During multiple periods of economic crises, the U.S. economy has depended on Mexican labor. From World War II to the present, agricultural workers have been deemed essential to harvest our fruits and vegetables across the United States.
The Bracero Program began during World War II during a massive labor shortage due to the war and internment of Japanese Americans. It was the largest guest worker program agreement in United States history. Over 4.5 million contracts were awarded to young male Mexican immigrants from 1942 to 1964 to work in the railroad and agriculture industries.
Moreover, during the current health pandemic, agricultural workers have been categorized as “essential workers” by the federal government. Yet, many workers lack legal status to work in the United States.
Dr. Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez has conducted extensive research and oral histories with former Braceros. In this seminar, he will discuss significant topics in Mexican American history, including the history of the Bracero Program, agricultural history in California, and the current H2-A Guest Worker Program. The webinar will broaden educators’ understanding of Mexican and Mexican American history and help to prepare them to provide instruction that is culturally inclusive.
This webinar is a joint collaboration between the Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford University and SPICE.
Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Ornelas is a historian, and currently a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. His work and research focuses on California history, and in particular, Chicano history and Chicano/Latino studies and Latino politics. Much of his work has focused on archival research that documents Mexican and Mexican American history. The history of Mexican labor in the United States necessarily includes the study of civil and voting rights and the generations of Mexicans who advocated for those rights. Ornelas is currently rewriting for publication his dissertation, titled The Struggle for Social Justice in the Monterey Bay Area 1930-2000: The Transformation of Mexican and Mexican American Political Activism. Dr. Ornelas Rodriguez currently serves on the board of directors of the California Institute for Rural Studies. His areas of expertise include U.S. and California History, Political Science, and Latino Politics.