Site of former bracero camps today. Clockwise from top left: photo of area today; farmland; housing in area; dam used by workers. November 2011. All photos by Stefany Sheridan
32nd St & Baseline, Phoenix AZ
The site of the Bracero Camps is located on 32nd Street and Baseline in Phoenix, Arizona. This site was a historical and significant site for Mexican as temporary “guest workers,” to retrieve jobs. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, many Mexican Americans were forced to deport back to Mexico due to the large influx of unemployed Americans. However following World War 2, the labor demand was extremely high, and the United States was forced to seek Mexican labor workers, in order to fulfill this demand. In August of 1942, the United States and Mexico exchanged laws and diplomatic agreements for the importation of laborers from Mexico to the United States, in an effort to appease the growing demand for labor.
American President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Mexico’s President Manuel Avila Camacho, in order to discuss the agreement behind the guest workers being brought into the United States from Mexico. The Bracero Program was then created to reach both the demands of the United States, and also the Mexican labor workers. The guest worker program, also known as the Bracero Program, was operated between the years of 1942 and 1964 (Robinson, 2010). The program initially prompted demand for manual labor, such as farming and crop management, and many agricultural labors were also brought over to harvest in the United States. Labor workers were also given residencies among these camps they were stationed at in the US.
The Bracero Camp program sponsored nearly 4.5 million border crossings of guest workers from Mexico into the United States (Robinson, 2010). The pictures above are what the area looks like now. The area is full of acres of flat farmland, where Mexican labor workers would work for hours, on daily routines. The farmland also houses a local dam, in which workers would retrieve water for both the crops, and for living standards, since the workers not only worked on the farm, but also resided there. The land is largely being use as housing developments today, with numerous housing complexes littering the area, surrounded by farmland and desert.
The connection between the Bracero Camps and our course ideas is that the Bracero Camps were during a very liberal time in the United States. The United States was giving the Mexican laborers a place to live, however the places they were given were very uncomfortable and in very unsanitary environments. Inside the Bracero Camps, workers had to sleep inches away from each other and were not given much time for personal needs. The workers were also given extremely low wages, and since they were “guest workers,” the Mexican workers needed to stay for the duration of their contract. The attitude with many members of Congress was vehemently racist, with one member being quoted as saying: “It actually would encourage wetbacks to come cross the border- encourage more disease ridden Mexicans to handle our food.” Texas was even denied Bracero Program Labor Workers, because the state was found guilty of mistreating numerous Mexican guest workers.
- Stefany Sheridan and Reggie Halstrom
“Taking the Fair Deal to the Fields: Truman’s Commission on Migratory Labor, Public Law 78, and the Bracero Program, 1960-1962” Robinson, Robert S. Agricultural History; Summer 2010, Vol. 84 Issue 3, p. 381-402,