Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964
Dependence on Mexican labor has been a source of great opportunity as well as great conflict for Mexicans and Americans. In 1942, 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.
This exhibition of six posters is based on the SITES traveling exhibition, Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Project 1942-1964. It represents a time in U.S. history when Mexican labor was commissioned to bolster the work force during and after World War II.
Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program was organized by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. All photographs by Leonard Nadal.