The Bracero Archive

Bracero [bɾa.’se.ɾo], a Spanish word translating to “laborer” or more specifically “farm laborer,” stemming from the Spanish word “brazo,” meaning “arm.” (I studied Spanish phonetics in undergrad so I really wanted to include the phonetic transcription because phonetics is fun don’t mind me)

Background to the Bracero Program

Some of you might not have studied the Bracero program, so I want to give a little background for those who aren’t familiar. The Bracero program began in 1942 with the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, signed by both the United States and Mexico. This agreement allowed for Mexican workers, mostly men, to migrate to the United States for a period of time for the US to use as a source of cheap labor. This program went on for twenty years, being terminated in 1964. After numerous problems with illegal immigration, the government set up Operation Wetback in order to send these illegal immigrants back to Mexico, but it affected the Bracero workers as well. Ultimately, this program caused heightened tensions regarding immigrants and constant discrimination and anti-Mexican sentiment was growing during this period, especially during Operation Wetback. Officials used anti-immigrant propaganda, such as portraying Mexicans as dirty, lazy, menacing, irresponsible, etc., to justify their actions in deporting this group. There’s a lot more to the Bracero program so go read more!!

Introduction to the Website

First and foremost, the website has a Spanish version! This option makes it much more inclusive especially since the participants of this program were native Spanish speakers. The archive also got the Public History Project Award in 2010!! All of this is fantastic, but today I’ll be taking you on a journey of the fabulous toolbar the website has to offer.

The Toolbar!

First, we have the Archive tab, which is the most useful for research purposes. They currently have a total of 3209 items on this website such as images and even TONS of oral histories!! Within these subsections, you can look at all of the documents available, or you can browse for what you are specifically searching for within the four categories they outline: images, documents, oral histories, and contributed items. Unfortunately, the documents are not in alphabetical order, or in any seemingly logical order, making it a little had to use. Also, while the oral histories are great, it seems like all of them are in Spanish and they lack a Spanish transcription or an English/any other language translation. This makes it inaccessible for non-Spanish speakers.

This details the image section of the archive where you can see thumbnails and descriptions of each item.

The Teaching tab is a great tool for teachers and others who want to create lesson plans for their students! There are three available lesson plans on the website that are very diverse including using maps, photos, and primary documents to understand the Bracero program. They provide all the resources that are needed including obviously the documents in the archive, but also worksheets and grading rubrics for the outlined activity. They include lots of probing questions for the students that help them think critically about the program and the people who participated in it which is great!

These are the three less plans they offer. By clicking on each of them, you can see the extensive lesson plan along with materials and questions for your students.

The last few tabs aren’t as fun but they have some great resources! The History tab includes a selected bibliography as well as their full research bibliography for the website. These include scholarly books and articles that demonstrate their credibility in research, but also give researches a huge and great list of sources about the Bracero program. The Resource tab is also useful because it gives tutorials for how to use the website and how to add to the website’s archives and use Omeka for creating posters for the site and they give helpful tips on how to conduct an oral history interview for those who never have.

This is part of the Bracero’s bibliography to learn more about the topic

Finally, the About tab gives information about the history of the Bracero program for those unfamiliar. It’s similar to what I included at the beginning of this post, but more extensive. They also include their staff members and their backgrounds here. There is also the Partners tab which simply includes a list of their different partners that help make the site possible.

Although the site has some flaws regarding language barriers with their oral histories, this site overall is a very accessible place to gather documents regarding the Bracero program.

One Reply to “The Bracero Archive”

  1. Sarah, thanks for an excellent introduction to the the Bracero Program & Bracero Archive!

    Your post raises some really important questions regarding one of the perennial problems public historians face: inclusive accessibility. Your commentary regarding language barriers is so salient–how do we honor the Bracero community and its Spanish roots while also making the archive accessible? Should it be accessible to non-Spanish speakers, or would that be a detriment to vernacular tradition?

    I find it particularly fascinating as to why the metadata was entered in English, not Spanish, while the oral histories remained in Spanish w/o translation via a transcript. I wonder if this was purposeful?

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