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NMSU to host lecture by visiting scholar on bracero program and connections to food

Juan Manuel Mendoza, a researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa and visiting scholar at New Mexico State University’s Center for Latin American and Border Studies, will speak about the history of the bracero program in Southern New Mexico and West Texas Thursday at NMSU.

The lecture, titled “Locating Food and Foodways in the Bracero History of Southern New Mexico and West Texas, 1942-1964,” will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday at Nason House, 1070 University Ave. The talk is free and open to the public. Mendoza is also available to meet with the NMSU and Las Cruces communities who are interested in his research on the bracero program from the point of view of food, said Iñigo Garcia-Bryce, director of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies and an associate history professor at NMSU.

“Historians and social scientists agree that the food of Mexican workers who arrived in the United States under the so-called Bracero Program from 1942 to 1964 was one of the most important and controversial topics for braceros,” Garcia-Bryce said. “The food impacted their decisions to migrate, to stay, or return to their country of origin.”

Garcia-Bryce said the program was also a source of diplomatic dispute between the signatory countries of the program, Mexico and the United States.

“It also fueled American sectors opposed to this massive Mexican immigration. Southern New Mexico and West Texas was an area of intense immigration of Mexican laborers,” Garcia-Bryce said. “Unlike places like California, the diet of laborers in this area was affected by the proximity to the Mexican border, by the smaller farm lots in comparison to those of California and by the presence of employers of Mexican origin. Although bracero food in this area was influenced by national guidelines, the factors described above gave eating habits a particular dynamic that combined disadvantages, such as low wages and vulnerability in hiring, with the ability to cook for themselves and have Mexico a few kilometers away.”

For more information, contact the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at 575-646-6817 or 575-646-6814.