Posted by Simon
A week or so ago I went up to Cal State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) in Camarillo to view the Bracero Exhibit. The Bracero Program was a mid 20th century guest worker program. The result was, as the subtitle of the exhibit explains, a “bittersweet harvest.” It may be the best guest worker program possible but it still was demeaning to the participants, fraught with corruption and caused some exploitation of workers. On the other hand it gave millions of Mexican workers: jobs, money and a vision of another life.
I asked Jose Alamillo the Professor at CSUCI most responsible for the exhibit if in balance he thought the bracero program was a good thing for the workers. His response was equivocal just like mine. In balance it might have been good for the participants but couldn’t we find a better way.
CSUCI is a very beautiful campus built on the grounds of the old Camarillo Mental Hospital. It represents a modern version of turning your swords into plowshares. The only new structure I saw was the Broome Library. Which spans the area between two of the old mission style buildings.
Visually the exhibit is a series of fourteen illustrated explanatory panels from the Smithsonian with some very interesting artifacts collected by Professor Alamillo and his students. The best part however is the audio. You can hear the voices of the workers telling the story of getting the bracero jobs. The oral histories were collected by the Smithsonian over the last five years in a project with CSUCI and others.
One of the panels
A detailed quote from FDR