American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
In this study I analyze the gender, class and ethnicity bias that characterized the Temporary Workers Program known as the Bracero Program, a bilateral agreement between Mexico and the United States that was born in the context of the Second World War as a strategy to remedy the shortage of labor in the United States. In the 1940s, a time when industralization and urbanization in Mexico were gaining strength, the Bracero Program relies on a nationalist discourse of modernization that promised to redeem the backwardness of rural areas and the most unprotected social classes in the country.
In its desire to modernize and integrate the populations considered "backward" the mexican nation ran into the paradox of the "indigenous". In this sense, the results of my field work with non-indigeouns miners and peasants from Chalchihuites, Zacatecas, Mexico reveal the amazement and strangeness they experienced when encountering indigenous groups in the recruitment centers. Are those also mexicans? In their stories, they highlight the mockery, humiliation and specific problems faced by the indigenous people whom they call "oaxaquitas". Based on the representations and discourses around the "oaxaquitas" I examine that, although theoretically the Program was focused for mexican peasants and indigenous people, in structural terms the population of indigenous origin were placed in a situation of greater disadvantages, unable to respond to the call of capital being left adrift for economic, health, communication, education, language and geographic location issues.