Gary Mukai
Gary Mukai
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The Bracero Program was a series of laws that allowed the United States to recruit temporary guest workers (braceros, lit. “individuals who work with their arms”) from Mexico. As the United States entered World War II, its agriculture and railroad industries witnessed a shortage of laborers due to the U.S. military draft and the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States. The United States and Mexico entered into legal agreements that would ultimately be known as the Bracero Program, which operated from 1942 to 1964. Braceros worked throughout the United States, but the largest concentration of braceros was employed in California. There were an estimated 4.5 million contracts signed by braceros over the 22-year period. Today a large proportion of the Mexican-American population can trace its heritage to former braceros.

—By Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez


My Childhood

I have a personal connection to braceros. The forced removal of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast in 1942 contributed to the labor shortage in states like California. My family was interned in Poston, Arizona, in what was called the Poston War Relocation Center from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945. The “relocation center” was built on a Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation and was surrounded by barbed wire. My family returned to California after the end of the war. As a child of farm laborers in the 1950s and 1960s, I worked side-by-side with braceros. My neighbors in San Jose were braceros. I thought that I was a hard worker until I met them. I was compensated by the amount of crops I harvested, known as piecework. The braceros’ punch cards usually had at least double the punches that mine had.

Some years ago, I asked my mother if she had a photo of the bracero home that stood next to my home. She did have a photo, and to my surprise, I was in it. One of the fondest memories of my childhood was occasionally telling my mother that I didn’t want rice and tofu and instead going to the bracero home to enjoy homemade tortillas and beans. The tortillas were made from flour and manteca or lard. As a child, I felt more Mexican than Japanese.

In my work as a teacher (from 1977 to 1988) and at SPICE (since 1988), I have always known that there were legacies from my life growing up with braceros that have profoundly impacted me. I used to be ashamed of being the son of farm laborers, but through the years, I have come to appreciate the importance of farm labor, and I could not have had greater role models than the braceros when it came to hard work and discipline.  

Thus, it was particularly meaningful for me to facilitate an event called “Legacies of the Bracero Program, 1942–1964,” during which ten former braceros were recognized by SPICE, FSI, and the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS). The event was meticulously organized by SPICE Event Coordinator Sabrina Ishimatsu and took place at Stanford University on February 27, 2014. 


The Speakers

Rodolfo Dirzo, CLAS Director, whose father was a bracero, spoke about the transmission of the richness and diversity of Mexican culture to generations of Mexican Americans. His message of “pride in one’s identity” prompted multiple generations of Mexican Americans in the audience to consider the pioneers of their community. Francis Dominguez, the granddaughter of former bracero José Guadalupe Rodriguez Fonseca, reflected, “I felt that the speeches were educational for those not familiar with the history, but also connected with the families of braceros on an emotional level.” 

“Three things are interesting to me about what happened during the bracero years that have made what the country is today,” noted Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, FSI Director. “Number one, the United States realized that it could not function without immigration…; number two, immigration was considered vital to our national security…; number three, we came to realize that sometimes what looks temporary is actually permanent.”

These three points resonated with Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez, whose grandfather is Fonseca. Rodriguez, a former high school teacher in Salinas and now with the Special Collections and University Archives Department of Stanford University Libraries, noted that, “Tino’s historical analysis and considerations about immigration and the Bracero Program have implications that polarizing opposite left/right political views have failed to consider. Tino’s perspective was quite fascinating.” 

Several high school teachers were in the audience, and Rodriguez spoke about ways that teachers can interactively engage students in the study of the Bracero Program. “This event is a great example of how SPICE reaches out to the larger community and bridges the gap between academia and communities,” said Rodriguez. Rodriguez and the other teachers in the audience have used SPICE curricular materials to underscore the importance of understanding and appreciating diverse perspectives on U.S. history. SPICE curricular materials on topics like the history of U.S.–Mexico relations serve as a bridge between FSI/Stanford University and schools nationally.



Each former bracero was presented with three certificates from Stanford University, the California State Assembly (signed by Luis A. Alejo, 30th Assembly District), and Monterey County (signed by Supervisor Simón Salinas). The former braceros proudly posed in Stanford sweatshirts, and tears could be seen among their families’ photographers, making even clear photographs seem blurry.  

Former Braceros with Rodriguez (back row, far left); and Dirzo, Cuéllar, and Mukai (back row, right side), courtesy of Rod Searcey.

Reflecting upon the event, Fonseca humbly stated, “I felt very honored to be recognized for my work and proud to be reunited with fellow braceros.” He was particularly touched that the honorable Carlos Ponce Martinez, Consul General of Mexico in San Jose, and Simón Salinas, Monterey County Supervisor, were in attendance. “I would like to thank the organizers of the event and Stanford University.”



Toward the end of the evening, Supervisor Salinas, whose father was a bracero, approached me and asked if I was related to the Mukai family that once farmed in Salinas before and after World War II. I was, I told him. To my astonishment, he informed me that his family used to sharecrop with my family and that he was particularly close to one of my uncles and two of my cousins who once worked for Driscoll’s, growers of berries. Though the Bracero Program ended 50 years ago, I continue to discover new connections and ways in which it has affected my life and my family. 

