Braceros and Their Wives: The Effects of Seasonal Labor Migration on Gender Roles in Mexico

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jonathan Hagood, Hope College

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The United States established the Bracero Program as an emergency wartime act in collaboration with the Mexican government in 1942, and it continued until 1964. Approximately four million braceros worked in the United States during these years. Supporters on both sides of the border did not realize the extent to which it would impact the lives of Mexican men and women. It eventually caused many changes within Mexican families, society, and labor markets during the second half of the twentieth century. Much research has been done on the work and lives of the Bracero immigrants in the United States, but less is known about the impact seasonal agricultural labor had on the women and families left behind. In order to discover more about the Mexican perspective on the Bracero Program and how Mexican women were affected by it, this project focuses on how gender roles developed and changed throughout these years. The project first examines the existing conceptions of femininity and masculinity and then the ways in which the Bracero Program challenged normative gender roles. It also examines the lasting consequences of seasonal agricultural labor on Mexican society. From this analysis, the changes in traditional gender roles are clearly seen in the home and labor market, in addition to immigration patterns between Mexico and the United States. Although most Mexican men and women may not have acknowledged these changes at the time, the Bracero Program had a profound impact on the development of gender roles in Mexico throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

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