican Immigrants in the United States (Wilmington, Del., 1996), pp. 3-22.
10. Manuel

Garc?a

Contract

"Mexican

y Griego,

Laborers."

11. See, for example, editorials from the 11 June 1942 edition of Excelsior and
from El Nacional,
15 June 1942.
12. For information about the "first" Bracero Program, see Fernando Sa?l Alanis
Enciso, El Primer Programa Bracero y el gobierno de M?xico 1917-1918.
(San
Luis Potos?, 1999).
13. Blanca

Torres,

en

M?xico

la segunda

guerra

mundial,

p. 249; Manuel

Garc?a

y Griego, "Mexican Contract Laborers," p. 51; and Centro de Estudios Hist?ricos,


Historia general deM?xico (Mexico, 1976), vol. 4, pp. 197-198 and 164-165.
14. According to Garc?a y Griego, theMexican government had been trying to
protect Mexican migrants to the U.S. since the 1917 Constitutional Convention,
when

was
out protections
for emigrant
123, laying
workers,
were
to
workers
instructed
border
discourage
guards

Article

that moment

on,

adopted.
from

From
leaving

and consulates in the U.S. were directed to step up the help they offered tomigrants
and

assist

The government
in adjudicating
their complaints
against
employers.
as thousands
as ineffective
these unilateral
of Mexicans
efforts
as brought
a return,
it realized,
to Mexico
the Depression,
about not
during
them

come

would
returned

by Mexican

to see

policies

but the loss of jobs in the U.S.

See his "Mexican Contract

Laborers."

14, 30May and 12 June 1942.

15. Excelsior,
16.

Torres

Jaime

17. Gonz?lez

del Archivo

Bodet,

Navarro,

General

La

victoria

Poblaci?n

de la Naci?n,

sin alas: Memorias


en M?xico,
sociedad

pp. 22-23;

(Mexico
pp.

1970).
City,
163, 215; Bolet?n

and Garc?a y Griego,

"Mexican

128 Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

Contract Labor." To some extent, this opposition continued, "Los Industriales No


Desean Salgan Ya Braceros Mexicanos Para Los EEUU," El Nacional,
13 Febru
ary, 1946, p. 6. Also see, Editorial, El Popular, 9 December 1941, p. 5 and Blanca
Torres:

en

M?xico

la

organized
mine
the

efforts

country's

mundial,
that the

guerra

segunda
interests

commercial

toward

argued
economic

for example, Editorial, El Popular,


en

M?xico

la segunda

mundial,

guerra

p.

21.

For

wanting
in Blanca

en la

quoted in Blanca Torres, M?xico

en la

quoted in Blanca Torres, M?xico

en la

Zoraida

(Chicago,

an adventure.

only

Torres,
on
thoughts

early

Josefina

251;

The United States and Mexico.


with
charged
p. 4. quoted

See,

1942, p. 5; Blanca Torres, M?xico

20. Editorial "La emigraci?n mexicana,"


segunda

and modernization.

1941, p. 5 and Blanca Torres:

p. 251.

mundial,

guerra

under

248-250.

pp.

14 August

19. Editorial "La emigraci?n mexicana,"


segunda

exportation

and

unions
would

p. 253.

mundial,

guerra

segunda

Trade
of men

development

9 December

mundial,

guerra

18. Editorial, Excelsior,

248-250.

pp.

the benefits

Lorenzo

160. Men were

1985), p.

See, for example,


en la
guerra
segunda

M?xico

and

V?zquez

Tiempo,
mundial,

repeatedly

2 January
p. 255.

see "Trabajadores

of migrations

Meyer,
1948,

mexicano,"

La Opini?n, 24 April 1929, p. 3 and "La Tragedia de los Preatriados," La Opini?n,


19 November
1931, p. 3; "Es necesario abandonar el complejo de inferioridad
16 June 1948, p. 1.
comercial enM?xico," El Nacional,
22. For a discussion of the importance of this aspect of the Program, see Cohen,
"Masculine
mundial,

Sweat,"
255-56.

pp.

