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International Labor and Working-Class, Inc.

From Peasant to Worker: Migration, Masculinity, and the Making of Mexican Workers in the US Author(s): Deborah Cohen Source: International Labor and Working-Class History, No. 69, Working-Class Subjectivities and Sexualities (Spring, 2006), pp. 81-103 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of International Labor and Working-Class, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27673023 . Accessed: 05/11/2013 18:12
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From

Peasant

toWorker:

theMaking

ofMexican Workers
Deborah
University

Migration,

Masculinity,

and

in theUS1

Cohen
St. Louis

of Missouri

Abstract This work article examines Mexican migration of US-Mexico the during the Bracero Program, men to that brought Mexican agreements to 1964. Juxtaposing Mexican states' and US to the US

unofficial

name

for the series

in US fields from 1942 agricultural to of their journeys, the article shows for the understandings Program migrants' goals even as it simultaneously how this migration disrupted men's subjectivities, provided to resecure and claims in crucial way. the mechanisms gender and class subjectivities ultimately, actor, is what was forged in the wake and classed. of this migration: a new historical transnationally gendered

Revealed,

kind of

When

conditions and the disproportionate benefits that labor US state and growers.3 Thus, I expected former the migration brought migrants' horrendous work
accounts to be ones of racism and abuse.4 However, in living rooms, kitchens, to see worlds

I began doing oral histories with Mexican migrants who had engaged in agricultural labor in theUS as part of theBracero Program, I was surprised at their recollections. My knowledge of their migration had come from literature on this program of regulated labor that, from 1942 to 1964, brought nearly twomillion men towork in theUnited States.2 That scholarship foregrounded

barbershops, and on street corners, they talked to me with pride about their
experiences themselves in the US. as victims; In contrast rather, men to scholarly refused portrayals, own were actors in their making they

and the United States. and the resulting social configurations of Mexico to I here take listened closely migrant's stories, seriously theirportrayals Having of journeys and stated reasons formigrating. I show how thismigration dis rupted and provided themechanisms to resecure gender and class subjectivities and claims in crucial way, ultimately forginga new kind of historical actor, trans

nationally gendered and classed. To address the relationship between migration and the reshaping of gen dered and classed subjectivities, this article first lays out the Program particulars as, in part, a project of class formation. It then explores themultiple disruptions men in terms of theirown senses that migration to theUnited States brought for of self (subjectivity). JuxtaposingMexican and US states' goals for theProgram tomen's understandings of their journeys gets to the heart of the impact of this regulated migration on migrants' subjectivities.5 Specifically, the article reveals
how, because local of work regimes, discrimination, experienced and complexity assault on of interactions subjectiv residents, migrants a dramatic their

with

ities as rural folk and (proto) patriarchs; in other words, an assault on their
International Labor and Working-Class History No. 69, 2006, pp. 81-103 2006 International Labor and Working-Class ?

History,

Inc.

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82

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

gendered and classed positions. Building on the gender scholarship, which con
tends that

always made at the intersections of multiple social categories, I argue that the class transformation of (male) peasants into capitalized yeoman farmers6 Mexican state ironically brought a differentbut equally gendered sought by the class transformation, of locally-identified rural folk, feminized as "docile" and
"backward" workers and by US agentive growers and the Mexican state, into transnational masculine citizen-subjects.

subjectivities

("women's"

or

otherwise)

are

not

singular,

but

rather,

That Mexico would see picking cotton and sugar beets as the road to capi talization and attendant class transformation might immediately strike the
reader $0.30 as to $1.00 disingenuous an hour, and even ludicrous. on when After men all, how could earnings of depending migrated, ever enable the capi

talization of a workforce desperate to feed families in a countrywhose relative poverty and geopolitical weakness forced it tomake deals with its dominant,
much richer

goal within its greater historical context. As I detail elsewhere,7 these men were an important part of Mexico's contribution to the Second World War and symbols of its overarching support for the ideal of freedom; and this ability to contribute a substantial labor forcehelped positionMexico as amoderni
zing democracy and, theory thus, was, as the United States' future economic hemispheric worldview partner. at that Modernization in fact, the dominant

neighbor?

To make

sense

of Mexico's

optimism,

we must

put

this

historical moment;8
Mexican states?and

itwas

the overarching lens through which


themselves?measured

the US

and

by the Program as well as those actually gained. While theMexican state did gain substantially from the remittances thatmen sent back?by the 1950s they had grown to the third largest source of hard currency, after tourism and oil?
making

the migrants

the benefits

offered

capitalization was to take place at the family level, by withholding ten percent of US wages. This locally-available capital would then fuel the transformation of peasants into small, independent, and capitalized farmers, the idealized revolu Mexican state, in tionarybulwark ofMexico's agricultural system. Sought by the
other words, was a class transformation

capital

available

to the state was

not

an

explicit

Program

goal;

rather,

agricultural knowledge and accrued capital?the manifestation of the distinctly


masculine ideals of

grounded

in the southward

transfer

of

While
Program,

theMexican
so, too, did

independence

and

know-how.

and US

states, and growers had expectations for the


The men who came (or tried to come) saw

something in it for families and themselves; and theymade a choice, albeit from a narrow set of options, and voted with their feet; they kept on coming.
exposure

the migrants.

Despite

impact that this exposure


in a great and the article

to heavy

doses

of

the Mexican

state's

rationale9

and

the

(might have) had, we must not see migrants as


exchange, how but Relying braceros?as and rather, on an as actors with their of were what for migration. their understanding migrants to get

victims passive own motivations men as actors,

diplomatic examines

goals within

Program attempted

called?maneuvered

circumstances

they needed from the Program: tomaintain families and thus resecure claims

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity

83

to proper patriarchal masculinity jeopardized by their inability to do so. Thus, it men's journey?the US siteswhere men lived and worked, explores one point in and the relationships engendered there?and shows not only how this claim to being proper patriarchs was furtherput at risk in the act ofmigrating, but also the ways inwhich men attempted to recoup this claim through asserting their belonging to a particular class (workers) and the rights due them as part of
this class.

On The Southern Side: Mexico's Expectations for theProgram In 1942, not long after entering the Second World War, the United States approached Mexico about establishing a formal program to bring Mexican families to work in US agricultural fields; it was pushed by growers up in arms about projected shortages of cheap labor and lost harvests. Despite
Mexico's initial reluctance,

heading north, lured by an expanding US economy.11 The program that emerged from these international negotiations reflected the (initial and short-lived) leverage Mexico wielded from this refusal. Very generally, it stipulated wage levels, and provided migrants with transportation to and
from the United States, braceros and were medical not and workers' to be used Furthermore, US allowed insurance. compensation as strikebreakers or to

ultimately

it agreed,10

as

people

were

already

influence local salaries, and were initiallypaid a wage higher than that offered
domestic men to be workers. worked able Whether under both compensated pay on an hourly average or piecework among success here are: regimes?the wage. out-migration, for our important Mexico purposes laborer

basis?and them was

to earn

this mandated

In exchange fully mandated

for agreeing certain

to this regulated Most

conditions.

first, that migrants be men (not the families that theUS wanted), with previous agricultural experience and no current employment;12 and secondly, thatpart of braceros' wages was to be withheld, returned only after theyhad arrived back in
Mexico. purchase Returning with capital and a particular local knowledge and thus base, men were agricul to farm machinery, mechanize farming, transform

ture into a productive industry; this capitalization would make itpossible for the meet its foodstuff needs, a goal stillnot realized in 1942.Made clear in country to on these conditions is itsprimary goal for the Program: the Mexico's insistence
transformation

institutionsat the center of that goal: the patriarchal familyas the unit and site of production. Yet this transformationdid not occur, in large part because the very men that theMexican government sent to theUnited States did not begin as
peasants or even rural

of peasants

into yeoman

farmers,

and

gendered

assumptions

and

ence and of the fewwho did have such experience, only a handful returned to farming;14nor could they access the capital that they accrued.15 Without this capital, rural men who did return found it nearly impossible to capitalize
small, often by collectively owned, farms, hindering the class transformation envisioned the government.

folk;13 more

than

half

had

no

prior

agricultural

experi

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84

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

Also evident in this reading is the gendered ideology buttressing and imbricated in the Program: the patriarchal family and the role of its husband father-breadwinner in its maintenance and (ideological and physical) (re)production: the larger logic in play, which undergirded this all-male migration and which, as we will see,migrants would pick up on, was the inability of poor men tomeet the patriarchal duty of family support.And the government instituted into the Program a mechanism to assure family support and make it easier to lure men back to (families in) Mexico: withholding ten percent of
men's lous earnings. spending In so mandating, and from gamblers, this money prostitutes, was and locked conmen; away from men's made frivo itwas available

to men, and, through them and their increased productivity, their families and the men is all themore interesting,given nation. The ideology of thesemen as family that, for at least the early phase of theProgram, a full seventy percent of aspiring
braceros were under

were assumed to be patriarchs unable to fulfillthe requirements of theirposition,


in reality, many were

twenty-one

and

single.16

In other

words, in their

although future

migrants

Not

Mexico's
that

surprisingly, this gender(ed) ideology got little resistance from northern counterpart, for it dovetailed nicely with the characteristics
and their US state representatives desired for manual laborers.

proto-patriarchs

being

schooled

role.

