The Bracero Program 1942-1964

Between 1942 and 1964 over two million migrant workers came from Mexico to the United States, on short-term contracts through the Bracero (manual labor) program. The men that came worked on farms and railroads during and after world war II. The National Museum of American History explains,

Dependence on Mexican labor has been a source of great opportunity as well as great conflict for Mexicans and Americans. In 1942,

The first Braceros arriving in Los Angeles by train in 1942. Photograph by Dorothea Lange.

facing labor shortages caused by World War II, the United States initiated a series of agreements with Mexico to recruit Mexican men to work on U.S. farms and railroads. These agreements became known as the bracero program. (Bracero is a term used in Mexico for a manual laborer.)

Between 1942 and 1964, an estimated two million Mexican men came to the United States on short-term labor contracts. A little-known chapter of American and Mexican history, the bracero program touched the lives of countless men, women, families, and communities. Both bitter and sweet, the bracero experience tells a story of exploitation but also of opportunity.

The National Museum of American History’s exhibition and bi-lingual website for “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964 / Cosecha Amarga Cosecha Dulce: El Programa Bracero 1942-1964” explores this history through powerful photographs and short quotations from those involved.