As sons and grandsons of former braceros, Dirzo, Rodriguez, and Salinas are prime examples of proud legacies of the Bracero Program. As the former braceros were departing the Bechtel Conference Center at Encina Hall, I had a flashback to 1964 at the Bracero Program’s end, when I said “adios” to my bracero co-workers from childhood. A faded memory of my childhood suddenly became clear and poignant once again, as I wondered if I would ever see them again. 

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Just two days after the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, educators and students from both sides of the Pacific gathered at Stanford University to participate in the second annual Hana–Stanford Conference for Secondary School Teachers.  

Credit: Rod Searcey

In his opening comments, Consul General Dongman Han, Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco, noted the anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement and thanked the teachers for their dedication to teaching about Korea and U.S.–Korean relations. Professor Gi-Wook Shin, Director, Shorenstein APARC, welcomed the 32 teachers from across the United States and from the Hana Academy Seoul. Professor Shin extended his gratitude to the Hana Financial Group for providing the primary support for this conference and expressed special appreciation to Dr. Hyeon Kee Bae, CEO of the Hana Institute of Finance, for his enthusiastic support and his presence. Gary Mukai, Director, SPICE, introduced the conference goal, which was to underscore the importance of integrating the study of Korea in U.S. schools.

Grace Kim, PhD candidate at U.C. Berkeley and Curriculum Writer, SPICE, served as the facilitator of the conference and introduced six distinguished scholars, including Professor Michael Robinson of Indiana University who spoke on “Fitting Korea into Its Regional, Global, and Contemporary Geo-Political Contexts.” Amanda Sutton from Valdosta, Georgia, reflected on Robinson’s lecture noting, “A great way to start off the conference by giving the audience a uniform basis of Korea’s history and geography. I learned a lot and it was an honor to have met him.” 

SPICE staff also demonstrated a number of SPICE’s Korea-focused curricular materials to help teachers easily bring Korea into their classrooms. The titles of the curriculum units that teachers received included “Divided Memories: Comparing History Textbooks,” “U.S.-South Korean Relations,” “Uncovering North Korea,” “Inter-Korean Relations: Rivalry, Reconciliation, and Reunification,” and “Dynamics of the Korean American Experience.” “I’ve used SPICE materials in the past, so I’m sure these will meet those high standards,” remarked Will Linser from Bellevue, Washington. “I have incorporated Korea in my past classes, but after this conference I have a greater understanding, so I will highlight South Korea in the district’s globalization unit. I am looking forward to using the materials.”

The teachers were also treated to a lecture and performance of P’ansori, Korean story singing, by Professor Chan E. Park, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University, and a talk and performance by Da-seu-reum, a Samulnori Korean percussion group at the Hana Academy Seoul.

Teachers teachers
Credit:Rod Searcey Credit:Rod Searcey

Presentations by high school students from both Korea and the United States proved to be among the highlights of the conference. Three American high school students of the Sejong Korean Scholars Program, a national online course on Korea that is funded by the Korea Foundation, gave presentations and were honored by their instructor, Annie Lim, SPICE. Also, Korean students from Yongsan International School of Seoul, North London Collegiate School Jeju, and the Hana Academy Seoul provided teachers with insight into Korean society and the lives of Korean high school students.

Media coverage of the conference appeared in the Korea Times (in Korean), Korea Daily (in Korean), and the Valdosta Daily, Georgia, which carried a story about the experiences of teacher attendees Amanda Sutton and Connie Wells. 

Because of the 60th anniversary, the conference had special symbolic meaning—especially when topics of the Korean War and U.S.–Korean relations were discussed. The teachers’ dedication to the teaching of U.S.–Korean relations to their students provides much hope and promise for greater understanding between the two countries. The conference planning committee hopes that the collegial relationships that formed during the formal and informal events of the conference will lend themselves to the creation of a community of learners amongst the teachers—a community that extends beyond the conference itself. 

The Hana–Stanford Conference for Secondary School Teachers will be offered again in the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016 and is sponsored by Shorenstein APARC and SPICE with a generous gift from the Hana Financial Group. Applications for the 2014 conference will become available on the SPICE website in November 2013. 

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By Sangsoo Im, Correspondent, Yonhap News, San Francisco
Translated by Annie Lim, coordinator and instructor, Sejong Korean Scholars Program, SPICE.

Stanford University, one of the most prestigious American universities on the West Coast, has launched an unprecedented online lecture series on Korea for American high school students. 

This is the first time a Korean Studies program has been made available to high school students.

Created as part of the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), this one-semester program offers courses on Korean history, culture, religion, art, and politics, consisting of lectures, online discussions, and assignments.

The name for this program is the Sejong Korean Scholars Program (SKSP).

The program, which launched last month, is managed under the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) under the leadership of Director Gi-Wook Shin and is funded by the Korea Foundation. 

Alongside Gi-Wook Shin, David Straub (former U.S. Department of State’s senior foreign service officer specializing in Korean affairs), Charles K. Armstrong (director of Center for Korean Research at Columbia University), and Michael Robinson (professor at Indiana University) are some of the top scholars involved in the program.