Taking this logic one step further,growers advocated


to men, to migrate as the former were considered

growers

for families, as opposed


desirable workforce:

a more

Not only were they,as opposed to singlemen, lessmobile and less likely to leave worksites, despite bad conditions; growers also knew thatmen would employ a time-worn strategy for family survival: they would put wives and children to
work?for an even

been organized around families, and children were visible in US migrant camps. Lastly, those advocating themigration of families accepted the biological "fact" that men needed sex. Allowing men to bring their own women to the US lessened the threat, itwas argued, thatmigrants would hook up with (more local women or that local prostitution would flourish. While desirable) Mexico might have agreed with this assessment, it still nixed familymigration. Bent on making thismigration temporary and institutionalizing the return of

lower wage.

Moreover,

agriculture

in the US

had

historically

agricultural knowledge and capital, Mexico envisioned that familymigration would likely make migration permanent; in other words, theywould immigrate. In the end, however, the gendered logic and policies supported by both governments took their toll both on the men who came and families left
behind: was seen because as was this mass and with movement not of husbands, cost of fathers, and future patriarchs repro never migration Mexico, immigration, the appropriate living. Thus, site of family were growers

duction

its lower

forced to compensate this temporary flexible labor enough to reproduce the family within the United States.17 While Mexico's goal of turning peasants the Program transcended its unfulfilledmission. As we will see, they became
the lens through and which redirected. other transformations and changes were understood, contained, into yeoman farmers was never realized, the gendered ideologies that anchored

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity

85

Mexico's
broader context

seemingly quixotic goals for the Program make


of domestic transformations the country was

sense within the


undergoing, in

particular, the formation of a state dedicated to broadening the constituency it recognized and served.Working to consolidate its hold on government, the new state sought to establish itself as theRevolution's (1910-1917) legitimate heir, while simultaneously addressing the needs of the large mobilized over whelmingly poor rural constituency that had brought about the social and state transformation. Yet although it moved toward industrializing the
economy and

remember meet
always

that Mexico
constrained

addressing

was

the rampant a

economic

needs

of

a fledgling revolutionary state, with options


lack of resources. Thus, the state's ability to

its citizenry,

we

must

those goals (still long off) was made contingent upon distributing the of pain meeting them in a seemingly equitable way, while offering some interim reward by acknowledging this pain. What it offered themajority of its
citizenry excluded was from social vast The numbers recognition.18 the national and thus from community of the people state's focus formerly were

already

by

symbolically incorporated through the construction of a new ideal social citizen, one racialized as mestizo (as opposed to prerevolutionary Spanish)
and

braceros, and to the wider Mexican


as a reward. The clash between

gendered

male.

This

was

the vision

communicated

domestic public, and held up by the state


and US racialized constituency and

to aspiring

and

chosen

a Mexican

vision of the national became the context for braceros' US marginalization and the site inwhich they sought to demand US recognition and a valuing of
their labor.

Disruptions and the Migration Experience


Mexico's Program desired peasant-to-yeoman-farmer itwas also undercut structures; families and their communities, transition by the men was not only thwarted had themselves: by a

particular reading of why they soughtmigrate, what their experiences brought


them, their and who

migrants

ences, a reading not independent frombut which drew upon the interpretations provided by the state and thewider gendered ideologies in play. In this section I examine men's experiences in theUnited States, specifically, those that took place in bars, barracks, and fields. My analysis of these largely homosocial them, on the patriarchal claims used implicitly by the state and explicitly by themen themselves to legitimize migration. Migrants' understandings of this assault and of their overall journeys were crucial in reshaping their goals for
transformation. As men attempted to recuperate a masculinity and patriarchal spaces shows a radical assault on the configuration of men's worlds and, with

they

were

for these

experi

migration and attendant subjectivities, and ultimately brought about a class

position threatened and made suspect by the spaces in which they lived and worked?together with their lack of legitimate access to women's bodies (in was a critical solidarity, the form of sexual and domestic labor)?established
which braceros then mobilized to assert their claims to rights as workers.

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86 The Barracks: A New Domestic Space

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

By the time men arrived at worksites in the United States, they had already passed a village-level inspection, forwhich they had rounded up copies of their
birth certificate, evidence

ommendations from local elites or governmental officials as to their respectability and moral fiber; and a second more in-depth screening and medical exam (for tuberculosis and syphilis) at the border. This world of migrants was largely a world ofmen. By day itcomprised backbreaking labor; long hours infields drag ging and filling sacks of fruit,cotton, or vegetables. By night some men (often upward of several thousand) called military-style barracks home, others shared small shacks with as few as five to sevenmigrants. A few residences had individual
bathrooms facilities, and many shower with stalls; most men, "I however, lived only cold water. used bathroom large collective one former in a barracks," migrant

of military

service

and

past

agricultural

work,

and

rec

me. "Each man had a bed and a small place forhis clothes and things ... Some told Men complained of "lack of facili nights you'd see clothes hanging up to dry."19
ties

crowding, dirty bed covers, no sheets, lack of recreation facilities, isolation from others, frozen pipes inwinter, lack of good drinking water and nearness together all day; we cooked together, we drank together, we slept together," he toldme during an interview. "We spent all our time together."21 In recalling
their migrant same these surroundings, sex environments. former "I braceros lived with often many painted other a men, benign of picture in a barracks," of passing trains."20 Another bracero summed up the situation: "We worked

for washing,

poor

ventilation

in summer,

drafts

and

leaks

in winter,

over

Alvaro

Garc?a stated. "I remember lying in bed at night," he announced, "right before the lightswent out, and listening.Men would be talking to one there awhile ... [and] had gotten paid and bought radios, you'd hear lots of
all different ... a circus kinds, from different radio stations, some Mexican, some of music."22 you could hear every word that someone said. After we had been

another,

music, American

The differences between Mexico


ones marked by new sleeping

and theUS
and kinds

to which braceros referred,


of music, extended to rou

tines around eating and food eaten. When I spoke with thesemen accustomed to a diet of tortillas and beans, they halfheartedly complained about the food and the "lack of tortillas."They did not like (at least initially) the "queso amarillo"
yellow cheese, their name for American cheese, which accompanied the sand or

arrangements

wich they described as "some sort ofmeat and pan Bimbo,"23 white bread ? la Wonder Bread. Many, if not most, longed forMexican food: "beans, chiles, and tortillas." "No Mexican, in those days, ate [a meal] without chiles and Braceros considered "American food bland. You Americanos don't like spicy food," a man indicated. "We [Mexicans] need chiles but [in the US] we ate
tortas, you whom know, a sanveech, was considered with meat and [corn] tortillas."24 "It's who we are," another former migrant elaborated.25

Yet not only what men ate but who cooked specified difference.Men,
cooking the domain of wives and mothers, often

queso

amarillo.26

for

found

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity

87

themselves preparing their own food. "Where I went we had to cook our own
meals," said Federico

every week, on Sunday, that being our day off and when the truckwent into
town, turn much some to go. money. saw of the men ... went grocery shopping of English times ... This one ... We no ... we time it was my have read. ... I had And we only done no one could it a couple speak looked but... them before ... didn't one had could

Garciniego.

"We

had

to shop,

too."

