Bracero Program

Braceros performing field labor


Between the years of 1942 and 1964, an agreement was established between the governments of the United States and Mexico which brought millions of Mexican laborers to the United States to work mainly in agriculture. This agreement, known as the Bracero Program, enabled Mexican workers — known as “Braceros” or “person who does manual labor” — to sign short-term contracts to harvest crops and perform other manual labor jobs in the U.S. Agricultural businesses pushed for the program to fill the gap left by American workers who were serving in World War II or working higher paying jobs in wartime industries.

When the Bracero program began in the 1940s, many in Mexico, especially in rural areas, were experiencing poverty, due partly to an extreme drought. The chance to earn money working in the U.S. was attractive to many even though the living and working conditions for Braceros in the U.S. often did not match the terms spelled out in their contracts.

The resources created by the Content, Literacy, Inquiry, and Citizenship Project have been designed to support teachers as they implement the HSS Framework and teach about the Bracero program. In addition to the resources developed by this project, the following are links to other resources that educators may find helpful to support their teaching practice.

Video Lesson for Students about the Bracero Program

Students will learn about the farm labor agreement signed with Mexico in 1942, the historical debates that surrounded it, and its relevance to issues we face today. Students will complete a "Double Diary" entry about the program and find ways to extend their knowledge through literature and art.

Helpful Resources to Consider

The Bracero Archive
Award winning public history site featuring a large archive of primary sources including images, documents, and oral histories of participants in the Bracero program. The site also contains historical background information and a bibliography for further reading.

Digital Public Library of America - Bracero Program Primary Source Set
A primary source set assembled by education staff at the Digital Public Library of America features a collection of primary sources, a teaching guide, and links to related DPLA primary source sets including one on Japanese Internment and the United Farm Workers Strike.

“Braceros: History, Compensation” Rural Migration News
A 2006 essay on the Bracero Program from the Rural Migration News at the University of California-Davis. The essay places the program in the larger context of labor and immigration in California including earlier attempts to establish a guest worker program. The essay also outlines the major legacies of the Bracero Program.

The Bracero Program, Calisphere
Online exhibit from the University of California features of collection of 14 photographs with and overview and a brief description for each item.

Braceros in Oregon Photograph Collection, Oregon Digital
From Oregon State University, the 102 photographs in this collection document the activities of Oregon's Bracero workers.

Braceros doing “stoop labor” in field
Double-decker beds used by Braceros