ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Mexican Bracero Helped Build the United States Into a Great Nation

Updated on October 14, 2011

Mexicans Have Long Memories!

They deserve better than the title "Beaners."

The Mexican Bracero Helped Build the United States.

Sometimes you love 'em; sometimes you don't. Sometimes you lay down the red carpet and hang out the flags of unity, sometimes you spurn them and their labor and build walls to keep them away. And always you live on much of a continent of land that was once theirs’ until it was virtually stolen by shrewd politicking and settlement.

I am sure you are with me now and realize the protagonists within this article are the Mexicans, trying to return to a country that was once, in part, theirs anyway.

Texas broke away from Mexico in 1836, precipitating events which led to the US-Mexican War in 1848 and the loss by the losers - Mexico - of a huge territory which has since become Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and some of Colorado. That was some land-grab, folks, and many Mexicans are still infuriated by it, blaming their leaders as well as those north of the border.

Many of the larger towns and cities throughout this "new" territory have grown onwards and upwards from what were once Mexican forts (presidios) or haciendas (huge ranches).

The first city to be founded by Mexico was Santa Fe, taking over from the Indians who had lived here for hundreds of years.

Before the territory passed into US hands, Mexican skilled laborers: cowboys, craftsmen, field-workers, manual laborers, had been attracted from the poor south of Mexico to come and work in the north of what was then a huge nation. After the US took over, this flow of labor ceased for some years until North America began the enormous task of constructing the railroads. This began a need for Mexican labor again and thousands joined the effort, many staying on and spending their lives on this mammoth undertaking.

As the rail spread, more and more US citizens flooded in to start ranches and begin to build towns and cities which encouraged more Mexicans to come and work on the land allowing the "whites" to be the foremen and imperious, wealthy owners.

In Hollywood movies, the Mexicans are alway the bandits while the cowpokes are usually white (not Mexican nor Negro). In real life, the reverse is closer to the truth.

The world-wide demand for produce increased during the 1914-1918 WW1 and there were about 500,000 legal Mexican workers in the US at this time helping to supply the demand.

It was not until 1921 that full regulation of these migratory workers was began as Washington put in place the Border Patrols and established immigration quotas. However, the braceros, or "arms" of Mexican's rural workers were exempted from the quotas at first. North Americans cried out for the humble, hard-working and resilient peons ("peasants," not a derogatory term in Mexico), advertising for them and sending agents into their side of the border recruiting help. All and Mexican had to do to live and work in the US back then was to cross the border and pay a small "head tax."

The euphoria ended when the Great American Depression struck in 1928. Puzzled Mexican workers began to be deported in their thousands and the tide heading north for seasonal work began to run into border control turning them back into Mexico.

However, the sham perpetrated upon these simple workers: field workers, laborers, maids and helpers, needed wherever paying little in an hourly wage was of prime importance, was rather similar to the “push-me-pull-you” of Doolittle fame. Although the local and national administrations made every effort to keep the Mexicans out, many farmers and householders in the large cities - as far away as Chicago! - desperately needed their tried, true and cheap helpers from down south. In fact, this situation remains little changed right up to 2011, although it has become very difficult for the workers to cross the border nowadays, thanks to patrols, walls and electronic location, etc.

When WW2 broke out, the demand for all kinds of American products soared again: food, munitions, shipping (such as the Liberty boats) and all the rest. Again Mexicans were welcome up north and actively sought.

In 1942, Congress again signed a formal agreement - the International Agreement of Migratory Workers - which would allow certain Mexican agricultural workers - the Braceros - legal seasonal work.

For the next more than 20 years, until the bracero program was closed, close to 5 MILLION legal Mexican workers were allowed to enter the US, accompanied by thousands of illegal workers: like some exotic birds which habitually follow the same migratory paths Millennium after Millennium.

This established the unique tradition still followed today.

In the eyes on many North Americans, the braceros and others are seen as some kind of plague, taking work from Americans; being involved with drugs and forming gangs (a myth in most cases).