He

continued:

"So

very well... rice, tortillas So we with

Anyway,... we Then buy So them the

the usual bought these cans of what meat week, wasn't we

stuff: beans,

tortillas okay it was

like meat... on again. tortillas, We

figured, beans,

we'll

... The

great, bought

man?he had been there for a while and he could read some English?he asked us ifwe knew what we had bought. We said, 'no, not exactly,' but that itwas
some bad, sort of meat. but we didn't So buy told he us ... We had been eating dog food ... It wasn't it any more."27

following

ate

that meat...

okay. until one

The supposedly benign description of radios blaring at night and of men eating bland meals together belies the profound shiftbetween these same-sex US living spaces and homes inMexico. Domestic arrangements inMexico were organized around natal and extended families, heterosexual family units
from which all

economic and social responsibilities and privileges. The labor of a proper man (one considered fully adult) provided for his family, in return for which he was charged with controlling the labor and sexuality of his wife and children. Ultimately, men's inability tomaintain families, a fate towhich most poor and working-class men inMexico constantly fell victim, threatened their claim to this status; and migration, with itsprospect of a job and greater economic secu rity, opened up the potential, imagined and real, for recouping this claim. In the end, itmattered little thatmost braceros were not (yet) heads of households; rather, the point was to induct these young overwhelmingly single men into a gender logic that would prepare them for the role theywould assume upon
return. Thus, the formerly mundane acts of eating sans chiles, beans, or tortillas,

family

members?men,

women,

and

children?derived

their

and shopping and preparing food took on new significance in the United States. Men began to recognize themselves as different from those from the US, as foreign and out of place, in ways made all the more palpable in still being created north of the border contrasted markedly to the notion of being these senses instead Mexican, or Americano, with which men leftMexico;
became racially-segregated farming communities. The senses of self and collective

set within an explicitly transnational logic and context. While some migrants lack of chiles and tortillas?were claimed that these inconveniences?the
more than made

representative

of new

gender

subjectivities

and

threats

to old

ones,

differences from and attacks on a particular Mexican form of life, fromwhich men as family patriarchs claimed their agentive position, began to symbolize a
more

up

for by

"the

idea"

of "serving

the cause

of

...

democracy,"28

that theywould attempt to reclaim in other ways and sites.

general

assault

on

their

status

as

authoritative

(male)

subjects,

status

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88

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

But how should we understand thisprocess of identityformationunderway, given that, for those residing outside ofMexico City (themajority of braceros)
Mexican-ness was

Revolution
sense of

only

in formation?

(1910-1917),

attempted to cohere the population behind a particular


at the time the Bracero Program occurred this

Although

the government

had,

since

the

the Mexican

nation,

nation-building project was not fully realized; and many people?in particular, rural folk, the poor, and those not living in Mexico City?were more partial to
local ously and regional for identities. them, In this respect, the Bracero men Mexican; Program as left the country only tenu as an in exercise functioned

nation building.29 Thus, the national project only partially completed south of the border was being accomplished in theUnited States through its suturing to a specifically gendered transnational proletarian subjectivity. How did contrasts between men's living conditions in theUS and those in Mexico figure into thisprocess? Although most migrants had, in Mexico, lived in
physical because conditions often not too dissimilar from their bracero

dences north of the border these living conditions took on significance explicitly
this new social

quarters,

at resi

from which their claims and rights as (proto)patriarchs were derived. Thus, became
As I owners cooking and

organization

undermined

the heteronormative

logic and

the points at which they would


on some for farms, local men did arranged women to offer

washing

clothes

subverted

men's

claims

as

rally another logic to their defense.


their this own service at while laundry, at an economical others, rate.

patriarchs

found,

Andr?s

Morales
There,

indicated
local ...

that: "I

only went
were clothes. We

once,
had

to pick
to pay

cotton

in

Mississippi... once to come much better

a week

to wash

women?they our

all Black

women

They ... And it was in the begin

...

used

... But it was hard work and after ning Iwashed my own clothes working all day, I a woman to I want do it. So had African wash my didn't [local American]
clothes ... It was worth it."30

than doing

it ourselves

... Since

I wanted

to save money,

man's remarks we see the gendered framework that implicitly Thus, in this legitimated his migration. On the one hand, not paying for laundry service
demonstrated the prioritization title as household

saving money
reclaim his

he could send more


patriarch.

of family

needs

over

to his family and, thus, more


the other, his claim to proper

this migrant's

own,

for in

quickly
mascu

On

was in part undone by doing thewomen's work thatwashing clothes sup linity posedly was; this could be righted only when he had access towomen's labor and reestablished the proper gendered boundaries of domestic responsibilities.
Thus, this

life easier, and saving it, making life harder, and undermining the gendered division of domestic responsibility?was framed as one over rights to the title as proper patriarch; yet it brought about a refashioned gender subjectivity, recognized as Mexican for its production in not a strictlydomestic context,
but rather, a transnational of how men one. resolved the tensions between acting on patriarchal Regardless

ongoing

struggle?between

spending

money

and

making

bracero

rightsor refusing them forhis family's benefit, the same-sex environment of the

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity about themselves in suspicions their as

89

barracks beings, next

provoked and

anxiety:

for men,

erly gendered agents and nationally recognized subjects. As we will see in the
section, or

for the surrounding

community, to

about

properly gendered as prop the men claims

social rituals of drinking and socializing, often with women other than their
wives girlfriends.

migrants

sought

recuperate

patriarchal

through

The Bar: Space of Seduction for Cash


Migrants recognized claims their lack of legitimate proper access to women's evident bodies and, thus, bar their precarious to being in sex-segregated

racks and the domestic tasks theywere forced to do. And they looked beyond the barracks to recoup it, often through social rituals around drinking.
Whether ing, done married both or single, long-term and migrants or new arrivals, the act of drink way even to escape meet the in the barracks at bars, could became a common

patriarchs,

drudgery,monotony, and isolation of theirphysical labor and surroundings. The


bar became a space in which men socialize and women.

Migrants used the acts of drinking with friends, of spending money as they saw fit, and of meeting and talking with women to distinguish between
others?those selves, Yet expectations, to adventure whom they refused these the norms rituals as of proper masculinity?and men, a them gendering, reaffirmed through properly gendered

as I suggested earlier, built around the heterosexual family.


there was another side to proper masculinity, actually otherwise in this case, and to social family maintenance, rituals, like drinking, afforded for meeting men seen

gender the

right as deleterious

to the family. Thus, men's descriptions of these social rituals indicate an inherent tension: between a moral argument against drinking and socializing with women
other than wives, and one in which these were the reward

patriarch. In my discussions with formermigrants, they vividly described their social activities.Although they "didn't drink verymuch," the general consensus
was "every But that "everyone, almost night, men went some everyone Fridays, to the bar men, did." Samuel Carrillo we weren't explained working a I drank all their how, on little. Saturday too, when ... I went it seems,

of being

a proper

Saturday morning, never I was drunk."31

sometimes, spent nearly

Other

leisure

time "with friends at the bar. But mostly, I didn't. It wasn't that I didn't want to, I did. But I had a family to support and I couldn't spend my week's wages in just one night. I had young children," Alejandro Medina told me, "I
couldn't drink

In the above quote, Alejandro hints at both the right to socialize with friends after a week of hard work and the limits of that right.As a husband and father of young children, he had a family to support; yet he did not deny his right as proper patriarch to participate in these social rituals, only that it was inherently limited.Other migrants, too, supported this distinctly gendered
limit. As another man told me, "some men?married men, too?met women

very much

...

