TITLE OF TEXTUAL PRIMARY SOURCE: A Report responding to a book Strangers in Our Fields written by Dr. Ernesto Galarza, the report is on the behalf of Region X, Regional Office, Bureau of Employment Security, with attachment memorandum, August 10, 1956, from H.R. Zamora to A.J. Norton regarding televised news report on Mexican National Labor Program, 1956.
WHO/WHICH INSTITUTION OWNS THE DOCUMENT: Department of Labor, Record #174
TYPE OF TEXTUAL PRIMARY SOURCE: Government Record
UNIQUE PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DOCUMENT: There is handwriting on the upper right corner, “2-file Mexican Material (BES)”
DATES OF DOCUMENT: August 10, 1956
AUTHOR OF THE DOCUMENT; POSITION (TITLE): There is not an author listed for the report itself however, the attached memorandum is authored by H.R. Zamora for the Bureau of Employment Security
FOR WHICH AUDIENCE WAS THE DOCUMENT WRITTEN?: This document was written for government officials.
KEY INFORMATION ABOUT THIS TEXTUAL PRIMARY SOURCE:
- In the memorandum the subject is in regards to a televised news report, an assignment by Bill Stouts, “Farm Labor Expose”. Zamora writes, “He wanted to talk on the way they were treated, housed, fed and exploited.” regarding Mexican workers in the Bracero Program.
- “He referred to a recent report by Dr. Ernest Galarza who has made a complete study of the Mexican National situation entitled Strangers in Our Fields, which reveal a shocking condition of these human beings.”
- “All I can say is that this televised report planted a little seed in the minds of the audience and today I received six telephone calls inquiring if said conditions actually exist here, and to please see that such abuses will never be permitted in California.”
I believe this document was written to shed light on what many government officials refused to see and what they allowed to take place regarding the Braceros. This document was written for the government to some how rebuttal each of the claims that Dr. Galarza is giving of the racism and discrimination the Braceros were exposed to. Dr. Galarza is speaking on the harsh treatment and harsh working and living conditions that the Braceros faced once on the camps.
One question that is left unanswered is, What did the Government do to ensure that the growers were not subjecting their workers to these conditions following the report?
Felicia Hart, University of Oklahoma, April 23, 2019
- Cohen, Deborah. Braceros, The University of North Carolina Press, 1968
Chapter 5 of this book is titled With Hunched Back and on Bended Knee, tells us how workers were treated in the Bracero program and how many were subjected to harsh working condition rewarding low pay. One statement made by Cohen stands out, “My analysis reveals a radical assault on the configuration of men’s worlds and specifically, on the patriarchal rationale used-implicitly by the Mexican state and explicitly by the men themselves-to legitimize migration. Men attempted to overcome these obstacles and recuperate their manhood.” (114).
2. Garcia, Mario T. Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, & Identity, Yale University Press, 1989.
Chapter 4 of this book has a section titled, Braceros and the Undocumented, this section focuses on the Bracero Program during 1942-1964. Garcia states on page 95, “From 1942 to 1964, when the program ended, employers promised braceros good working and living conditions. I most cases, however, employers failed to fulfill their contract terms.” This chapter may provide more information on the treatment of Braceros.
3. Gamboa, Erasmo. Mexican Labor and World War II: Braceros in the Pacific Northwest, 1942-1947, University of Texas Press, 1990.
There are several chapter included in this book that focus on the Bracero Program and Mexican Americans during World War II. Chapters that may be useful are, Ch. 2 World War II and the Farm Labor Crisis, and Ch. 3, The Bracero Worker.
In Gamboa’s Introduction, his opening lines say, “More than any other even, World War Ii prompted an unprecedented effort to mobilize human resources toward the common goal of victory. Across the nation farmers faced the dual challenge to produce food and fiber for national consumption and the armed forces as well as the Allies.”
4. Nations and Migration, Routledge, 2003.
Chapter 5, titled The Integration of Mexican Workers into the U.S. Economy gives insight also into the Bracero program and how workers in the program contributed to the U.S. Economy during WWII.
5. Morin, Raul. Among the Valiant: Mexican-Americans in WWII and Korea, Borden Publishing Company, 1966.
It is important to mention the Mexican-American soldiers that fought in the war as well as the Bracero program, many were able to serve in the war. This book gives first hand experiences from soldiers that fought in both wars and their narratives should be included as well.
“Economical Roots: Mexican Migration, Railroads and Mining”
A review of Michael M. Smith, The Mexicans in Oklahoma. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma press, 1980).
Smith gives a brief description of the relations between the United States and Mexico; the US had work to be done and Mexico provided the people to do it. Smith provides the early history of Oklahoma and the first Europeans to set foot in the plain states, telling the story of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola in search of gold, and the expedition set off by the Spaniards toward Gran Quivira. \Smith pays homage to the relationships between Mexicans and Kickapoo Indians who have a rich history in Oklahoma and there are quite a few scholarly pieces written on Mexican-Kickapoo, this book provides a beginning to these relationships which eventually created a people who are still present in Oklahoma today. The earliest Mexicans in Oklahoma however are recorded as kidnapped Mexican boys who were rescued from the Comanches by Taum Lawrie an agent of the Kiowa Agency, the story and a photograph are included in this book.
The history of railroads and mining in early 20th century Oklahoma is given, Smith says, “Between 1900 ad the depression, Mexican immigrants played an increasingly viral, yet largely ignored role in the economic development of Oklahoma.” (Smith, 1980. p. 35). Smith gives pay rate information for the railroad companies compared to what the Mexican immigrants would have made in their home country. An obvious number of Mexicans were present in Oklahoma by early 20th century and Smith includes immigration patterns and practices before the Great Depression and includes census data for each county that had Mexicans living in Oklahoma for those time periods.
Several pictures and recounts of life are provided giving the reader an anecdotal account of how life was like for Mexicans who immigrated to Oklahoma in the early 1900’s, families who may still be present here today.
The book in 75 pages and includes six chapters titled, Oklahoma and Mexico: A Distant Relationship, Historical Antecedents to Mexican Migration, Migration and Settlement in Oklahoma, Mexican Labor in Oklahoma: 1900-1945, social and Cultural Adjustments: 1900-1945, and The Mexican Experience Since World War II. Given that much of Mexican-American history has been ignored and the lack of available primary resources prevents us from knowing more, this book should be included in Oklahoma history courses or included in Ethnic studies curriculum in Oklahoma.
One scholarly review given by Ralph H. Vigil, Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that some of the statements given in the book, “may be questioned”, stating,
“What evidence exists that “one of the most significant differences between the Mexican community of Oklahoma and those of the American Southwest was the overwhelming degree of assimilation which the second- and most assuredly the third-generation would undergo in the postwar years” (p.62)? Leo Grebler notes that in 1963 about 25 percent of all marriages of Spanish-surnamed persons in Los Angeles County “involved a person who married a spouse outside the ethnic group.” Does this also hold true for Oklahoma?”
I believe that the answer to this question can be investigated and reported, given the obvious Mexican presence that we have in Oklahoma today. Many of us do have surnames, but this may be due to preference and not assimilation.