Millions of Mexican workers came to this country during World War II to help fill the labor shortage caused as men went off to fight, a shortage that could not be filled entirely by men and women left behind.

A Smithsonian Institute exhibit on a program that helped fill the U.S. labor gap during World War II by using Mexican workers will be the "thematic centerpiece" of University of the Pacific's 2013 Latino Heritage Month going on now through Oct. 19.

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Pacific News

Pacific celebrates Latino heritage

‘Bracero’ exhibit from the Smitsonian Museum of American History will be the 'thematic centerpiece' for Pacific's celebration that runs through Oct. 19
Sep 27, 2013

A Smithsonian Institute exhibit on a program that helped fill the U.S. labor gap during World War II by using Mexican workers will be the "thematic centerpiece" of University of the Pacific's 2013 Latino Heritage Month going on now through Oct. 19.

"It's very moving to have the Smithsonian's 'Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1962' coming to Pacific," said Susan Giraldez, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature and director of the Latin American Studies program at the University.

"Few people know that the Bracero program began in the sugar beet fields in Stockton and later spread across the country," Giraldez said. "We are privileged to include local bracero artifacts in the exhibit thanks to our local community and to one of our students whose grandfather was a bracero. This exhibit is very close to our hearts."

Millions of Mexican workers came to this country during World War II to help fill the labor shortage caused as men went off to fight, a shortage that could not be filled entirely by men and women left behind. The program began as a temporary war measure to address labor needs in agriculture and the railroads, and ended up becoming the largest guest worker program in the United States. It remained in place until 1964. Ten percent of their earnings were withheld until their return to Mexico. Field working braceros have yet to collect that compensation, which with accumulated interest now stands at an estimated $500 million.

"Small farmers, large growers, and farm associations in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and 23 other states hired Mexican braceros to provide manpower during peak harvest and cultivation times," reads a portion of the Smithsonian's "Bittersweet Harvest" webpage. "By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded."

The exhibit will be on display Sept. 20 to Oct. 18 at Reynolds Gallery. The public is invited to an opening reception 4-6 p.m. Sept. 27. An exhibit by Enrique Chagoya that opened Aug. 27 and runs to Sept. 20 at Reynolds Gallery is another highlight of Pacific's Latino Heritage Month. The work of Chagoya, a professor at Stanford University's Department of Art and Art History, is shown widely; pieces are in the collections of the National Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and others.

Chagoya's art integrates diverse elements from pre-Columbian mythology, Western religious iconography and American popular culture.

Pacific's Latino Heritage Month celebration concludes with a night featuring a folk music performance by Los Tres Músicos at 7-10 p.m. Oct. 12 at Bechtel International Center. The performance will begin with songs popularized in the United States by the braceros and move onto the diverse music of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Spain and beyond.

All three of the major events are sponsored by the University of the Pacific Arts and Lectures Committee.

Other activities during Pacific's annual celebration of Latino heritage will include art, music, a ballet folklórico performance, Latino Alumni Association visits during Homecoming weekend, and more.

Latino Heritage Month 2013 Events

Aug. 27-Sept. 20: "Enrique Chagoya: Escape from Fantasylandia," Reynolds Gallery, 1071 W. Mendocino Ave.

Sept. 12: Latino Heritage Month Kickoff Lunch, President's Room, Anderson Hall, noon-1 p.m.

Sept. 13: Enrique Chagoya's 6 p.m. lecture at Biological Sciences Building, Room 101, 3401 Kensington Way. Reception will follow at 7 p.m., Reynolds Gallery, 1071 W. Mendocino Ave.

Sept. 16: Mexico Independence Day, noon-1 p.m., Don and Karen DeRosa University Center

Sept. 17: "Latino American" documentary, 8 p.m., Bechtel International Center

Sept. 19: "The Garden," 7 p.m., Janet Leigh Theatre

Sept. 24-Oct. 24: "Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964," Reynolds Gallery, 1071 W. Mendocino Ave.

Sept. 27: "Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964" reception, 4-6 p.m., Reynolds Gallery, 1071 W. Mendocino Ave.

Sept. 28: Ballet folklorico, 7 p.m., Faye Spanos Concert Hall ($10 adult; $5 with student ID; free for children 10 and younger)

Oct. 1: "Latino American" documentary, 8 p.m., Bechtel International Center

Oct. 12: Los Tres Musicos, 8 p.m., Bechtel International Center

Oct. 17: "Braceros, Wetbacks & Women in The Braceros Era" Lecture by Mary Mendoza from U.C. Davis, 4 p.m. Reynolds Gallery

Oct. 18-20: Homecoming and Alumni Weekend

The events are sponsored by the University of the Pacific Arts and Lecture Committee, School of International Studies, Latino Community Outreach, Latin American/U.S. Latino Studies Program, Department of Modern Languages and Literature, Visual Arts Department, Ethnic Studies, Multicultural Center, Ballet Folklorico de Zapata, Mariachi Cesar Chavez, Los Danzantes de Pacific, MECha de Pacific, Pacific LULAC, Gamma Alpha Omega, Omega Delta Phi, and Los Embajadores.

Call 209.946.7705 for more information.

About University of the Pacific
Established in 1851 as the first university in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton campus offers more than 80 undergraduate majors in arts and sciences, music, business, education, engineering and computer science, and pharmacy, and health sciences. The university's distinctive Northern California footprint also includes the acclaimed Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco and the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. For more information, visit www.pacific.edu.

Media contact:
Keith Michaud
209.946.3275 (Office)
209.470.3206 (Mobile)
kmichaud@pacific.edu