Los Braceros (Men of Courage, Men of Honor)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Growing up in the Valley in the 1940s and 1950s, I experienced and saw life through the eyes of a young brown boy, born in the USofA like my parents, but relegated to the back of the bus, and always to the end of the line.

LOS BRACEROS

(Men of Courage, Men of Honor)

By Al Garcia

Growing up in the Valley in the 1940s and 1950s, I experienced and saw life through the eyes of a young brown boy, born in the USofA like my parents, but relegated to the back of the bus, and always to the end of the line. 

It was tough being of Mexican heritage and living in the Valley, back in the days of rock-n-roll and Billy Graham revivals.  We were the “coloreds” that picked the cotton, lifted the bales and endured the hot Texas sun in open fields on a summer’s day.  We were the huddled masses, yearning to feel free.  We walked and talked and dreamed like human beings, but were not seen, just used and abused. 

It was during this time in my life, as a young boy in the Valley, and during this atrocious period of human denigration in the Valley’s history, that my mind and heart began to blossom, despite the unquenchable thirst for the dignity and respect I saw given to those better than me.  My family and I were Americans. Yet, for some reason I could not understand, we were treated differently than the white Americans.  We were isolated and separated.  We were not allowed to venture beyond certain designated boundaries, and allowed to only look in to the windows to see how the better half lived.

If we were treated as second-class human beings, even though we were American citizens, simply because we were brown and of Mexican heritage, imagine – can anyone imagine for one brief moment, how seasonal workers from south of the border, who came into the United States – legally or illegally, were treated?  They were Los Braceros – laborers greatly needed, used, and abused in the Valley back in the 1940s and 1950s to do back-breaking work in the fields and on ranches along the Rio Grande.  They were the farm workers who worked 12-14 hours days, sometimes seven days week.  And, if we were considered second-class human beings – Los Braceros were considered by many to be even worse.  They were regarded as scum, losers, trash -- and accordingly mistreated and abused – their humanity discarded and their dignity disparaged and insulted. 

Even as a child and then youngster growing up in the Valley back then, I saw how humiliating and sometimes even inhumane, brown-skinned people like me were being mistreated and demeaned.  Again, as an evolving child, it was hard to understand why people were treating people like soulless, heartless and thoughtless creatures of burden, and not like fellow human beings.  And this was the Valley, not the deep, deep south, where blacks were enduring even worse treatment and conditions.  It was amazing, back then, how the color of one’s skin determined the dignity of one’s life.


Submitted: May 27, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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