I behaved

myself."32

en el norte [in the North]. They had girlfriends, theywent out with them on

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90

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

theweekends, theybought them things, they spent lots ofmoney. I didn't do that much, I had a familyand theyneeded me to help with los biles [thebills]. I drank with my friends,but not very often; instead I saved my money ...We needed the
money... "Si," not We another have chimed this house because of the money at the bar I made ... in California."33 married. [In in, "I went drinking I wasn't

Mexico]

I lived with my parents and I still sent some money home, although
as I could have, as other men did. But I wasn't married, I didn't ...

as much

have a family?I had a girlfriend,but I didn't have a family ... I came for the
money but I came for an adventure, too. And I wanted to see

a girlfriendwhen I was inTexas, but I didn't marry her. I came back tomy girl ... Some men friend [in stayed. They left theirwives and Mexico], I didn't stay ... women families and stayed [in theUS]."34 [They] found other
Here we see men's attempts to assuage once an domestic arrangements, understood brought anxiety as a threat about by their to heterosexual

things

I had

homosocial

respectability (detailed in the previous section). As one formermigrant said,


"there was was respect on. The for money. reason was I didn't firm: make come for an adventure or to see what told me going money .. ."35 Another man

how he "met a woman when I was working in theUS and she became my girl friend. I had a wife [in Mexico] and my daughter was young then, but I found a her parents, she had my daughter; a man needs a woman. I had a girlfriendbut in the end, I came back here, tomy wife and family."36In theUnited States many
braceros the companionship explored one man, Alvaro that way," Garc?a, of women. told me. "Lots. "I met lots knew of we'd women come They girlfriend. After all, a man needs a woman. My wife, she had her friends, she had

[to the bar] on Saturday nights and they'd be there. They likedMexicans, they told me so over and over. They liked that we were hard workers; they liked thatwe dressed well and had money. They used to come around the bars that
went The to ... They really liked the Mexicans."37 two ways to resolving the threat emanating above explanations show

we

from homosocial (and thus gender disrupting) domestic arrangements: either men went to the bars and exercised their male privilege in an attempt to recoup a masculinity implicitly threatened by life in an unsanctioned domestic sphere: they refused to participate in these social rituals because of their need to send money home to families.As many men with whom I spoke confirmed, they drank and went to bars. "But, I wasn't married, I still sent money back men lived up to their responsibilities as (hard-working) men, they could justify their activities and still claim the title as proper man and refuse the
specter of its destabilizing opposite?the drunk, carouser, womanizer, and to my parents, so it was okay."38 Thus, the critical caveat: as long as these (re)secure their claim as proper men; or they asserted a moral argument to

spendthrift?who might reside in a sexually unregulated space. The tension of the bar is hinted at in the words of Alvaro Garc?a. Ifwe statement, we can begin to understand analyze his "they liked theMexicans" women men most met and a bit about the "relation the kind of these frequently one as no While such to me, the relationships that ships" theyhad.39 actually stated

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration, were

Masculinity most ones in which men

91

Alvaro

Garc?a

raved

about

directly or indirectly,for socializing and sex. Yet


these presents actions as relationships and based on love not and favors were given for sex but

likely

in descriptions men portrayed


attraction, and romantic ones in which possibilities.

exchanged

cash,

heterosexual for love

Thus, a visible tension emerges: the men understood and justified their
in terms of proper gender conventions. How?not if?men engaged

with drinking functioned as a marker separating proper man from the improper. A migrant could claim the label of proper man and patriarch if he maintained his Mexico, regardless of how he spent his money. Yet themigrants' claim family in on being a proper patriarch was always only partial. In Mexico itwas partial
because these men could not live

they could not support their families. In the United


domestic arrangements threatened their heterosexuality

up

to a

crucial

foundation

States in contrast, their


and their absence

of patriarchy:

from Mexico brought loss of control of the sexuality of wife and children. Still, ifwe analyze Alvaro Garc?a's words carefully, he portrayed the relationships that he and his migrant comrades had with women in theUS as proper relationships. His words convey the idea that theywere based on love
and attraction, that in which

love. In portraying as proper ones the very relationships that flourished in a


world

presents

and

money

were

given

not

for

sex

but

for

(re)secured for themselves the label of proper man.


drinking, spending money, and having sexual

stripped

braceros

of

sanctioned

access

to women's

In doing so, we see how


and relationships

bodies,

men

encounters

were both potentially at odds with being a good worker, husband, and man, and the very entitlement for being so. As long as men's physical labor enabled them to support families back inMexico?the very lack of which that their extracurricular activi brought them to theUS in the firstplace?and ties did not jeopardize thisability, thenmen could wear the all-important label of
proper relations between ianization money,"41 commodified. patriarch. between the former that these Thus, and braceros' and native romantic/sexual local male interactions, residents which to "strained relations Mexican in respect the process they came sexual

women,"40 were social

encapsulated while

of proletar to ones, "make were

migrants all their

undergoing: relationships,

in the end,

including

We might see this process throughwhich braceros reclaimed their proper masculinity as generative of other subjectivities, ones integrating different
forms of connection?local, national, racial, and class-based?that

through these particular experiences in theUnited States. These emergent sub Mexican version of citizenship,with its lateral jectivities drew upon a specifically as well as hierarchical affective ties; theMexican state propagated this con ception of citizenship through not only educational practices, public festivals, and mass political meetings, but also, as I analyze elsewhere, in the highly ritua
lized

emerged

vities and their impact on braceros' reading of journeys to theUnited States, I now turn to the field?the space of work?its links to the barracks and the
bar, and the creation of a workers' solidarity.

procedures

used

to select

braceros.42

To

explore

these

emergent

subjecti

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92 Generating Solidarity: theField, theBarracks, theBar


Like and braceros' predominantly regimes male of living and leisure, work,

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

too, was and

highly

structured mentor

world, other.

one which

necessitated

ing and friendships. "We helped each other," one bracero toldme.43 But they
also

engendered

had worked with a group of several men, part of "the Golden


Not "We thing another were gang the could fastest Ochoa beat at us."44 "You those too, bet," crates voiced another a himself filling Perdomo, ... There's

competed

with

each

One

man,

now

over

seventy,

recalled

how

he

Shears Gang.
former bracero. to "as every

knack as

.. ,"45 Ignacio

remembered

a cham

pion.
braceros

[When we had competitions]


brought new arrivals

I beat out thirtypeople."46 Long-time


of competition beets them. and rivalry, orient

ing them to the structuresofwork. "When I went (north) the firsttime," recalled
one day former ... I took "I didn't to pick how know bracero, ... to started sack and my pick of ... he easier.' men And [the the men took me it was ... who had and done ... I remember hard the first so I It was work,

into this setting

watched
Finally, Mexican? much other

the others and tried to imitate them. That helped, but not thatmuch.
one this me friends. for a 'Like then Another ... The long time?he was aside ... We showed to be how how. And 'It's this,' he said. later ... I showed man "remem

ber [ed] receiving a costal [sack] the first day I worked.


trying to fill it as quickly as I could ... But I was slow

technique]

got ... That's

it worked."47

I carried it around,
experienced

workers, it seemed, worked much faster than I. They were filling their costales much faster ... I worked several days like thatbefore I got to be friendly faster,
with someone. He, he was norte?o como yo

He had cut the [official] bottom of his costal how the experienced workers did it. to He it said all the and restitched it, easy empty. making experienced pickers did it this way. I tried it and it took less time ... I could empty [it] ... much
faster ... I earned more

[a northerner,

like I], he

showed

me

The
often Mexican," attack

supportive yet competitive relationships fostered in the fields were


in particular Herrera identities: told me local, flatly, regional, "we or national. from each "We were Mauricio learned other."49

money

... We

learned

from

each

other."48

anchored

And new arrivals benefited from the subjectivities, ones simultaneously under
and

While often newcomers and local or regional (as opposed to national) identities. "couldn't [read] the contract" and "used to throw [it]away,"50 long timeworkers knew what it said. "I could read the contract... We talkfed] about the clauses Veteran migrants frequently had valuable knowledge and experiences, often previously organizing to demand better food or pressuring a grower to comply with officialpay scale. Ram?n Avitia recounted a storyof his food com
plaints. "One time," he said, among ourselves in the camp,"51 thus orienting recent arrivals to its provisions.

in the process

of

reformation

vis-?-vis

prior

claims

as

patriarchs

rible, the taste, plus, no tortillas or chiles. I had been going [to the US]
so we,

"a group

of us, we

didn't

like

the food?it

was

hor

for a
threa

while,

tened el due?o

especially

those with

some

[the boss]. We

told him thatwe weren't going towork if the food

experience,

we

got

together

and

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration, so we

Masculinity left, about The work ten of us ... We didn't want

93

didn't

but we did, for the food ...We


was better. That's important... former food."52 Another

improve.

