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Abrazando el Espíritu

Abrazando el Espíritu: Bracero Families Confront the US-Mexico Border

Ana Elizabeth Rosas
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Abrazando el Espíritu
    Book Description:

    Structured to meet employers' needs for low-wage farm workers, the well-known Bracero Program recruited thousands of Mexicans to perform physical labor in the United States between 1942 and 1964 in exchange for remittances sent back to Mexico. As partners and family members were dispersed across national borders, interpersonal relationships were transformed. The prolonged absences of Mexican workers, mostly men, forced women and children at home to inhabit new roles, create new identities, and cope with long-distance communication from fathers, brothers, and sons.Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, Ana Elizabeth Rosas uncovers a previously hidden history of transnational family life. Intimate and personal experiences are revealed to show how Mexican immigrants and their families were not passive victims but instead found ways to embrace the spirit(abrazando el espíritu)of making and implementing difficult decisions concerning their family situations-creating new forms of affection, gender roles, and economic survival strategies with long-term consequences.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95865-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (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 guest worker initiative from the top down, scholars have done excellent work delineating the particular policies and practices that governed the importation of Mexican laborers to the United States and how...


    • CHAPTER ONE Bracero Recruitment in the Mexican Countryside, 1942—1947
      (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.


    • CHAPTER TWO The Bracero Program as a Permanent State of Emergency
      (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, as well as a report by the US Department of Labor’s...

    • CHAPTER THREE Special Immigration and the Management of the Mexican Family, 1949—1959
      (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...


    • CHAPTER FOUR Government Censorship of Family Communication, 1942—1964
      (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; he worried either that something had happened...

    • CHAPTER FIVE In Painful Silence: The Untold Emotional Work of Long-Distance Romantic Relationships and Marriages, 1957—1964
      (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 twentytwo-year-old bracero...

    • CHAPTER SIX Hidden from History: Photo Stories of Love
      (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 create and share a photo story of love with her boyfriend, Antonio Sanchez, across the US-Mexico border. They...


    • CHAPTER SEVEN Awake Houses and Mujeres Intermediarias (Intermediary Women), 1958—1964
      (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 reunification. 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 program policed Mexican families. Postal officials read letters between loved ones, refusing to deliver...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Ejemplar y sín Igual (Exemplary and without Equal): The Loss of Childhood, 1942—1964
      (pp. 185-196)

      The activity of Mexican women asintermediariasestablishing 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 difficult 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.

      Andres Ramirez was born in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico, on February 8 , 1950.¹ In 1951 , his father Paul Ramirez joined the Bracero...

    • CHAPTER NINE Decididas y Atrevidas (Determined and Daring): In Search of Answers, 1947—1964
      (pp. 197-214)

      On July 15, 1947, Grace Hermosillo was “decididaandatrevida[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 wedlock with a bracero. When...

  9. Epilogue: The Generative Potential of Thinking and Acting Historically
    (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, sacrifice, 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 circumstances that gave rise tointermediariasand awake houses and gave meaning to their daring actions....

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 225-238)
    (pp. 239-244)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 245-252)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-255)