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In 1942 the United States initiated a temporary war measure to address labor needs in agriculture and the railroads. The bracero program, derived from brazo, the Spanish word for “arm,” became the largest guest worker program in U.S. history, bringing in an estimated 4.6 million contracts for Mexican braceros until the program’s cancellation in 1964.
Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942–1964, a bilingual exhibition, examines the experiences of bracero workers and their families. Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, this exhibit brings together recent scholarship, powerful photography, and audio excerpts of oral histories to tell a story of Mexican American history and provide a historical background to issues still facing us today.