It didn't,

to leave

found other jobs,without contracts, but the food


was okay, el due?o, that, a ... he some once too, but when he not the in explaining So told imagine have we el went,

"The food was bad ... We


and and cook leaving, cheese], ... talked ... The eggs, to food the got out. lots

bracero, ...

only ate tortas [sandwiches], jam?n y queso


eggs He ... I got boss that group El had of men boss heard talked of other to

[ham
the

of

together men

foreman. better

Male

of walking

I wouldn't

left, but

would

have."53

relationships flourished out of living,working, eating, and drinking


and onto of long-time newcomers. growers' of workers workers This passed of for knowledge information growers trouble," and a gained helped code their through to mediate foremen word for transfer

side-by-side, experiences the often power traded

strong names

associations, who

"caused

attempting to improve working or living conditions or stop the rampant "dis


counting" and helping worker of wages. them newcomers shortcuts, information, sharing showing a more often exercised money, returning migrants aware of the particular of class, race, becoming practices In earn shared other During information aspects one about also more Garc?a

and nationality in theUnited States.


taught not Migrants newcomers only about

solidarity,

work;

long-time lives, often

migrants about Alvaro

of braceros' long

"recreational"

activities.

of our

conversations,

recounted how, after receiving his firstpaycheck, he and some friends hooked up with "this man who had been [working] awhile. He said he knew exactly
what needed we needed. clothes, Now you I figured know, things ... that he'd ... But do be you taking know us into town. We he took all us? where

Sure, he took us into town, but instead of taking us to buy clothes, we went to
a bar ... We went to this bar where

could drink as much as he wanted even ifhe didn't have themoney


drank, After we drank a lot.

everyone

knew

him.

He

had

credit,

he

... We

all

fun, but I didn't do it too much, once


that, bracero so did some others."54 living generated In analyzing how migrants'

I spent

almost

my

whole

in awhile. He

paycheck

did it every weekend.


we ones can begin to see both

that night...

It was

with their positions as non-white agricultural migrants in the United States and with the ways they had been led to think about themselves inMexico.
These migrants, and who in the US were "[separated bosses ... from "isolated their from American worked communities," under demanding "confronted with "known family new and foods friends," not to

experiences

and working conditions, new subjectivities,

in tension

taste," of men,

were husbands, sons, and brothers inMexico.


units women, children, and often, older

There
relatives.

they lived in families,


They socialized with

to exploit

them,"55

friends; theyhad sex with their wives; they courted girlfriendsunder the proprie member derived his/her responsibilities taryeyes of the community.Each family
and freedoms, to very much its other age and gender and the compatible, community's as a part of that unit Ideally, and in relation members customs. they

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94

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006

worked outside the house and leftdomestic chores to theirwomen folk, a line they did not cross. However, work in theUnited States was all about crossing lines, physical
and of imaginary. this staunchly between In the US, entrenched "men's" and migrants "women's" could not maintain between spaces. Food even "women's" needed the appearance and to be "men's" prepared, demarcation

work,

soiled pants washed and ripped shirts sewn.56 Yet women, for the most part and definitelywithout being paid, were not available to do "their" work. So
men were forced to engage in what was seen as women's work. And

strong feelings about


wash our clothes,"

these supposed
told me, "we

gendered
had

transgressions. "We had to


we had to shop for our

they had

food, we even had to repair torn clothes. I didn't like itmuch;


to, but I had to do work," we did it. I wanted he said, "[only] to eat."57 to work Another again ... man agreed: and from a day's in a word, housework."58 ... patting

they

to cook,

I didn't want
"We arrived tortil

meat? las,preparing supper, preparing friedbeans for the next day, cooking the
everything else ... we cooked, washed, "didn't ironed, know and how did all the Someone commented that he to cook"

flipping

before he migrated, but that he had


taught for my me I still remember ... It's not how ... family As so hard eloquently

learned. "Some of the other workers


in a while, women up I'll prepare complain, something but "All it's not day we

so once Nowadays

so hard."59

one man

summed

worked in the fields; all day we picked. From lemons to tomatoes, we dragged
our costales cooked doing men's viously and we Then [sacks] picked. we we our clothes, washed dinner; work' we all day, divide every work, between evening did women's we went to our we went barracks to bed work'... into relief work. and we cleaned, we did words and ... After We did

their experiences:

'men's work,

'women's bring

too."60These "women's"

the pre Men's

work, in their eyes, was physically taxing and it demanded physical strength: men lugged around heavy sacks of fruits or vegetables; they got dirty, their
bodies and ached, callused and hands.61 they earned money. Men's work gave them men's worn

unbridgeable

"men's"

Yet herein lies the inherent conflict: while these workers engaged in a "men's work" not unlike that they had done in Mexico, they had still crossed
an official border. North of the border, these same callused "men's" hands,

which theMexican state required for bracero selection, also did the work of women. The words of the men bespeak both a pride and shame of having
done the

[women's work] isn't so hard,"62 men repeatedly told me, especially when in this phrase is the talking about cooking and washing clothes. Embedded pride of self-sufficiencyand of being able to do something not previously tackled. Still, these words contain another emotion: the shame of being forced
to cross a

formerly

untouchable:

tasks

defined

as

"women's

work."

"It

same men discounted the difficulty of women's responsibilities and which, when done by them, threatened their position as proper patriarchs. Ultimately, the very inability of these men to be adequate providers for their

previously

uncrossed

line.

This

was

communicated

as

these

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity

95

families required them to cross a physical border, a border that relegated them to the homosocial arena of the barracks and the fields. These segregated arenas, in turn,denied them legitimate access to female bodies. And in doing so, their
hold on proper

this time in theUnited States.

masculinity

and

position

as

patriarch

was

again

made

tenuous,

Recuperating Proper Masculinity Faced with the continual possibility of denial of the rights and privileges as
proper so? How patriarchs, could braceros men forced sought into to overcome same-sex living this threat. But, how that to do violated environments

the norms of proper adult Mexican


These men, I suggest, their claim could never In Mexico, to masculinity

masculinity recuperate thatmasculinity?


fully meet was made the requirements an tenuous by for masculinity. inability to main

tain families,while in theUnited States, living arrangements built not around familial domestic ties but around same-sex work relationships called it intoques
tion, even as this distorted domestic

lar Mexican (re)secure


labeled as

identity produced in the fields. How, then, could these men these rights and privileges, despite taking on tasks that they
"women's work?" In other words, what might enable braceros to

space

supported

the formation

of a particu

transcend this complicated gender predicament? And


to and attempts at transcendence connected

how were approaches


solidarity emerging

to the workers'

and relied upon in the fields? Stymied in the recuperation of proper masculinity by thispredicament, men used what they had at their disposal: their subjectivity as workers, one built on the homosocial space of the barracks and created in the
fields Mexican In vis-?-vis white and Mexican American bosses and foremen, their and other migrants. the many accounts of clashes between workers and foremen and

bosses, we
ends.63

see how braceros mobilized


example, when thirty-five-year

a worker subjectivity to their own


old Francisco Hern?ndez Cano

For

was approached by a local newspaper reporter in 1956, he was on his way to "get ... fair pay and treatment" for himself and the to Washington in [California's Imperial] Mexican "nationals [with whom he worked] valley." His coworkers, he told the reporter, "had passed the hat to get [his] bus fare," and he was off to talk to the Mexican Ambassador, whom he hoped would resolve "complaints?of pay deductions for tools, blankets, and
insurance, "ambition growers. in one "do not of bad ... food and

lations of the work contract. While


to come the every contract said They As year "Under week obey I can

housing,

of days

wasted

he acknowledged
eighteen, Cano. out so much But,

waiting

for work"

-all

vio

his and most men's


he still lambasted dollars, growers a man thirty-five lamented, sometimes

to work make

in California,'" even he

sometimes," the contract.

Hernandez take

gets only five or ten dollars for his week's work. Some men get only a few
cents for the whole week." the newspaper article

money

Cano?and

the "million other Mexicans

...

