Social Impact of War: Experience of Mexican Americans and Native Americans IB History of the Americas The Bracero Program 1942-1964 What was the Bracero Program? • Foreign contract labor program initiated in 1942 during WWII • Also known as the Migrant Labor Agreement between U.S. & Mexican governments • 4.6 million workers between 1942 & 1964 Sign outside Texas tavern, 1940s What is a bracero? • Bracero – Migrant worker. Mexican laborer who sells the work of his arms (BRAZOS) in the fields of the United States. Similar to farmHAND or HANDyman… BACKGROUND In the US: - Large Mexican agricultural labor force from 1880s, especially in CA, TX, and southwest - Transformation of agriculture in 1920s-1930s to larger bank-owned enterprises (beginning of the end for family farms) – instead of year-round farmhands, labor became migrant - Growers did not want to pay fair wages to citizens – preferred low-wage undocumented workers - Border Patrol established in 1924, and many Mexican workers deported during the Depression (Mexican Repatriation), creating shortages of agricultural workers & providing leverage to legal workers – STRIKES! BACKGROUND In Mexico: • Many people fled northward from 1910 revolution • 1930s agricultural crisis – harvests were insufficient to support many farming communities • Imagined possibility of earning relative riches in the US (even though wages were often lower in Texas than in Mexico) WWII and the Bracero Treaty 1941-1942 – growers claimed ‘labor shortage’ & refused to raise wages and demanded importation of labor instead of organized citizen labor The Bracero Program is established • On September 27, 1942, the first braceros were admitted in time for the sugar-beet harvest. • Reasons : “The increasingly difficult circumstances of the Mexican working class in the cities and rural communities in regards to the scarcity of nourishment; increasing price rates and other economic overturnings; and Mexican workers' hope of earning better wages in the United States than in Mexico..." Workers in Mexico City hoping to be contracted to work in the US, 1942 RECRUITMENT CENTERS RECRUITMENT CENTERS RECRUITMENT CENTERS DDT not just used on crops… Braceros received an Alien Laborer's Permit and signed a contract, usually for 9-12 months, at the end of which they had to turn in their permits and return to Mexico. Bracero Program: Documentation Although the Bracero Treaty called for contracts to be written in Spanish, often they were in English, and the Braceros did not understand what they were agreeing to. Bracero Program: Contracts Braceros were contracted to one employer only. Regardless of labor conditions, if they were caught outside the farms specified in their documents, they were subject to deportation. Living Conditions Conditions were often very poor, with workers sleeping in crowded barracks. Employers Underpayment was the most common complaint…often employers made braceros sign blank receipts and paid them far less than the agreed-upon wage. Operation Wetback Operation Wetback, was devised in 1954 under the supervision of new commissioner of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, Gen. Joseph Swing. The object of his intense border enforcement were "illegal aliens," but common practice of Operation Wetback focused on Mexicans in general. The police swarmed through Mexican American barrios throughout the southeastern states. Some Mexicans, fearful of the potential violence of this militarization, fled back south across the border. In some cases, illegal immigrants were deported along with their American-born children, who were by law U.S. citizens. 1954: “OPERATION WETBACK” • According to [INS Commissioner] Swing, the “alarming, ever-increasing, flood tide” of undocumented migrants from Mexico constituted “an actual invasion of the United States.” Operation Wetback commenced in June 1954 with a “direct attack…upon the hordes of aliens facing us across the border…Planes were used to locate wetbacks and to direct ground teams working in jeeps…to discourage re-entry, many of those apprehended were moved far into the interior of Mexico by train and ship.” Racial Tensions in LA during WWII • Racism against Mexican Americans and the fear of teen crime • Mexican American teenagers who wore “zoot suits” were targeted. • June 1943: 2500 soldiers and sailors attacked Mexican American neighborhoods in LA Hispanic Americans on the Homefront • Many Hispanics wore zoot suits – Long coats, baggy pants, “duck tail” hair styles • The Zoot suits were thought to be unAmerican, leading to riots in Los Angeles – Zoot Suit Riots ( 1943) Zoot Suit Riots • Sailors and soldiers on leave, especially in California, frequently attacked zoot suiters as “draft dodgers” or “foreigners.” Ripped their clothes, and cut their hair. These violent culture clashes are known as the Zoot Suit Riots. Zoot Suit Riots • In Oakland and Venice, Calif., sailors and marines "raided" Chicano gatherings and attacked the zoot-suiters, stripping them of their clothes. • On June 3, 1943 in Los Angeles, a reported dispute over Chicanos set off a military riot. For five straight nights, Whites in uniform stormed the streets. They dragged zoot-suiters out of bars and nabbed them in movie theaters by turning the lights on. • What started as an assault on Mexican Americans quickly expanded to include blacks and Filipinos. Each night, police officers waited until the GIs left and then swooped in to arrest the victims of the violence. Zoot Suit Riots • Military officials declared the downtown district off limits to military personnel. • The measure restored order, but real peace was harder to achieve. • In a national newspaper column, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt blamed the riots on "longstanding discrimination against the Mexicans in the Southwest." Native American Contributions during World War II • 25,000 Native American joined armed forces • 23,000 worked at Wartime plants and factories • 33% of eligible Native Americans Serve in War • Notable were the Navajo codetalkers (Communicated in the Navajo language) Native Americans on the Homefront • • Many Native Americans moved from reservations to cities for jobs Many volunteered for military – Some used native language as code. • Never broken by Japanese or Germans Harold Ickes • Secretary of the Interior said “In view of the long period of strained relationships between Indians and the Government it is heartening that everywhere and in every tribe the Indians have responded willingly and gladly to the opportunity to share in the defense of the country.” Women • Many Native American women volunteered as nurses. • In the forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin, women helped plant new trees to help meet the increased demand for lumber that resulted from the war. • 10 women from the Lac du Flambeau reservation received Red Cross pins for 150 hours of knitting and sewing Stereotypes • “Indians are good warriors and can accomplish feats the ordinary soldier could not.” • 550 Indians died trying to live up to this image. 40% were Sioux, who had a reputation of being fierce warriors. Navajo Code Talkers The Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They served in all Marine divisions, transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language—a code that the Japanese never broke. Why Navajo? • The idea to use Navajo for secure communications came from Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajos and one of the few nonNavajos who spoke their language fluently. • He also knew that Native American languages—notably Choctaw—had been used in World War I to encode messages. • Johnston believed Navajo answered the military requirement for an undecipherable code because Navajo is an unwritten language of extreme complexity. • Its syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training. • It has no alphabet or symbols, and is spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest. Success in the Pacific • At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.“ • Connor had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. Those six sent and received more than 800 messages, all without error. • The Japanese chief of intelligence, Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue, said that while they were able to decipher the codes used by the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps, they never cracked the code used by the Marines. Honors for Navajo Veterans • Long unrecognized because of the continued value of their language as a security classified code, the Navajo code talkers of World War II were honored for their contributions to defense on Sept. 17, 1992, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.