The Bracero Program in West Texas, 1951-1964



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The Bracero Program has continually captured the research interests of historians. Academics have evaluated the legislative proceedings and the questionable inner structures of Public Law 78 as well as the programs most exploitative aspects. More recent trends have considered the braceros as historical actors as well as themes of identity formation, and gender and class within the program. Most of these works however are nationally based studies with few providing information on specific regions and states.

Therefore this thesis will combine two under-researched areas within the Bracero Program by examining PL 78’s effect in the construction of the identity of several West Texas community members and on the braceros themselves. The goal of the thesis is to demonstrate that the braceros and the community participants co-existed and that the construction of their own identities was in direct relation to their perception of the ‘other.’The first chapter evaluates the complex paternalistic and racist attitudes of regional associations and local farmers towards braceros and the program. The second chapter demonstrates the culturally connected but often hostile perspective of Mexican American people towards the braceros and the program and how class influenced attitudes. The third chapter analyzes the experiences of braceros laboring in the South Plains and Trans Pecos areas both in terms of the attitudes and treatment they experienced and felt, and in terms of their own assessment of the experience.