Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom

Mireya Loza (Author)


In this book, Mireya Loza 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 this country 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.

Product Details

University of North Carolina Press
Publish Date
September 06, 2016
6.08 X 0.69 X 9.25 inches | 0.86 pounds

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About the Author

Mireya Loza is a curator in the Division of Political History at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.


An essential purchase for any serious collection on labor, social, and migration history, and should be included within any course or curriculum related to gender studies, human rights, oral testimonies, public history, or Latino/a studies.--American Historical Review

An exceptional addition to the historical literature on braceros. . . . A highly accessible and necessary work for anyone wanting to understand the long, complicated history of Mexican laborers in the United States.--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

This book offers an excellent example of a qualitative research project for methods courses. Highly recommended.--Choice

Provides valuable insight into Mexican race relations and their impact on American agricultural labor practices.--North Carolina Historical Review

Commands the attention of scholars interested in migrant labor, Latinx and indigenous identity formations, borderlands, and historical memory.--Western Historical Quarterly

Deploys deep historical and ethnographic detail to show how braceros defied their social invisibility.--Reviews in American History