chapter

and

Blanca

en

M?xico

Torres,

la segunda

guerra

23. Editorials, El Nacional, 1, 8 August 1942, p. 5.


24. Editorial, Excelsior, 12May 1942.
25. Ken Clemments, personal conversation, University of South Carolina; April
2000. Also see Anne Rubenstein, Bad Language, Naked Ladies, & Other Threats to
theNation, A Political History of Comic Books inMexico (Durham, N.C., 1998).
1900-1970
26. Mois?s Gonz?lez Navarro, Poblaci?n y sociedad en M?xico,
(Mexico City, 1974), vol. 2, pp. 163, 215; Bolet?n del Archivo General de la
Naci?n, Tercera Serie 4, number 4 (October-December
1980), pp. 22-23; and
Garc?a y Griego, "Mexican Contract Labor." To understand how this functioned for
Venezuela, see Fernando Coronil's "Listening to the Subaltern: The Poetics of the
Neocolonial
State," Poetics Today, 15 (Winter 1994): 631-41 and Coronil, The
Magical State: Nature, Money, andModernity in Venezuela (Chicago, 1997); Blanca
Torres,
27.

M?xico

en

Manuel

Garc?a

28.

Blanca

29.

Blanca

30.

For

Torres,

Torres,
an example

mundial,
guerra
p. 249.
"Mexican
Contract
Laborers,"
y Griego,
en la segunda
M?xico
mundial,
guerra
en la segunda
M?xico
mundial,
guerra
of

see

its usage,

"M?xico

Antes

p. 53.
p. 249.
p. 257.

de Todo,"

La Opini?n,

25

1938, p. 3.

April
31.

"Los

El Nacional,
32.
ary

la segunda

28 May
Tratan

Que

1954,

y Beneficios

Sacrificios

en Forma

Ser Distribuidos

Equitativa,"

a Los

Bien

Braceros

en EU,"

Mexicanos

La Opini?n,

12 Janu

p. 7.

daily La Opinion

33. The Los Angeles


the U.S.

Deben

1946, p. 4.

were

approximately

eleven

salaries had continued going up while


3 March
Miseria,"
1954,
34. Garc?a
y Griego,

p. 5.
"Mexican

times

claimed that the per capita earnings in

inMexico,

Contract

than

greater

those

in Mexico

and

that

they had fallen steadily, "Braceros,

Laborers,"

p. 54.

Cohen

129

as wet,

35. Mojado
translates
documented
On
migrants.

corruption

a Braceros," El Nacional,
Braceros

10 February

1954,

La Opinion,

Miseria,"

con

el Fraude

3 March

"Serio

Problema

de dos Braceros."

39.

"Serio

Problema

de dos

Braceros."

3 October

1948, p.

1;

p. 5.

1954,

37. "Serio Problema de dos Braceros," El Nacional:


38.

de

p. 3.

36. "Serio Problema de dos Braceros," El Nacional:


"Braceros,

to non

to refer

11 July 1946: section 2, 3 and "Contrabandistas

La Opini?n,

Capturados,"

the term wetbacks


engendering
see "Repercusiones
en Relaci?n

see Ernesto

Also

1948, p. 1.

3 October

Merchants

Galarza,

of

Labor: TheMexican Bracero Story. (Charlotte, 1964), p. 63.


Ernesto

40.

Galarza,

Merchants

of Labor:

The Mexican

Bracero

Story,

p.

63.

41. Richard B. Craig, The Bracero Program, Interest Groups and Foreign Policy
(Austin, Tex., 1971), p. 67.
42.

Garc?a

"Mexican

y Griego,

Contract

p. 63.

Laborers,"

43. Una Protesta por la Importaci?n de Braceros," La Opini?n,

12 September

2, 4.

section

1948,

44. "Amplia Documentaci?n Relativa a la Il?cita Entrada de Braceros a EEUU,"


18October 1948, p. 1.
El Nacional,
45. Contrataci?n de Braceros in Mexicali, Baja California," La Opini?n, 28
September 1948, p. 1; "Monterrey Invadido por Los Que Pretenden Trabajar en los
EEUU," La Opini?n, 3 October 1948, p. 2; and "Huelga de Hambre de Los Braceros,"
La Opini?n, 9 October 1948, p. 2.
46.

Ernesto

Galarza,

Merchants

The Mexican

of Labor,

Bracero

Story,

p.

49.

