Omar Alejandro Ibarra, SAF Solidaridad intern
I went on my annual trip to Mexico this past December with my family. This time it was an entirely different experience as the matriarch of my big family, my abuelita, passed away from COVID-19 in late 2020. It was difficult to be cheery like we usually were around Christmas, but we enjoyed the time we had as a family.
I spent a lot of time talking to my grandpa to keep him company. I had always known he had gone into the U.S. when he was younger to work, but I had never really heard his stories. Having learned much more from SAF about the H-2A Visa and the Bracero program, I put 2 and 2 together and asked my grandpa if he had participated in the program. It turns out my grandpa was a Bracero in his youth.
He worked in several towns in Texas and California. He told me how extremely laborious the work was and how little the wages were in return. However, one of the most significant parts of it is how he was robbed of money he was owed. At the end of one of his journeys, he returned to Mexico where was told to hand in some paperwork to get his compensation. He was then told he didn't need the paperwork, and it was taken from him and shredded. Not long after, he inquired about the wages he was owed only to be told he required certain paperwork which he no longer had. My grandpa was robbed by both the US and Mexican governments just like so many other Braceros during the time.
The knowledge I have gained from SAF has really shed light on the history of my family. I am a descendent of Braceros and farmworkers who migrated hundreds of miles for many years to earn a living for their family. Hearing about what happened to my grandpa did make me angry, but his stories also filled me with pride. My grandpa's knowledge of the U.S. gave inspiration to some of my other family members, including my mother, and motivated them to make the long journey across the border. My grandpa paved the way for my mother, aunts, and uncles to travel across the border to make a better living. I always find it important to remember why people are going to the U.S. in the first place. As historian Juan Gonzalez put it, "Latin immigration to the United States is a direct result of the harvest of the U.S. empire."