In the eyes of Mexicans, getting over the border by any means is fair game and most south of the border at any level are sympathetic and will help where they can. Unfortunately, unscrupulous crooks among their own people exploit many illegals with false promises to “Get them to LA,” etc. (“Coyotes“).

Apart from the occasional sociopath, US Border Officers - most from Hispanic backgrounds and many whose parents and grandparents settled in the US without official sanction - treat the illegal tide with formal kindness, feeding them and providing transport to points south. From there, most turn around and head north again, the philosophy being if you try enough times you’ll win the game.

Once over the border and reaching one of the cities, the illegal’s soon find help getting ID’s and work, one of the reasons the whole of this vast area has become more and more oriented towards Mexico and the Spanish language.

In 1986, a law was passed granting amnesty to some 3 million Mexicans living illegally in the US and allowing them to apply for permanent residence and citizenship. An eminently sensible solution for some and another is due.

History tells us that the scare-mongering by the press in the US, inflaming people who had no real idea of the situation, to come out against Mexicans, who they called “Beaners,” (maybe many obese North Americans should eat more beans and less Big Mac’s!) is completely the reverse of the truth which is that the millions of Mexicans who came to the US since 1850 or so did so with the encouragement of American employees. A huge part of the praise for building the US into the great nation it has become belongs to these humble and generally underpaid workers, the BRACEROS



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Cheers, Hanna, my most loyal commentator...Bob

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, you have certainly open a can of worms here. For me it is very interesting not knowing a lot about it. Thank you, Bob, it needed to be done.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 6 years ago from USA

      I really enjoyed learning more about the history of Mexican/American interactions through your hub. It's a sad situation. I'm particularly interested because two of my sons married lovely Mexican women who, even though they are highly educated and employed citizens of the U.S. still encounter prejudice at times.

      One thing many Americans forget is that it wasn't so long ago that our grandparents (as in my case) or great grandparents came to this country looking for a better life just as many immigrants do today. You'd think people would have a little more compassion...

      Thank you for a great hub! Steph

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      Bob, just a note to a statement made: "Mexico has already treated us better than America has treated them". I grew up in the midst of them and learned much from them. I don't know for sure but if there is a nursing home in Mexico, it's probably full of discarded Americans. They have such great family values that they shame American life styles.They live the cliche "Charity, begins at home" and if it means 20 sharing one roof designed for 5 they don't care, they will house the family so many good things to say about the first generation Mexicans, the new comers, grateful, hard working and generous, all lost on white America, the "we have a right" generation.

      I don't expect too many who only know what the media spews to understand, prior to 2008 my trips to Mexico all the way south on the beaches for fishing and quail hunting while being boarded by a family didn't require my pass port and were a no sweat experience of good food and full accommodations for pennies on the dollar and they need the money but try to not take gratuities. I payed double the asking and they just stand adamant against charity, not pridefully but Humbly they insist that I'm trying to give them more than what they had provided in services. They don't understand the price of a commercial 7 day stay for a room only in the bad side of a US town or city because they have never been away from the area they live in. I don't think I'm explaining what it is I want to say here very clearly maybe because it is an experience where you just have to be there to understand. I like the Bracero better than any American contractor and there were 5 that made much of where I live possible for me when building after the American bridge company had built the concrete box. These 5 were with me close to a year. Good people.

