A new exhibit began this week at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. "Bittersweet Harvest" offers photos and oral histories from the Bracero Program that began in 1942 as a temporary war measure to address labor needs in agriculture and the railroads, and eventually became the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. Small farmers, large growers, and farm associations in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and 23 other states hired Mexican braceros to provide manpower during peak harvest and cultivation times. By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, herself the daughter of a bracero, opened the exhibit and teared up a bit as she recalled the hardships her father endured. Said Solis: "We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves and to know the reality of these workers so that there will be no more abuses."
The exhibit will be in Washington until January 3, 2010 when it hits the road. Heads up to my hermanos/as in San Antonio: "Bittersweet Harvest" comes to the Museo Alameda on 5/22/2010.