Ex-Braceros visit Georgetown students, speak about immigrant rights

_DSC0038In an event hosted last night by the Kalmanovitz Initiative, ex-braceros and those affected by the movement shared their stories with the Georgetown community. The night included the screening of a documentary that details the movement, The Harvest of Loneliness, followed by a panel discussion.

The event was aimed at informing audience members—who ranged from Mexican immigrants to professors and undergraduate students—about the exploitation of Mexican farmers in the form of the Bracero Program. The American government implemented the program in 1942 to compensate for lack of labor during war time. It was later revealed that the braceros worked under brutal conditions and did not receive all the money promised to them by the American government.

The night quickly turned into a dialogue between those who had a story to share and those who were to eager to know more, partially because technical difficulties prevented the full screening of the documentary. Four people sat on a platform at the front of the room: two ex-braceros, a widow, and a daughter. All four people were connected to the movement in some way and suffered greatly from its consequences.

Jose Madrid (COL ‘13), whose grandfather was a bracero, translated the stories from Spanish to English though most audience members spoke Spanish and all questions were asked in the presenters’ native language. The panel discussion highlighted a sad and often overlooked time in our country’s history. It also invited discussion on current immigration policies and concluded with a consensus that reform is necessary.

Citlalli Alvarez (COL ‘16), president of Hoyas for Immigration Rights, explained the impact she hopes this event has on our community. “I hope they [Georgetown community members] are also able to draw parallels to current struggles, and sense the urgency for immigration reform,” she said.

But not every moment was serious. Outbursts of laughter in response to a joke made by an ex-bracero, usually at the expense of the American or Mexican government, lightened the overall tone of the event. The night ended in a Spanish song sung in unison by the supporters of the movement. One of the leaders of the group that hopes to raise awareness on immigrant and labor rights left Georgetown students with the following message: “You are going to be able to dictate the future of the migrant community.”

Photo: Georgetown Voice

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