      Bob, this is a bigger topic than you expected, no? I'm glad you put it up as it has a lot of merit that leaves me a little pissed off at America and it's media reporting always negatively against people that have lives as valuable as any others with needs as great as all. The media acts as if the only reason they are here is for a free ride and that is so far from the truth when it comes to them, they want what everyone wants and they need what everyone needs. They have proper priorities and you don't see accumulated crap like jet skis, boats, motor homes and the like piled around their homes. The 5 that I had went together and bought 1 vehicle to go to town in, they were not related and all were sending the money home to Mexico to feed and house their families first and then you might see a case of beer between them on a Saturday night, they pretty much did what I did and that was stay out of town except for their necessities, we had some great cook outs when everything was in the rough in stage I brought a Javalina hog in and they went to work at a fire pit and another went to town after telling me they needed some stuff I gave them 50 dollars and they got the stuff to soak a 50 pound hog in for a day then cut aluminum foil pans and crimp them together making a tray and cover and laid the hog head and all in a tray on the coals filled it with the mix covered it then shoveled coals over it and 10 hours or so later we were cooking other stuff and heating hand slapped tortillas on a grill and stuffing them with the meat and other things. It was a fun weekend and we were stuffed and short a couple cases of beer and bottle or two of tequila but they just put on a good time for pocket change. Great people, good times all the way back to my earliest memories of the old mining towns of the 50s. They have rights to the products of their labor, seems like we brought half of south Vietnam home with us and pretty much set them up from Gardengrove California now "Little Saigon to the shrimping boats of Corpus Cristy Texas, what did they do to earn just walking into America and becoming citizens as they got off the boats? Why is that OK over a Mexican family with 20 years of work, taxes, as well as social security cards and contribution, just no green card not OK. The view of them is skewed by the media in a serious one sided way and Americans just believe what they see on the TV, that our systems are failing because of Mexicans, not because the politicians took the money out of the reserves of a program like Social Security and spent it on something else. Ah, too much said, I'll shut up.

      Great topic, dust

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      That's life isn't it Bunco Squad.Should be nice on the way up in case we meet them on the way down...Bob

      vocal coach: pues, de nada mi amiga! Mexicans have such graciousness and are so welcoming. They add so much to the materialistic Anglo culture...Bob

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Fantastic hub and it needed to be published. I have a very large place in my heart for Mexicans. My mother was a missionary among the Mexican people living in Texas. She always had a love for these people and while growing up, our closest friends were Mexican families.

      We even attended a Spanish Speaking Church in Los Angeles. I often sang solos there as a child. Some of my happiest moments and memories were those shared with the Mexican people. Mama spoke the language fluently and taught spanish. These wonderful, giving folks would do absolutely anything for us.

      I mention all this so you have an understanding of how much I appreciate your hub. You are completely right on, in my opinion. Thank you...or should I say "Gracias, mi amigo" !


    • the bunco squad profile image

      the bunco squad 6 years ago from Savannah GA

      We need to be nice to Mexico and Mexicans, if the Republicans win the next election we are going to need their Pesos. We might even have to cross the border to find jobs and money. I hope they treat us better than we have treated them.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Bobbi. I pop in a Mexican hub now and again when I'm stuck as i have a whole library of reference books on the country left over from my years there as a journo...Bob

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      This is a great hub,but,as you probably know, history is not to many people's liking. Far too much truth in history I suspect. I enjoyed this one very much. Thanks for the nice write.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi fenix: How's the city of the Angels these days? I lived there and in San Diego for some years and have good memories, despite the traffic and pollution. I appreciate your vist and have tweeted this article...Bob

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Lady Tenaz. Most of the Mexicans in prison are actually American born Chicanos, because they have been weaned on the culture of materialism in many cases and use crime to get what they want. You rarely find Mexican Bracero class in prison, except overnight in jail before being shipped out: at least that's how it was in my day in the US. No reflection on the majority of Chicanos who are tax paying normal American citizens...Bob

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hey, Dusty. That's some comment and I thank you for it, it rounds off my article very well. Don't tell me they are still trying to build that mosque? I am sure the American people will not allow it, regardless of the "legality." So many of the things you mention in this comment are occuring here, too. Jaguar Rover has just opened a new plant to sell luxury units which only the rich will buy; I expect you have seen the blatant collusion of our defense secretary who just resigned. Will rants about the "extreme left," but the extreme right always do the most damage here. Thanks for that comment Dusty it left an impression...Bob

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      Hello, diogenes,

      Largely because I was born and raised in Los Angeles, this article is of special interest to me.

