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.
By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded. Bittersweet, the bracero experience tells a story of both exploitation and opportunity to earn money. The exhibition draws extensively from the Museum's collection of photographs taken by photojournalist Leonard Nadel in 1956, as well as oral histories, documents, and objects collected by the Bracero Oral History Project.
Wetback is a derogatory term for a recent illegal alien of Mexican descent. Commonly referring to illegal alien Mexicans, although applicable to all Latinos, who have crossed the border illegally, the term originated with those who entered Texas from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande, presumably by swimming or wading across and getting his or her back wet in the process.
After war was declared on May 13, 1846, it took almost two months (mid-July 1846) for definite word of war to get to California. U.S. consul Thomas O. Larkin, stationed in Monterey, on hearing rumors of war tried to keep peace between the Americans and the small Mexican military garrison commanded by José Castro. American army captain John C. Frémont with about 60 well-armed men had entered California in December 1845, and was making a slow march to Oregon when they received word that war between Mexico and the U.S. was imminent.
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