Monument recalls the legacy of Mexican braceros, the "soldiers of the groove"



The American troops that fought in World War II fed on vegetables and fruits harvested by Mexican peasants in the United States, a sweaty mission that since this Sunday is recognized with the Bracero Monument in Los Angeles (California).

The term "Bracero" in Mexican caló refers to the person who works with his arms and thus the Mexican Field Workers Program was known in the United States, for which between 1942 and 1964 more than 4.5 million Mexicans they emigrated to the north country to work in agriculture and mining, among others.

The start of the program was due to the shortage of labor due to the recruitment of men to fight in World War II (1939-1945), and therefore the then US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt ( 1933-1945), he called them the "Soldiers of the Groove."

That contribution is honored today with a three-piece sculpture in wrought bronze, with an internal steel structure, which represents a farmer with a hat and hoe in hand with his wife and a son, as well as symbolic elements of the program as a peak, a train wheel and a cross, among others.

"The monument is a symbol that will unite our entire race, all our working people," said 66-year-old leader of the Binational Union of Exbraceros and promoter of the work, to Efe Baldomero Capiz.

Capiz says that he identifies in the sculpture with the boy sitting on the mother's legs, because he was a minor when his father, already deceased, joined the program.

"They contributed greatly to feed the United States Army, which was in World War II to overcome the fascism of Europe and Asia," Capiz said.

The 5.79-meter-high monument, the work of Californian sculptor Daniel Medina, is part of the square "The corner of immigrants", which is located in downtown Los Angeles and also opens this Sunday, with the presence of Councilor for José Huizar.

"When I heard about the project I thought it was a great opportunity to make a statement as an artist," Medina told Efe, who explained that "in today's world, immigrants are given an image that indicates they are worthless."

The sculptor, winner of the call made for this work, is the author of the monument in honor of Mexican singer-songwriter Antonio Aguilar, portrayed on horseback in the well-known Plaza Olvera, two blocks from where the Bracero Monument now stands.

"It is an opportunity to open a dialogue and then maybe people realize that part of the people who built this country are immigrants, whether legal or illegal," said Medina.

Councilor Huizar told Efe that his "determined support" for the project of the square and the monument, which meant an investment of $ 250,000 from the municipal coffers, was motivated in part because his father, Simón Huizar, and his uncles were braceros and they told him "the difficulties they endured."

"It is a token of appreciation," but also "in a broader sense, the Bracero Monument is a tribute to every immigrant," said the councilman from District 14, where Los Angeles sits.

He added that because of its historical component, they decided to erect the work near ("across the street") from where the town of Los Angeles was founded in the 18th century.

"Immigrants are our core, our heart and inspiration," said Huizar, alluding to the background of the sculpture.

Capiz said the Bracero program ended in the 1960s due to complaints about a series of human rights violations against these workers.

"Since they arrived they were stripped to spray them with pesticides from head to toe," said the bracero leader, who said that because of "that poison powder many developed respiratory problems and died."

"The abuse was constant, they did not provide water for drinking and many fainted from the heat," he lamented.

In turn, to the braceros the Mexican government "stole 10% of their salaries", which were withheld "as savings" that never returned to them and which are now grounds for legal demands, recalled the leader.

It was on September 29, 1942 when they arrived in Calexico (California), the first 3,000 braceros who helped "develop the most powerful agriculture in the world," Capiz said, and therefore the date chosen for the inauguration of the monument.

Iván Mejía

. (tagsToTranslate) Monument (t) remember (t) braceros (t) Mexicans (t) soldiers



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