Also see Peter N. Kirstein, Anglo over Bracero: A History of theMexican Worker
in the United States from Roosevelt toNixon (San Francisco, 1977). For a different
perspective see "Ilegalmente Hay en M?xico 15,000 Guatemaltecos," La Opinion,
26 October 1948, p. 2.
47. Amplia Documentaci?n Relativa a la Il?cita Entrada de laBraceros a EEUU,"
El Nacional,
18 October 1948, p. 1. For another reading see "M?s Elogios Recibe
M?xico Aun Por Su Patri?tica Actitude Ante EU de A," La Opinion, 26 October
p. 3.

1948,

48. Pasaron 6,000 Braceros a EU en Un S?lo D?a," La Opini?n, 17 October


1948, p. 1; "Qued? Derrogado el Acuerdo Entre Ambos Pa?ses, Para laContrataci?n
de Braceros," El Nacional,
19October 1948, p. 1.
49.

See Kirstein,
another

For

50.

see

Bracero.
"La Cuesti?n

de

los

"
'Braceros,'

La

Opini?n,

25

1948, p. 3.

October
51.

over

Anglo
reading,

Across

the

states

country

were

each

battling

other

for

See

braceros.

"Dos

Estados en Pugna; Ambos Quieren Braceros," La Opini?n, 22 September 1948, p. 2


and "Otro Conflicto Por Los Braceros," La Opini?n, 29 September 1948, p. 1.
52. Denuncian Graves Violaciones," La Opini?n, 18 October 1948, p. 1; and
"Que Castigue a Los Culpables de La Entrada Ilegal de 1-7 Braceros," La Opini?n
27 October 1948, p. 1; "Ecos Mexicanos de la Actitude Estadunidense sobre Los
La

Braceros,"

Opini?n,
Ilegales,"
Anglo
Garc?a

Opini?n,

20 October

October

1948,

p.

La Opini?n,
26 October
1948, p. 1. For
Bracero
The
Bracero;
Craig,
Program;
Contract
"Mexican
Laborers";
y Griego,

over

Political and Economic


the Non-Quota
diss.,

23

University

1948, p. 1. "EU Regresar?

Implications of Mexican

Labor
Contract
System,
Program,
of Michigan,
1957), pp. 232-35.

and

"Llamado

a M?xico

a Braceros,"

La

Todos Los Braceros

see Kirstein,
information,
Merchants
Galarza,
of Labor;
"The
and Robert
D. Tomasek,

further

Labor in the United


and Wetback

States under

Movement,"

(Ph.D.

130 Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

53. Empleados Mexicanos Acusados," La Opini?n, 22 September 1948, p. 1


and "Protesta de 7000 Braceros Ante Ruiz Cortines," La Opini?n, 17 September
1948, p. 1.
54. "Hermano

La Opini?n,
30 October
Bracero,"
La Opini?n,
28 October
1948, p. 5.
Guaran?'as,"
de Guarant?as."
55. "La Demanda

1948,

p.

5; "La Demanda

de

56. "Protesta de 7000 Braceros Ante Ruiz Cortines," La Opini?n, 17 September


1948, p. 1; "Huelga de Hambre de Los Braceros, La Opini?n, 9 October 1948, p. 2;
"La Demanda de Guarant?as," La Opini?n, 28 October 1948, p. 5; "M?s de 1000
Son Las Solicitudes de Los Obreros," La Opini?n, 26 October 1948, p. 2; "Ecos de
la Actitud Mexicana Por Los Braceros," La Opini?n, 22 October 1948, p. 4;
"Colonizaci?n de Mexicanos Antes Que 10 Extranjeros," La Opini?n 15 October
1948, p. 3; "Monterrey Invadido Por Los Que Pretenden Trabajar en Los EEUU,"
La Opini?n, 3 October 1948, p. 2; "Otro Conflicto Por Los Braceros," La Opini?n,
28 September 1948, p. 1; and "Contrataci?n de Braceros en Mexicali, Baja Califor
nia," ?a Opini?n, 28 September 1948, p. 1.
57. During the initial phase of the Program, the main recruitment centers were
located inMexico City, Guadalajara, and Irapuato, Guanajuato. They quickly shifted
northward, toMonterrey, Chihuahua City, Zacatecas, Hermosillo, and Mexicali; by
were
workers
1955, some bracero
"Mexican
58. Garc?a
y Griego,
77; Gonz?lez
p. 39.

p.
of Labor,
tion Wetback,

at the actual

processed
Contract
Poblaci?n

Navarro,

Mexico-U.S.