[who] came north to work

suggested,

"Hern?ndez

[this

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96
their contracts year]?wanted no job."64 These men, then, the ones enforced." In Mexico, made this

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006


they "had no land and

who

had

not peasants -as


see terms appealed themselves of wages: to their as

the newspaper
such. Rather, as workers. While the amount rights

article said, they held no land. Nor did they


they described that a man And, their could economic make elsewhere, situation in a week. They bra dis or in

long

trek northward,

were

of money

like workers

they wanted allowed to settle

the agreements ceros to elect putes, negotiate growers

enforced. one

the specific to represent to meet workers

of their own refused

agreement provisions them as they attempted these faced worker an irresolvable

generally braceros.

with

representatives dilemma.

with

Thus,

Although they did frequently engage in slow-downs, work stoppages, and other forms of worker solidarity, the contract explicitly forbid braceros from striking or honoring local strikes of other workers by refusing to cross their picket lines; and their representative was not allowed to renegotiate any
issues, growers, such and as salary, agent spelled out in denied the bracero braceros contract. their best In other words, for resol their foremen, avenue

this irresolvable obstacle, the most powerful ving disagreements. Given to that most braceros had was their feet: they left. According weapon arrival of the first round of braceros in 1942, fifteen percent of the men had deserted.65 Hern?ndez Cano and the other Imperial Valley braceros, by con
trast, to use version refused Immigration and Naturalization Service statistics, "within one month" of the

that transcended national ties, asserting their rightsas workers. And


the power of national of the Mexican identity, the braceros' to do Ambassador, so. claim to their worker-based and thus a claim

to skip

out

on

the contract;

they attempted

a class-based

strategy

they sought

to a particular over the

course of the Program, increasingly supported by (some) US, and, to a lesser


extent, Mexican, union officials. The need to unionize braceros was made

Interestingly,

rights was,

evident in an extremely bitter 1946 California strike at DiGiorgio Farms. While DiGiorgio's domestic farmworkers held out for over two years in the face of major financial hardship and with support from around the country, were brought down precisely because braceros (and their undocu their efforts mented brethren) were available, and because US and Mexican state officials, long in the pockets of large California growers, were willing to ignore the was too late to agree upon stipulations thatdemanded thatbraceros issue until it
not influence the outcome such (misuse of any strike. "The ... willingness growers of government an invincible union again agents weapon organizers be undercut to condone against took union steps of braceros) gave

In the aftermath of the strike, US organizers."66 never to insure that unionized farmworkers would

by theirnonunion brothers and sisters.First, although theUS government never


agreed Bracero work to the idea, Program agreement. some farm organizers team, in 1950, advocated for a union presence was scholar on the a negotiation Second, asserting that the Program activist and essentially Ernesto

farmworker

Galarza

organized

local braceros

in central California

into a specifically

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From

Peasant

toWorker:

Migration,

Masculinity

97

bracero union. And


organizers in Mexico.

third,Galarza
Together

established connections with local union


seekers of a union that transcended

these

national territorybegan
under union cessful, the prior contract and,

to informworkers coming to the US


them short-lived still and

of their rights
bracero unsuc arriving largely this

to arrival. While organizers

organize concomitantly, were these measures and braceros themselves

into Galarza's

union

claimed

labor force was a force of workers, with all the rights due workers in theUS. Growers actively denied braceros these rights by portraying farmwork?and those who did it?as part of a long-established paternalistic relationship,67 even as they gained exorbitantly from the flexibility that a formal,wage-based relationship permitted.68
Migrants interrelated the mechanisms gained reasons. that little First, in this bracero-as-worker while some Mexican allowed strategy, consular contract for two main actively and used officials

contracts

to resolve

especially in California and Texas,69 places with the longest history of abuse
of Mexican and Mexican American workers?often had more

disputes,

many? from a

good working relationship with growers than from supporting braceros and
usually

to gain

disposal of consular officials were


themselves. Not only was

they

chose

the more

lucrative

limited to those outlined


filing a grievance

option.

And

second,

the remedies

at the

in the Bracero
men fre

Agreements

quently did not know the procedures for doing so. On the occasions when men did submit complaints against growers to local consular officials,a principal threatened to use?to (though not the only) remedy these officials used?or
diffuse the situation was the removal and

discouraged,

neither of which migrants wanted.


honor to letter back of down to either

Instead of putting pressure on growers to


pressured back, you workers are sent

subsequent

repatriation

of braceros,

back in a hurry," recalled one former bracero. "They give you the notice in your bundle and [you're gone]."70 In the face of this explicit threat,men not exercised the options of workers: they either ready to return to Mexico backed down or skipped out on the contract in search of a better job. In the end, something was definitely going on in barracks, bars, and fields.
the morning, or maybe at noon, or when you get back from work. You tie up

the agreement, consular officials instead or return home. "When you are sent

Finding littlehelp from officials charged with mediating disputes, men banded together to resolve problems, be it for better food or living or working con
ditions; foremen in the process, bosses. Yet they came class to see themselves was as workers not vis-?-vis and this transformation occurring

in

Mexico
itwas

but outside the territoryof the nation, in a transnational context. And


happening bodies. vis-?-vis US and Mexican national

in a distorted domestic
female only Created men to used by

sphere, with its strange food and general


then reclaim was their and particular positions each other worker as subjectivity, but Thus, patriarchs,

categories,

and

grounded one

lack of
not made the

also

vis-?-vis

non-Mexican

Mexican
peasants

state had predicted and expected a class transformation that turned


into yeoman farmers and drew upon national formations of the

employers

as Mexicans.

while

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98

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006 transnational

patriarchal family, the Bracero Program resulted in a gendered


proletarianization.

Conclusion

I end with two snapshots frommy fieldwork in Mexico; the first about cutting hair, and the second about cooking. Together they show how migrants continue to negotiate their subjectivities vis-?-vis the gendered and classed categories of
both nations. Snapshot #1: During one conversation with Alvaro Garc?a, as he, a village barber, and I

I found out how he learned his trade. "[When I migrated during the 1950s]
I went

sat around his barbershop in his village in northern Mexico. He continued: "A friend needed a haircut... One man toldmy friendwhere to go [in town],
but my friend didn't want to wait. ... Besides, turned it was

to a place

... far from

town,"

he

recounted

his

friends,

pay. So
foreman

I told him that I would


and cut his hair] It

try ... I borrowed


out okay ...

expensive,

about

an

hour's

a scissors [from the


after, someone

Soon

needed a haircut and he came tome. I cut his hair, and I did okay, better that time. Then men just kept asking me and I'd do it... That's how I ended up ... When I decided not to go cutting hair [to theUS] anymore, I opened up a
barbershop ... I've been

Snapshot #2: Recalling


I was struck by

cutting

hair

for more

than

the importance of learning to cook for former


that happened one morning as I sat

thirty years."

migrants,

a conversation

at the breakfast table where I lived. A woman in the family asked me if I wanted to learn how to make tamales. The young migrant to the US, in town for the Christmas holiday, chimed in that it was an elaborate and lengthyprocess, much different from how I was used to cooking. "You [in the US] have so many conveniences that cooking isn't difficult. I learned how to cook." Teasing me about my lack of domestic skills,he said: "I cook well. You women complain that it's so hard, but I think it's easy. I learned how to do it you cook here [in Mexico]?"
him more huevos rancheros, [in the US], it wasn't hard. You have

I asked my accuser, as I watched his wife serve


a Mexican style of eggs. His wife then weighed

it easy

compared

to men's

work."

"Do

into the discussion: "Sometimes he does," she assured me. "[Sometimes] on Sundays he makes breakfast for all of us." The man shot me a triumphant
smile, work?but even as once his wife continued: he'll make "He doesn't cook everyday?that's my in a while something."

What do these stories reveal about the lessons of the Bracero Program, especially as they relate to changes in the subjectivities of the braceros them selves and those goals set out by theMexican government? One implicit goal,
if we remember, was

who would then be entrusted to produce sufficient food for the nation. Alvaro, our barber, returned to his village, but he did not return to agriculture full-time. In fact, no former bracero I met during my fieldwork had again
worked solely in small scale agriculture. Rather, some men, such as Alvaro,

the metamorphosis

of peasants

into

yeoman

farmers,

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opened shops and used farming to supplement their income (often employing others to farm their land); others followed the internal migration stream to Mexico's growing cities; and still others (maybe themajority) refused to give up the benefits that migration to the United States brought. They instead moved from stoop labor to US factories or small businesses, before handing
the migration and female. workers baton This to children, in tandem with nephews, of migrants cousins, into and national grandchildren?male and transnational of land transformation

occurred

in lands of large agribusinesses, changes not unlike those happening earlier in the United States and of which US agribusiness was the main beneficiary. Thus, although theMexican government publicly promoted the conversion of peasants into yeoman farmers, shifts in the countryside that had already occurred made the state's desired class transformation highly unlikely, if not impossible. The second incident implicitlycontrasts the gender subjectivities produced through migration experiences against thosewith which men left: theywere men who did not engage in cooking. In refusing to accord difficultyto the knowledge thatwomen possessed, the responsibilities thatwives had, and the tasks he, as migrant, had learned to do, we see the power of a subjectivity fromwhich men draw reward: by refusing to cook, despite a newfound skill, this young married man refused to relinquish the privileges he has as patriarch. This suggests the flexibility and resiliency of subjectivities under attack, and the com

the post-Revolution

reconsolidation

plexity and profundity of the class transformation accelerated by the Bracero Program and multiplied by currentmigration.71 Yet these class transformations happening during the Program were not Mexican or US context. Rather, theywere due to part and parcel of a strictly logics and changes occurring in the United States and in relation toMexico. Braceros, like themen whose stories I have just told, juxtaposed experiences and social categories in both countries to hang onto privileges as patriarchs
and assert a new the creation The knowledge. of a transnational result, for both braceros and recent proletariat this whose subjectivity migrants, as worker was

was

grounded
national

in processes
boundaries.

