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final exam, chstu 254 - Mexican Americans in the Midwest...

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Each year people from Mexico cross the border into the United States in order to obtain work and improved living conditions. Mexico is currently the leading country source for immigrants in the United States. 1 Majority that cross over and attain work generally turn to the agricultural industry, where they earn the title of migrant farm worker. Being a migrant farm worker means traveling around or across the country acclimating to the four month harvest season. Mexican Americans and Latinos currently hold more positions as agricultural workers in the western region than any other migrant group. Mexicans have lived in the Pacific Northwest since the 1850s and are currently considered the principal agricultural labor source. It is hard to believe that originally Mexican Americans and people of Latino decent were not a main source of labor when farm employers first searched for large pools of employment in the early 1900s. One of the earliest groups of migratory workers in the Pacific Northwest formerly consisted of Native Americans that migrated from Canada. “The Canadian Indians came with their horses, tents and buggies and camped down here while they picked fruit,” Len Wooten, a farm worker in Chelan, Washington recalls. The Indians continued to arrive from Canada every year until the 1950s. Although Native Americans were one of the first sources for the labor demand before and during the Great Depression, there was another group of migrants that contributed immensely to agriculture prior to Mexican migrants. Although there were low wages and times became grim, there was no burden placed on farm employers to find working hands during the harvest season. Because the depression was going into effect, there were many people who were desperate for any type of work. Anglo migrants that came from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, 1 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2002, 2003 1
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Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas received the title of “Okies” and “Arkies”. These migrants were drawn to the Pacific Northwest to seek employment for numerous reasons. At the time, there were dust storms, mechanization, drought, and a very depressed economy causing this group of workers to leave their home states and venture westward. Anglo workers following the harvest did proficient work and seemed destined as the primary work force for agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. 2 However, times changed and with the outbreak of World War II, the work force had undergone some radical transformations. Since the late 1800s, migrants have followed “streams” to search for employment in America. The western stream for agriculture includes the states of California, Oregon and Washington. Western stream population for agriculture throughout the centuries: 3 -Late 1800s and early 1900s: ~Native Americans, “Okies” and “Arkies” ~Japanese and Southern Europeans ~Poor, native whites and “hoboes” ~Urban women and children during WWI ~Few Mexicans recruited during WWI -1930s to 1980: ~Mexicans recruited through the Bracero Program (1944-1964)
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