Laborers,"
y

border.

67; Galarza,

p.

sociedad,

p.

248;

Merchants

Garc?a,

Opera

59. Nuestra Industrializaci?n est? en marcha," El Nacional, 4 March 1948, p. 1;


"Disminuye la importaci?n de art?culos de consumo," El Nacional, 30 April 1948,
p. 1; "M?xico necesita miles de t?cnicos en agricultural," El Nacional, 7 June 1948,
p. 1; Editorial, El Nacional, 24 July 1948, p. 5; and Editorial, El Nacional, 26
August 1948, p. 5.
60. "Un Alto Esp?ritu de Amistad y Cooperaci?n Anima a los Legisladores
El Nacional,
25 August
1948, p. 1.
"Mexican
Contract
Laborers,"
y Griego,
p. 65.
a EU," La Opini?n,
Braceros
62.
"Continuar?n
Mexicanos
Trayendo
1954, p. 1.

Norteamericanos,"
61. Garc?a

63. "Estados Unidos

de Lugar," La Opini?n,

Para Traer Braceros,"


1954, p. 1; "Otro Programa.
en el
Para Los Braceros
1; "Fondos
Presupuesto,"

January
1954,

'A Como

Quiere Braceros

p.

2 January

La Opini?n,
La Opini?n,

13

16 January
23 January

1954, p. 1; "Mexico Suspende el Env?o de Braceros," La Opini?n, 17January 1954,


p. 1; and "Los Partidos Aprobaron el Acuerdo del Gobierno Sobre Braceros," La
Opini?n, 19 January 1954, p. 2.
64 . "Medidas para Evitar que Vengan Braceros," La Opini?n, 20 January 1954,
p.

1; Craig,
p. 65.

The Bracero

and Garc?a

Program,

"Mexican

y Griego,

Contract

Labor

ers,"

65. Se Cumpli? El Plazo a Los Braceros," La Opini?n,


and

"EU

and Mexico

en Un

Acuerdo

Sobre

27 February 1954, p. 1

La

Braceros,"

Opini?n,
see Craig,
The Bracero
pp. 105-6.
Program,
20
La Opini?n,
Para Evitar Que Vengan
Braceros,"
La Opini?n,
Evitan
la Salida
de Braceros,"
Mexicanas

1954, p. 1. Also
66.
"Medidas

1; "Tropas
1954, p. 1.
"Los Estados
67.

p.

Opini?n,
68.
January

Unidos

2 January
1954,
"Estados
Unidos
1954,

p.

1.

Piden

Tropas

Mexicanas

Para Vigilar

La

28

February

1954,
January
24 January
Frontera,"

La

p. 3.
Quiere

Braceros

'A Como

de

Lugar,'"

La

Opini?n,

13

131

Cohen

69. Editorial, Excelsior, 17 January 1954, p. 5.


se se Suspende la Libre Contrataci?n de los
70. "M?xico S?lo Negociar?
Braceros," La Opini?n, 23 January 1954, p. 3 and "Dos Aspetos de Un Problema,"
Editorial, La Opini?n, 26 January 1954, p. 5.
71.

Braceros

"2,211

74.

Garc?a

La Frontera,"

Cruzaron

72. Ibid.
73. Editorials inExcelsior,

1954,

January

p.l.

21 January 1954, 5 and 23 January 1954, p. 5.

"Mexican

y Griego,

27

La Opini?n,

Contract

p. 66.

Laborers,"

75. "Evitar?n la Emigraci?n de Braceros a EU con Amplios Cr?ditos y Trabajo,"


La Opini?n, 25 January 1954, p. 2.
"Se

76.

en

Arremolinan

la Frontera

los

La

Braceros,"

29

Opini?n,

January

1954; "Se Agrava El Problema de Los Braceros," La Opini?n, 26 January 1954, p.


