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The Bracero Oral History Project
BLUE RIBBON AWARD WINNER

In 2008, California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI) joined the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History to document and preserve the bracero experience. The Bracero History Project has collected over 700 interviews and dozens of photographs, documents and artifacts that tell the story of the largest guest-worker program in U.S. history.

The Bracero Program brought approximately 4.5 million Mexican male workers into the United States, impacting immigration patterns, labor organizing efforts, inter­ethnic and intra-ethnic community relations, family dynamics and gender relations.

CSUCI joined with local community centers, high schools, art galleries, historical museums and Latino organizations. Each of these community partners publicized town hall meetings held in Oxnard and Santa Paula to introduce the Bracero History Project to the local Latino community in Ventura County. Community partners and CSUCI faculty and staff collaborated in the process of locating people to be interviewed as well.

As part of this national project, CSUCI offered several service-learning courses to students in Chicano Studies, Spanish, and Art. Students, including descendants of braceros, followed the lives of ex-braceros by duplicating photos and documents, and also organized town-halls. A local exhibit titled “Ventura County’s Bracero Legacy,” will be organized by CSUCI students and will complement the Smithsonian’s national exhibition.

A key lesson learned from this project was to consider current needs in their political context as part of the study. For example, ex-braceros asked how CSUCI could help them claim the 10% of wages withheld from their paychecks that they never received. Researchers also came to understand how the braceros’ stories shed light on the current political debate over the guest-worker program and immigration reform.

Contact:
José Alamillo, Chicano Studies
California State University, Channel Islands
jose.alamillo@csuci.edu

Co-Researchers:
Romelia Richman, José Tlaxcuapan, & Lourdes Tlaxcuapan
California State University, Channel Islands

Website: www.braceroarchive.org

Key words: immigrants, Chicano/Latino/Mexican, public dialogue/townhall meeting, Southern California, museum, history

Content Contact:
Judy Botelho
(562) 951-4749
Technical Contact:
webmaster@calstate.edu

Last Updated: May 06, 2016