The braceros are coming back!
September 29, 2005 - More than 1,000 braceros and relatives of braceros marched through the streets of downtown Ciudad Juarez to remember the first Mexican peasants who crossed to United States to work in the fields of America during the Bracero Program.
The marchers, including many women with children, followed the same route that the first 1,500 walked on September of 1942, from the Train Station to the Santa Fe International Bridge.
"On September 29, 1942, a train pulled into Stockton, California. On the side of the railroad cars someone had written, 'De las democracias sera la Victoria.' (Victory will come from the democracies.) On board the train were 1,500 Mexican workers, among the first arrivals of braceros in the United States, the vanguard of 4.5 million bracero entrants who would work as contract laborers in the United States from 1942 to 1964. The Bracero Program, as it came to be known, was not a single program but rather a series of agreements and laws that permitted American agricultural growers to contract with Mexican workers. The term 'bracero' means one who works with his arms - akin to the English "hired hand."
(From "The Bracero Program, 1942-1964", by Winifred Dowling, April 27, 1998.)
Besides marking the 63 anniversary of the beginning of the Bracero Program, the march was also to call the attention of the Federal Government which has delayed the payment of compensation to the braceros and the relatives of the braceros. This payment is to compensate the braceros for the deductions made to their salaries during the Bracero Program.
In May of this year, the Federal Government agreed to set up a fund to compensate the braceros under a law approved by the Mexican Congress on April of 2005. The Federal Government also appropriated some 30 million dollars in the 2005 Federal Budget to initiate payments and agree to appropriate more funds each year for four more years until all braceros receive payment. But is already the month of September (less than 3 months to end fiscal year 2005) and no formal action has been taken to start paying the compensations.
The marchers walked from the most popular spot in Ciudad Juarez, the Monument to Benito Juarez towards the International Bridge to end their march with a rally in the steps of the Juarez City Hall. The mayor of Juarez received the marchers and delivered a speech to support to their cause.
At the rally, the braceros and their relatives reaffirmed their determination to continue struggling until all the braceros and the survivors of the deceased braceros receive justice in the form of a monetary compensation and other benefits. Most of the braceros are very old and live precariously. Some are very ill and don't even have money to buy medicines or to seek medical treatment. Some are so poor that continue working in the fields in Southern New Mexico and West Texas. An economic compensation and basic benefits will allow them to live in peace and with dignity the remaining of their lives.
The Bracero Movement initiated at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos at El Paso, Texas on November 22, 1997. For more than 7 years they have been struggling to get recognition and payment of the historic debt. At the rally in recognition of the 63 anniversary of the first Bracero entry, the braceros expressed confidence that justice is very close but that they must continue struggling.
Border Agricultural Workers Project
201 East Ninth Avenue, El Paso, Texas 79901
Tel. (915) 532-0921