Hungers Inside: Bracero and Puerto Rican Guestworkers Food Protests in the U.S.

While, to some, food may seem trivial in a wider landscape of rights violations, workers believed it integral to their protests about their various restrictions and deprivations. They wanted to have, in the hours they were not working, something that tasted familiar and comforting and which gave their lives sense and dimension in an otherwise alienating situation.

Lecture Description

This lecture takes a particular angle on the Bracero Program with Mexico and Farm Labor Program with Puerto Rico by examining these guestworkers’ food-related protests while working. What types of nourishment, and deprivation, did they encounter during their time as laboring allies and “guests” of the United States? To alleviate homesickness, depression, and actual hunger, these workers assertively voiced their right to nutritionally and culturally nourishing food, both during the World War II years and after. These collective protests took place on a variety of levels—workers walked off their jobs, filed complaints against companies and supervisors, wrote letters to Mexican consulates and Puerto Rican bureaucrats, and proposed specific changes to their labor camp cooks, kitchens, and meal routines. Interestingly, their food-related demands were placed squarely alongside grievances about wage theft, substandard housing, and disproportionate arrests by police, communicating how equally important these issues were to them.

CATEGORIES

Food Migration/Migrant

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