      In my opinion, this post should be required reading for a lot of Americans because many are quite ignorant of the facts that you so effectively pointed out.

    • profile image

      Lady_Tenaz 6 years ago

      Diogenes, this was a great hub. You are absolutely right, people like to sit there and complain about the "mexicans" as if all of them are lazy, and just using our sources (health care, welfare, etc) and taking all of our jobs. They would not be here if there hadn't been such a mass exodus north to the U.S. back when we actually asked them to come help us. You are right! And now that they have taken root here, started families and basically became the majority, no longer the minority the caucasians are scared so they use their fear to mistreat them. Ignorance and fear are a terrible thing amongst the stupid ones....and sadly, there are too many stupid people here who cannot be reasoned with, they are beyond logical thinking. If it had not been for the "mexicans" coming here, we would not be who we are. Sadly, politicians are to blame for our country's problems now, but so many want to blame the mexicans. It is sad and sickening. Mexicans were here first....and so rightly we should give them the respect for that. Yes, there are a small percentage of mexican's who break the law and fill our prison systems but it is a small fraction as opposed to the ones who are hard working, honest people who just want to support their families. I am so sick of the stereo typing...but like I said there are too many stupid people out there. Good hub my friend. You did good!!!

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      Right here is where the rubber meets the road, no one really owns anything they just get to use it until they die! I'm not advocating that any one give up what they worked for or even even the bumps out making what the "Left" calls fair, they are a load in the pants of society who want all the power in their court and where the power goes the money goes too.

      If an illegal is working with false documentation to obtain a job by "fooling" a company that gathers all required proof before they hire them, they are paying taxes just like anyone else. It's hard for me personally to have a problem with that. The accusation they hold a job that an American could be holding, in large, is a bunch of bullshit, I see many holding jobs that an American born and raised Mexican won't do, just like any other race in America, nobody wants many of these paid by the basket jobs. The jobs are like the old days of picking cotton, try to get that job done at 20 bucks an hour, and Americans still wouldn't touch it. I've seen the "round ups" of illegal workers back in the early 1980s in Southern California, they came after much news coverage of Americans crying wolf over stolen jobs and loaded up the bus fleet and hauled the strawberry pickers out of the fields and took them to the boarder and sent them home unpaid for what they had done so far that week. The Irvine family owned much of the farmland and America ate the strawberries and oranges from the groves. The berries rotted in the fields that year. So there you have an example that to me showed we "need" these workers. They were the shovel and pick men that did the crap jobs in the copper mine where I was born and raised, no American wanted those union scale jobs and they were guaranteed to pay union scale for laborers.

      So they encroached on Native Americans and the settlers kicked their butts and stole the land, a rotational power thing, the biggest guns and dirtiest fighters, the first ones to use chemical warfare was the Americans giving blankets infested with the pox killing off untold scores of people, genocide no?

      That part of the tale is history. It's down to money now, In 19 months the obama years has spent more money than all the Administrations from George Washington to Ronald Reagan combined. That is the real rub right now vs the Mexican jumping the fence. America is like a corporation, they start cutting throats on the bottom of the heap. I'll stand by the fact that we as a country need these laborers.

      We don't need space stations, studies on why butterfly's fart in spring instead of winter and a whole host of stupid grants given out. We don't need to fund countries that hate us, nor do we need jobs that left the country with the free trade agreement, we don't need a moratorium of companies drilling for oil on our own turf. We don't need cars with an airbag in every corner that cost 2,000 a pop to replace driving the cost of a vehicle into the 30 thousand dollar range that most can't afford to look at, just one of a host of examples. Bring back a car like Hitlers "peoples car" the good old simple VW Bug in it's original configuration and be like India who makes and sells a peoples car for under 3k. Default on the debt to China, screw them! They had no problem taking the advantage of getting to the helicopter tail section that was left in Pakistan and stealing our technology and Pakistan had no problem letting them in while denying the US back to get it first.

