Stephen Pitti: Immigration – What’s Love Got to Do With It?

August 6, 2013

As the Southern California harvest season came to a close in 1946, a young Mexican immigrant named Robert García paid tribute to the young women he had seen in the nearby town of Cucamonga:

Your beautiful women like flowers
are just like the women of my people
they show their love
and deserve respect on the street and at home

His verse, published by a local Spanish-language newspaper, provided readers a rare glimpse into the emotional world of the thousands of imported laborers who had worked in local fields since the first months of World War II. Mexican “braceros” were much talked about but little understood in the United States of the 1940s. They had been celebrated for saving the crops and assuring an Allied victory prior to V-J Day, extolled for their efficiency and commitment to their jobs, and sometimes praised for showing remarkable, “natural” skills as farm laborers. But in the face of such rhetoric Robert García wrote about other matters: love, emotional attachment, and longing. In so doing he opened up a window into the dreams of migrants and immigrants that policymakers then and now have often preferred to keep shuttered.

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