How Texas treated the Braceros?

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For many years, the Mexican Government refused to allow the recruitment of braceros for the state of Texas due to the systematic discrimination of the migrant agricultural workers of Mexican origin. Despite their valuable contribution to the economy of the state, the farm laborers faced abuses and a very infamous treatment by the Texans.

50 years ago, professor Pauline R. Kibbe wrote the following:

This is an average picture of what happened in 1944. On one Saturday afternoon in October of that year, 496 migratory labor trucks were counted on the streets of Lubbock, the "capital" of the cotton-raising Plains area. Lubbock is a city of between 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. Each truck carried an average fifteen migrants, of all ages, which meant an estimated total of 7,440 migrants who had come to Lubbock to spend the weekend, seek new opportunities for employment, purchase their groceries and other supplies for the following week, and find a little recreation.

Large crews have been known to spend as much as $100.00 in one day, just in the purchase of groceries, during the peak of the season. But to make a very conservative estimate, let us suppose that each of the 496 crews in Lubbock that weekend spent an average of $25.00. That is a total of $12,400.00 income to business places of all kinds in one weekend.

Yet Lubbock has made no provision whatever for taking care of this influx of people, which occurs regularly every fall, and every weekend during each fall. There was no place where they might park their trucks, take a bath, change their clothes, even go to the toilet.

Migrants in truck...Conditions in towns throughout that section of the State were, in 1944, more or less the same as in Lubbock. In some places they were even worse. In Lamesa it was stated in the meeting that toilet facilities in the City Hall, which the migrants could use more conveniently, were locked up at noon on Saturdays, and filling station facilities were used except where the owners prohibited it because of the objections of costumers. As a result, the migrants were forced to disregard the lack of toilet facilities, and an epidemic of dysentery, which originated among them, spread through the entire town of Lamesa and into the schools.

As a natural consequence, the laborers came into the nearest town on Saturday, after picking cotton all week, and without having had access to bathing facilities. Their appearance and hygienic condition were as unattractive as would be those of any other group of people going through a similar experience. There being no facilities available to them in the towns, they remained in a state of uncleanliness, and were refused entrance into or service in public places of business and amusement, such as cafes, barbershops, and in some instances theaters. Some of the larger towns, however, have theaters in the "Mexican" section of town, where Spanish-dialogue films are exhibited...

As an instance of how conditions in the towns affect the maximum utilization of labor, we may consider the story of a Migratory Field Man who was stationed in Hockley County during the 1944 crop season. A certain farmer in the county, who lived near the town of Ropesville, was badly in need of a large crew of pickers. The farmer got into contact with the Field Man, and late one evening the agent took a crew leader and two or three laborers out to the farm from Levelland, the county seat. They found a good crop of cotton, acceptable housing, agreed on a price, and promised to come out from Levelland to work the next day.

On the return trip, passing through Ropesville, the agent and the laborers stopped at the only cafe in town that was open. It was about eight o'clock on a cold night, and they wanted a cup of coffee. There was no one else in the cafe. The owner came up to them and said: "What do you want?" The Field Man responded: "I want a cup of coffee. I don't know what the other boys want. They may want sandwiches." The owner said: "I don't serve Mexicans." To which the agent replied: "Well, now, these boys are out here to help the farmers harvest their crops. They have just agreed to come out tomorrow to work for Mr. Blank. I don't see anything so elegant about your cafe, and I don't see why you can't serve us a cup of coffee." The owner stated flatly: "I'll serve you, but I don't serve Mexicans." "No," the agent replied, "you can't serve me either," and they walked out.

Latin Americans in Texas, by Pauline R. Kibbe, the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1946.


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