1; and Editorial, New York Times, 16 January 1954.
77. "Se Agrava El Problema de Los Braceros," La Opini?n, 26 January 1954, p. 1.
78.
1954,

"Se

en

Arremolinan

la Frontera

La

los Draceros,"

29

Opini?n,

January

p.l.

79. Ibid.
80. See editorial pages of Excelsior, 24, 27, 28, 29 January and 2 February
1954, along with the El Paso Times for complete description of events.
81.

Garc?a

82.

Craig,

83.
empez?

"Mexican
Contract
Laborers."
y Griego,
The Bracero
p. 113.
Program,
La Frontera"
Braceros
and "A pesar de
Cruzaron
"2,211
23 January
la fuga de braceros,"
Excelsior,
1954, p. 3.

84. Una Gran Multitud


January
85.

1954, p. 1.
"Los Braceros

oficial,

se Lanza Sobre La L?nea," La Opini?n,

de Braceros

La Opini?n,

Se Desesperan,"

la excitativa

29

January

1954,

p.

28

1.

86. "Una Gran Multitud de Braceros se Lanza Sobre La L?nea," La Opini?n, 28


January

1954,

p.

1.

87. "Podr?n ya Salir los Braceros," La Opini?n, 30 January 1954, p. 1.


los Braceros."

88.

"Podr?n

89.
90.
91.
92.

Ibid.
"Teme Un Nuevo Mot?n de Braceros," La Opini?n, 31 January 1954, p. 1.
"Otro T?mulo de Braceros enMexicali," La Opini?n, 2 February 1954, p. 1.
Ibid.

93.

"La Avalancha

94.

"Otro

ya

Salir

2 February

La Opini?n,
en Mexicali."

Braceril,"
de Braceros

T?mulo

1954,

p.

1.

95. Ibid.
96. Hispanic
Program,
97.

American

pp. 112-13.
"Otro T?mulo

Report,

de Braceros

1954,

January

1 and

p.

The

Craig,

Bracero

en Mexicali."

98. "9000 Asaltaron La Frontera con EEUU," La Opini?n, 3 February 1954, p.


1 and "EU Detiene La Contrataci?n," La Opini?n, 5 February 1954, p. 1.
99.

Ruiz

Cortines,

pp. 260-261;
Craig,
Contract
Laborers,"

in Tomasek,
quoted
The Bracero
Program,
p. 66.

and Economic

"Political
p.

117;

and Garc?a

Implications,"
"Mexican

y Griego,

La
el Acuerdo
del Gobierno
Sobre
Partidos
Braceros,"
Aprobaron
The Bracero
19 January
1954, p. 2; Craig,
p. 103.
Program,
La Opini?n,
20 January
Para Evitar
"Medidas
Braceros,"
Que Vengan
1954, p. 1.
on Agriculture
Extension
Senate
and Forestry,
102. U.S.
Committee
Congress,
100.

Los

Opini?n,
101.

of the Mexican
March
Session,

Farm
24,

25,

Labor
and

26,

Program,
1953,

pp.

Hearing
26.

24,

on

S.

1207,

83rd Congress,

1st

132 Journal of American

Ethnic History

/ Spring 2001

103. Medidas Para Evitar Que Vengan Braceros," La Opinion, 20 January 1954,
p.l
104.

Craig,

The Bracero

p.

Program,

107.

105. Ibid.
106. Ibid.
107. See Excelsior's

editorial pages during theweek

108.

a Los

"Que

Excluyen

de Los

Mexicanos

15-24 January 1954.

Jurados

en

Jackson,

Texas,"

Opinion, 14 January 1954, p. 6.


109. See editorials m Excelsior, 12, 14, 30 May 1942.
110. "Mexico Explica el Nuevo Acuerdo Sobre Braceros," La Opinion,
1954, p. 1.
111. Blanca

Torres,Hacia

la utop?a

industrial,

part

112. Ibid.
113. See, for example, editorial from Excelsior,
y

la verdad

mexicana,"

Excelsior,

1 February

1954;

La

14March

2.

22 January 1954; "Los braceros


"La

cuesti?n

de

los braceros,"

Excelsior, 5 February 1954.


114. Cohen, "Advancing the Nation on Bended Knees: Democracy, Modernity,
and the Bracero Program, 1942-1953," paper presented at Latin American Studies
Conference, 24 September 1998.
115. Ibid.