and relationships within, outside, and against both


class transformation as multi-sited

affords a unique window


worker that was

Acknowledging

onto the production of a gender subjectivity as


Mexican and transnational. Braceros mobilized

theirposition as (proto)patriarchs and thus,as honorable heterosexual men with understood their liaisons with women inbars, theirdecision to pay?or
the ways laundry that service, for these or men, the need to cook was their own food, and we raced see masculinity a classed (future) families to advocate for themselves as workers. In examining how men

simultaneously

not?for
made

the complex

both in the United States and against Mexican social norms and practices. Men positioned themselves vis-?-vis categories of citizen-subject in both
countries

category,

national category. Thus, theybecame transnational subjects. Only in recognizing and taking seriously the interconnectedness of these processes and sites of

through

reasserting

their

claim

as proper

patriarch,

seemly

strictly

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100
contestation can we understand why former braceros

ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006


sought to migrate, how

they understood
Bracero Program

theirmigration, and the profound and lasting impact of the


and changes that itwrought.

NOTES
1. Research for this article, conducted from 1990-1993; 1995-1996; and 1997, was funded the Hewlett the Wenner Gren Foundation, by: the Institute for the Study of Man, E. Mellon of Chicago, and Mount the University the Andrew Foundation, Foundation, time was supported, in part, by theWilliam P. Clements Center for Holyoke College. Writing I would like to thank Vicky Hattam, Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. and the anonymous reviewers for important feedback. I am also indebted to the Sue Cobble other members of the Learned Sisters Club, Lessie Jo Frazier and Laura Westhoff, for insightful critique and all-around support. All translations, unless otherwise noted, are the author's. 2. The oft-used, but mistaken in the figure for the number of men who participated is around 4.5 million. Rather, this is the number of contracts that were available; Program the number of men who came was almost 2 million. see Deborah 3. For an extensive bibliography, Race, Cohen, Bordering Modernities:

Masculinity, 4. This them before, one example into a Social

and the Cultural Politics ofMexico-US Migration, unpublished manuscript. is reminiscent of growers' portrayals of description of men as passive (feminized) "dumb and and after the Bracero Program: dirty" was how itwas put. For during, of such depictions, see Henry P. Anderson, A Harvest of Loneliness: An Inquiry Problem (Berkeley, 1964), 63. 5. Here I refer to the Mexican of space limitations. and US states in aggregate because While these countries did have overarching visions of the Program that somewhat overlapped, in carrying out the policies, there were many different actors involved, with differing agendas to carry out those agendas. The differences and abilities in their positions vis-?-vis the their competing priorities, and levels of corruption, depended on, among others: Program, location within the United States and Mexico; individual doing the prior local relationships; consulates were job; and historical point in the Program. For example, while the Mexican responsible for advocating for braceros working in the United States and settling the disputes consul forArkansas that arose, the positions each consul took varied dramatically?the press to resolve the conflicts and scrutinized the results very carefully, ured local US representatives the consular officials in California tended not to fight formigrants. Many consuls undoubtedly recognized the benefits that connections to local growers brought. As another example, within the agreement the Farm Placement Service, the agency charged with monitoring locally, some inspectors pushed hard to improve men's living and working conditions and respect the inter national agreement, even as the head of the Service in California Edward Hayes actively

in Chicago in 1997; several months 1995-1996; migrant community (1990-1993; fault line to examine 2003, 2004). Bordering Modernities interrogates the modern-premodern set up as Mexico's the lives of men whom in the Bracero agents of modernity Program Mexico, While denied that position in the United States, south of the border they were to be Mexican

or big industrialized farms. I paint a complex picture of theMexican 7. In Bordering Modernities, and US states' posi tions, as well as the relationship between local and national state actors, migrants, growers and communities involved in the Program by combining textual sources, oral interviews, and anthro of Labor, Agriculture, Public Health, pological fieldwork. Specifically, I used the Departments the presidential Archivo and State papers (the US National Archives); archives at Mexico's from the Mexican de la Naci?n; General documents Foreign Relations Ministry (Acervo of the Secretar?a de Relaciones and Hist?rico and the Oficina de Contrataciones Exteriores), I those concerning education de la Secretar?a de Educaci?n P?blica). (the Archivo Hist?rico also examined numerous Mexican and US-based newspapers; papers of union and civil rights and a and did fieldwork in two Mexican villages, the city of Durango, activists/organizations,

stymied the agreement's enforcement. farmers would own the means of production 6. Capitalized yeoman (the farm) and of agricultural science, (such as tractors, combines), wield knowledge up-to-date equipment to subsistence farming, agricultural wage and operate as a small business, as opposed labor,

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the protagonists whose labor, skills, and knowledge, upon their return, would make Mexico modern. Lest the reader think that only Mexico's modernity was in question, braceros' presence in the US fueled the debate about ours, as well. In tracing out the state level relations between these two (often contentious) neighbors, as well as the interactions that braceros had with each and theUS, Bordering Modernities state and with communities in shows the critical pur Mexico chase that the ability to claim to be modern had forMexico-US relations, and the citizens and government of each country, and how braceros fit into this larger historical struggle over modernity. 8. For a more nuanced position on the 1940s as a bridge decade between the prominence of Introduction, and Theory, see Bordering Modernities, Eugenics and the full rise ofModernization Studies Association "1940s: A 'Bridge' Decade," paper presented at the 2006 Latin American conference; March 14,2006. Due to space constraints, letme just say that Eugenics held that non in the march to progress, white societies/peoples were not only "behind" white peoples/societies In other accomplished. they could never achieve what industrialized white societies/people Modernization words, biology mattered. This contrasted in one crucial way from Theory: although "behind" others, all, regardless of where it too located certain societies/people they were at least theoretically, eventually reap modernity's rewards?industrialization, hygiene, health, consumer products. Thus, biology did not fully determine economic prosperity. While different, both do similar work: they confer the status and rewards of being or becoming modern on particular countries and peoples within countries. 9. This exposure happened through the state publicity about the Program, recruitment selection and induction process. For more on these, and the highly-celebratory mechanisms, located, could, democracy, see Bordering Modernities, 10. When Ambassador chapter 2. toMexico

a formal approach to advocated George Messersmith of Foreign Relations Jaime Torres Bodet dismissed migration (1942), Undersecretary Mexico's the Mexico Messersmith's he acknowledged offer. While unemployment problem, of its agricul of the 1940s, he asserted, was gearing up for industrialization and modernization tural sector. Voicing broad opinion, he claimed the county would soon need the men. to participate. During decision 11. Two events weighed heavily in the Mexico's the First to recruit laborers, who had suffered World War, agents for US growers had gone toMexico under

those who had and many had returned without money; conditions of deprivation after the US economy collapsed with the onset of the Great stayed were "repatriated" not wanting a repeat of either, exercised its diplomatic influence to Mexico, Depression. shape aspects of the program. 12. These conditions show the Mexican with not disrupting government's preoccupation its industrialization efforts and with targeting this Program toward agricultural expansion and and the workers it did not recognize as modern. development, 13. As Mexican officials found during an early Program study, "approximately forty-five ... lined up to be recruited percent of those (men) who [already] had work (that) had de la Revoluci?n nothing to do with agricultural activities." Blanca Torres Ram?rez, Historia en la Segunda Guerra, Vol. 19 (Mexico City, 1979), 253. This pattern was con Mexicana, M?xico

firmed in another investigation in 1950, finding a slightly higher percentage of migrants having in the activities. Lyle Saunders and Olen E. Leonard, The Wetback engaged in nonagricultural inNelson G Copp, Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (Austin, 1951). Quoted '"Wetbacks' and and American Braceros: Mexican Migrant Laborers Immigration Policy, 1930-1960." (Ph.D. Guillermo Mart?nez Dom?nguez diss., Boston University, V, 95. Moreover, 1963), Appendix found that those chosen during the early stage were, in order of importance, workers, artisans, two and four pesos Mexicanos and peasants, and earned on average between daily. "Los en los Estados Unidos," inRevista de Econom?a, May 31, 1947. braceros mexicanos 14. Guillermo Mart?nez Dom?nguez, "Los braceros: Experiences que debe aprovecharse," de Sociolog?a Revista Mexicana 10 (1948), 177-95. 15. Surviving braceros and their descendents have filed lawsuits inUS courts, held protests outside the US embassy, and invaded the hacienda of themother ofMexican president Vicente Fox in an attempt to resolve the issue. For more information, see Stephen Pitti, "Bracero a paper presented at the "Repairing of Mexican Contract Labor," Justice: The Legacies

of Slavery, Genocide, the Legacies and Caste" October the Past: Confronting Conference, 27-29, 2005 at Yale University. "Los braceros mexicanos" Revista de Econom?a, 16. Guillermo Mart?nez Dom?nguez, to have changed seemed 31, 1947. By the late 1950s, the dynamics May (at least in