The program is free, and the instruction is in English. Approximately 60 students applied, and 27 were selected on the basis of their grade point averages, essays, and letters of recommendation.

SKSP’s coordinator and instructor Annie Lim says, “The students who applied are interested in a variety of topics ranging from Korean history to Korean pop culture.”

Upon completion of the courses, the students will receive credits through Stanford Continuing Studies.

A similar program on Japan has been in progress at Stanford University for 10 years.

Stanford University is the first among American universities to create textbooks and curriculum on Korean studies for high school students and has begun to reach out to the 50,000 high schools in the United States.

APARC’s director and one of the founding members of SKSP, Gi-Wook Shin points out, “Along with Yoko’s Story and so on, American junior high and senior high schools’ distorted history textbooks containing Korean history have received a lot of criticism, but there has not been much effort to rectify it. Through SKSP, we hope that American high school students can acquire a broader perspective and expand their range of knowledge and understanding about Korea.”

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Submitted by fsid9admin on Mon, 04/30/2007 - 15:17

TeachAIDS and SPICE have collaborated to provide pedagogically-grounded interactive health materials that promote a powerful and dynamic approach to HIV/AIDS education. Built by an interdisciplinary team of experts at Stanford University, these high-quality materials have been rigorously tested and are used in dozens of countries around the world. Given the tremendous need for these materials, TeachAIDS and SPICE are offering this unit for free download.

Judith K. Paulus
Johanna Wee
Johanna Wee
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Chicago Tribune article features Yo Yo Ma's introduction of SPICE Silk Road curriculum to Chicago public schools. SPICE director Gary Mukai, who helped design the curriculum, is quoted.

Yo-Yo Ma sat on the edge of the small stage at the Art Institute, his cello resting across his lap.

"See this fingerboard?" the acclaimed cellist asked the audience. "It is made out of ebony, which comes from Africa."

"The red varnish," he said, massaging the body of the instrument, "comes from as far away as Malaysia."

"The hair on the bow comes from Mongolia and the wood of the bow can be found only in Brazil," he said.

Ma's multicultural cello seemed the perfect metaphor for his most recent endeavor: bringing the rich artistic and cultural history of the Silk Road to Chicago Public Schools students.

The Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes that crisscrossed Eurasia through the 1500s, served as the main conduit for the cultural exchange of goods, art and music. And when Ma sat down and played a soulful partita by Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun, he showed that cultural exchange enriches the world.

"This is a global instrument," he said. "And by bringing the world together ... beautiful music can be made."

Ma was in town Monday as part of Silk Road Chicago, a yearlong citywide celebration inspired by the art, music and culture along the historic road that stretched from Japan and China through central Asia and into the Mediterranean. The Chicago series is part of the larger Silk Road Project, a multiyear, multicity odyssey created by Ma.

Specifically, Ma spent the day helping introduce a new Silk Road school curriculum to Chicago Public Schools teachers.

Through a collaboration with the Art Institute, 80 Chicago teachers will spend the week discovering the Silk Road and learning how best to explain its importance to students.

"It's sometimes difficult to get students to engage in something that seems so far removed from their lives," explained Gary Mukai, from Stanford University, who helped develop the Silk Road curriculum. "We hope we can help students make a link to their own lives by engaging them musically, mathematically and artistically in the Silk Road history."

Through the lesson plan, students can trace the history of Asia and the West through the important innovations that migrated along the Silk Road. Students will learn that gunpowder, the magnetic compass, lacquer crafts and, of course, silk, flowed from East and West and back.

Musical forms and instruments also traveled the Silk Road, as string, wind and percussion instruments from the East and the West influenced each other. Cymbals were introduced into China from India. The Chinese gongs traveled to Europe. And the Persian mizmar, a reed instrument, seems to have been the ancestor of the European oboe and clarinet.

Ma implored the teachers to reach out to students and help create a "spark" that will open their minds to the "amazing cultures around them."

"As teachers, you are incredible guides into a world that you can make a most exciting place," he said.

The Silk Road is a metaphor that "joins us together not only in material things but in spiritual ways," he said. "You can translate that to your students."

Don Gibson, a music teacher from Dyett High School on the South Side, said the Silk Road will help him incorporate history lessons into his music courses.

"Through the Silk Road music lessons, I can broaden their understanding of cultures and the history of those cultures," Gibson said. "To be inspired by the music, sometimes, you have to know its history."

Would you like to learn more about the Silk Road Chicago events? Visit the Silk Road Project.

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Submitted by fsid9admin on Fri, 03/18/2005 - 17:07
This unit introduces students to a range of topics and activities that are essential to the study of geography such as map analysis and comparison, migration and perceptions of regions, interactions between humans and the environment and their implications, and urban growth and energy consumption.
Submitted by fsid9admin on Fri, 08/13/2004 - 16:15

This curriculum unit examines three case studies of ongoing regional wars—Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kashmir—and one past regional war, Guatemala. Students are introduced to these wars in their historical and global context, as well as in the context of efforts to establish and maintain peace.

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