      I have no real idea how many foolish grants exist along with other things that don't help anyone in the world but I'm betting enough to foot the bill of any problem that allowing our neighbor to earn a living and feed their families.

      Right there is where I go to a conservative position that is concrete, is the Biblical command to treat your neighbor as you treat yourself. America is screaming that we need to stop the Muslim from building a mosque near the 911 terrorist attack claiming that we are founded as a Judea-Christian country and are based on those values. I think that's true and if we claim that then we claim it ALL not just the part that suites us, as a country if we were not hypocritical, we could be Christian in our walk as well as our talk and end our impoverished members of legal homeless as well as work a system for allowing workers from our neighbors to come and feed their families but I digress as it's a question of people wanting the cake and eat it too, all in their own favor President Regan pushed for a wall to be torn down by Gorbachev and now this country wants a fence that fences us in as well as Mexico out. Nonsense!, dust.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Will: I though you'd pop in soon on this one! NO ONE critises the UK more than I do, Will I agree that ther biggest dogs always get the bone, but here we have this situation where Mexicans are beneficial to the US economy and have earned respect for their part in building the nation. No one expects the US to give back the land, only crackpots. I am talking about healthy compromise...Bob

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks for visit, Old Poolman and I agree with your sentiments...Bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "That was some land-grab, folks, and many Mexicans are still infuriated by it, blaming their leaders as well as those north of the border."

      Every acre of land on Earth one belonged to someone else and was either taken by force or was purchased, such as the Mexican-American war and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico sold the US that conquered land for $15 million.

      This has gone on since the beginning of time, but only the US is criticized by the leftists. Only the US is expected to give up land acquired centuries ago. Bob's own UK fought a war over the Falklands just a few years ago, but you don't hear Bob complaining about that.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 6 years ago

      Bob, you wrote on a subject where I have strong opinions.

      Our current laws make applying for legal immigration expensive and loaded with red tape. Our government makes jokes about border security, and claims the fence runs the entire length of the border, which we all know is a lie.

      We have many farmers in this country who need help harvesting their crops, and young white men drawing unemployment for 99 weeks aren't about to do this kind of hard labor. There is even talk now about extending the 99 week unemployment benefits again. We have many Mexican citizens on the other side of the fence who are starving to death and would love to come and harvest these crops so they could earn enough to feed their families. Now one would think that most anyone could look at both of these situations and come up with a plan that would serve both needs. A controlled and monitored guest worker program might be the answer and the solution.

      Years ago here in Arizona we had a Bracero program that worked. As you point out in your hub, this program was closed and I don't know why. This program was not without its' faults. American Labor Contractors grew very wealthy through this program, ripping off the workers for food, housing, transportation, gloves, and beer and wine. I'm told only those with strong Political connections could get a license to be a Labor Contractor, as it was a guaranteed path to wealth. They were the true winners of the Bracero program.

      My heart goes out to these starving people who only want to work and earn some money. I have some Mexican employees, legal citizens, and the rumor on the Mexican Grapevine is that amnesty is coming before 2012. Right or wrong, this is the word that is spreading across the country. This could explain our own governments reluctance to really address the border issue, but who knows. All I do know is unless we implement a workable Guest Worker program, or really seal the border, nothing will change.

      Great hub, and I would be interested in hearing more about the time you lived in Mexico.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi JustSilvie and Dusty. I lived in both the US and Mexico for many years and saw and heard both sides of the question. In a strange way, it seems to work as it is, like a car with the brakes on going down hill. Now that South America, especially Brazil, is emerging, perhaps Mexicans will go that way as well in the future and certainly less SA illegals will head for the States...Bob

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      Bob, great article, born and raise here in Arizona the problem seams to have become a problem when the government spent too much of our tax money having fun. The crappy areas here hold just as many whites as any other race, there has to be middle ground as Braceros have been here working as far back as I can recall, dusty

    • profile image

      Justsilvie 6 years ago

      Interesting Hub! Also a nice reminder that many cultures build up America not just Europeans.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)