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102 ILWCH, 69, Spring 2006


1000 braceros working found that about two there, Henry Anderson Sampling California). thirds were married, with over half having four or more children. Almost forty-five percent were between twenty-one and thirty years old, over half with either no schooling or only one 62. year; thus a majority were functionally illiterate. A Harvest of Loneliness, 17. While US farmworkers could never demand a living wage (union campaigns were not for former farmworkers successful long-term), a farm worker shortage and other opportunities

could have shifted the balance of power. By cutting off the supply of workers at the border, bringing farm laborers under other labor laws, and supporting union organizing, agricultural an increase in agricultural wages does not generally wages would have likely risen. Moreover, translate into a visible purchase price increase. on social I term social visibility?see 18. For more Bordering recognition-what and Social Visibility: in the State Spectacle Modernities, chapter 2, and "Masculinity Latina de America of the Mexican Estudios Construction Nation," y Interdisciplinarios el Caribe 16:1, 2005. I inter the names of the people 19. Samuel Carrillo, San Andr?s; January 1996. While to protect their identity, both viewed and their places of residence have been changed state of Durango. San Andr?s and Santa Ang?lica refer to small villages located in theMexican Press: Sept 26,1945, 4; inErnesto Galarza 20. "The World fromWashington," Worldover Papers; Box 17: Folder 9: Braceros (conditions), correspondence, Stanford University. Special Collections; 21. Ram?n Avitia, Santa Ang?lica; November 1995. 22. Alvaro Garc?a, Santa Ang?lica; November 1995. Santa Ang?lica; 23. An?bal B??ales, January 1996. 24. B??ales; Santa Ang?lica; January 1996. 1995. 25. Garc?a, Santa Ang?lica; December reports, statements, 1945 (1);

San Andr?s; October 1995. 26. Andr?s Morales, 1995. 27. Federico Garciniega, San Andr?s; November Torres Ram?rez, Historia de la in Blanca 28. Tiempo, January 15, 1943: 33. Quoted 256. Revoluci?n Mexicana, 29. This nation-building project is evidenced through rituals engaged in during the bracero selection process and other points along the way. See Bordering Modernities. 30. Morales, 1995. San Andr?s; October 31. Samuel Carrillo, San Andr?s; January 1996. 1995 32. Alejandro San Andr?s; November Medina,

33. Paco Zerme?o, San Andr?s; November 1995. 1995. 34. F?lix Avalos, Santa Ang?lica; October "El Mexicano, Nom?s que Le Pongan Para Que El Agarre, Historia 35. Claudia Quesada, in Jorge Durand, Oral de Don Carlos Quezada," ed., Rostros y rastros, Entrevistas a trabaja dores migrantes en Estados Unidos. (San Luis Potos?, 2002), 27. Santa Ang?lica; 36. B??ales, February 1996. October 37. Garc?a, Santa Ang?lica; 1995. October 1995. 38. Garc?a, Santa Ang?lica; men did not meet and marry US women; is not to say that Mexican 39. This they of financial support and wives and children without a means frequently did, abandoning to find these men and pressure them government pushing their wives to involve the Mexican Consulares to make y Asuntos papers, (see the Protecci?n good on their commitments Secretar?a de Relaciones 1960 to 1964, housed at the Oficina de Contrataciones, especially Exteriores archive inMexico given the highly-male world these men lived in City). However, I suspect that and how they described both that world and their interactions with women, most "relationships" were based on financial remuneration.

on migratory for the CIO"; Jan 3, 1947; in labor in the Americans 40. "Memorandum Ernesto Galarza reports, statements, 1945 (2); Papers; Box 17; Folder 10: Correspondence, Stanford University. Special Collections, 27. "El Mexicano, Nom?s que Le Pongan Para Que El Agarre," 41. Claudia Quesada, 42. See chapter 2, Bordering Modernities. 1995. 43. Mauricio Herrera, San Andr?s; September directed 44. Seasonal Farm Laborers Program: Sad Recollections, 26 minutes; Motor Films, Mexico, 2002; translation by director. 45. Seasonal Farm Laborers Program.

by Jorge Luis Vazquez;

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America's Future (New York, 1986), like themigrants I spoke with, discussed issues of migrants' double day, 22. 57. Avalos, Santa Ang?lica; November 1995. in the Promised Land, 22. 58. James D. Cockcroft, Outlaws 59. Avitia, Santa Ang?lica; January 1996. 60. Garcia, Santa Ang?lica; October 1995. 61. B??ales, Santa Ang?lica; 1995. In the process of selecting braceros, September Mexican officials scrutinized their hands for evidence of hard labor, work which themen them selves saw as making hands men's hands. Bordering Modernities, Chapter 2. 62. This same phrase is used by today's migrants in talking about household chores. how 63. The Protecci?n y Asuntos braceros tried to overcome stymied by local US officials. Consulares problems about papers are littered with correspondence with bosses and foremen, and how they were

46. Seasonal Farm Laborers Programs. 47. Mauricio San Andr?s; 1995. Herrera, September 48. Herrera, San Andr?s; 1995. September 49. Herrera, San Andr?s; 1995, something I heard from other men. September 50. Ignacio Ochoa interviewed for Seasonal Farm Laborers Sad Perdomo, Program: Recollections. 51. Ernesto Galarza, on a report regarding compliance Strangers in Our Fields; Based with the contractual, legal, and civil rights of Mexican agricultural contract labor in the United States, made possible through a grant-in-aid from the Fund for the Republic. (Washington, DC, 1956), 66. 52. Avitia, Santa Ang?lica; March 1996. 53. Garcia, Santa Ang?lica; December 1995. 54. Garcia, Santa Ang?lica; 1995. September 55. "Imported Mexican War Emergency Workers A Community and the Community"; Service Bulletin of the American of International Federation institutes, NY, NY; July 1945. Ernest Galarza papers; Box 17; Folder 9: Braceros (conditions), correspondence, reports, state Stanford University. ments, 1945 (1). Special Collections, in thePromised Land: Mexican 56. James D. Cockcroft, Outlaws Immigrant Workers and

64. Ernesto Galarza health care and 18; folder 4: Braceros papers; Box (conditions), Stanford University. insurance, 1952-1956. Special Collections, 65. Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and theMaking ofModern America (Princeton, NJ, 2003), 146. 66. Ronald Mize, identities and collective memory: "Workplace living and remembering the effects of the Bracero total institution," in Donna R. Gabaccia and Colin Wayne Leach, eds., Immigrant Life in the US, Multi-disciplinary perspectives. (London, 2003), 74. 67. Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects; Neil Foley, White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley, 1999). 68. We can deduce as much from the near exclusive use of braceros in various markets: about ninety-five percent of all those harvesting tomatoes, ninety percent for lettuce, and "Labor in the California Citrus eighty percent for citrus crops. See Paul Garland Williamson of California, in Gilbert thesis, University Industry," (MA Berkeley, 1947), 55; quoted or Colonized Guest Workers Labor? Mexican Labor Migration To The United Gonz?lez, States. (New York, 2005), 53. Page numbers for this refer to a prepublication copy in author's possession.

Gonz?lez the melon says that braceros dominated crop in Arizona (ninety-five and cotton in New Mexico percent), Michigan's pickle cucumbers (seventy-five percent), (ninety percent). 69. Labor Management Decisions 3:1 (1993), 1. 70. Galarza, Strangers in Our Fields, 66. 71. For an examination of patriarchy's see my similar fortitude in current migration, The Long Arm and Betrayal: of Patriarchy in a article, "Sex, Loyalty, unpublished US-Mexico Transnational Social World."

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