Mireya LozaSep 12, 2016
How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom
University of North Carolina Press 2016
Mireya Loza's Defiant Braceros How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) sheds new light on the private lives of migrant men who participated in the Bracero Program (1942-1964), a binational agreement between the United States and Mexico that allowed hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to enter the U.S. on temporary work permits. While this program and the issue of temporary workers has long been politicized on both sides of the border, Loza argues that the prevailing romanticized image of braceros as a family-oriented, productive, legal workforce has obscured the real, diverse experiences of the workers themselves. Focusing on underexplored aspects of workers lives--such as their transnational union-organizing efforts, the sexual economies of both hetero and queer workers, and the ethno-racial boundaries among Mexican indigenous braceros--Loza reveals how these men defied perceived political, sexual, and racial norms.
Basing her work on an archive of more than 800 oral histories from the United States and Mexico, Loza is the first scholar to carefully differentiate between the experiences of mestizo guest workers and the many Mixtec, Zapotec, Purhepecha, and Mayan laborers. In doing so, she captures the myriad ways these defiant workers responded to the intense discrimination and exploitation of an unjust system that still persists today.
Mireya Loza is a curator in the Division of Political History at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Lori A. Flores is an Assistant Professor of History at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and the author of Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale, 2016). You can find her at http://www.loriaflores.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or hanging around Brooklyn.