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Unformatted text preview: Historical memory and the importance of the Bracero Project in the struggles of trabajadores migrantes today HEATHER SCHWARTZ Oberlin College The author undertook a ®eld study at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agrõ´colas Fronterizos (Center for Border Agricultural Workers, or CTAF) in El Paso, Texas, while she was a student on the Border Studies Program in the fall of 2000. This ethnography treats the theme of the connec- tions between institutionalized racism and the suppression of historical memory, with speci®c reference to the Bracero Program. It also examines what roles ``outsiders’’ can play in progres- sive political movements. Introduction Am I headed for the same brick wall? Is there anything I can do About anything at all ± Except go back to that corner in Manhattan And dig deeper, dig deeper this time? (Ani Difranco) Down at the neighborhood bar, Wildhare’s Booze and Adventure. Past the bar and the mounted moose’s rear, in the ®rst stall of the ladies’ bathroom, is a quote. Among sex and sauciness . . . there is Milan Kundera. ``The struggle of man against power,’’ it says, ``is the struggle of memory against forgetting.’’ See, you never know why women take so long in the bathroom. Might just be subversive. For me, the quote jumps with truth. White Americans always want a clean slate. We might not all feel this way, but the dominant sentiment, re¯ected in our politics and our rendering of American history, is that it is never too late to start afresh. Tabula rasa. We see this in the insistence that A rmative Action is reverse racism. Racism, though, is perceived superiority on the basis of race, coupled with power. Otherwise, it might pass as closed-mindedness at worst. We don’t talk about the fact that Black men in America never got their 40 acres and a mule. And we don’t talk about the Bracero Program. It is important to talk about begin- nings, though, because everything remains connected to the root ± no matter how much it evolves or changes. The Bracero Program, a program sponsored by the Mexican and United States governments, continues to in¯uence the lives of ``modern day braceros ’’ ± those men and women who come to the U.S. from Mexico to do agricultural labor. QUALITATIVE STUDIES IN EDUCATION, 2002, VOL. 15, NO. 1, 73±84 International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education ISSN 0951±8398 print/ISSN 1366±5898 online # 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/09518390110093993 What was the Bracero Program? During the Second World War, masses of American men and women went to Asia, Africa, and Europe to join the ®ght between the Allied and Axis powers. Back in the United States, they left major vacuums in the workforce. In the factories, many women ®lled the vacancies left by men. For white women of some means, this was the ®rst time they had ever worked outside the home, and, for many, this was the ®rst time they had ever received wages for their labor. We hear about this in schooltime they had ever received wages for their labor....
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- Fall '09
- The Land, Migrant worker, Farm Workers, United Farm Workers, United State, guest worker program, CTAF