Documentary "Harvest of Loneliness" Reveals The True Bracero Story
More than 2 million workers were contracted from Mexico to work in the U.S. during the 22 years the Bracero Program was in place. “Harvest of Loneliness” reveals the abuse workers faced during their contracts and touches on various issues such as workers and human rights violations.
The film is powerful as the viewer is taken through a journey of personal stories of the bracero experience filled with suffering and fear.
It zooms in on a generation of men, now in their mid-70s and 80s. Many felt obligated to come work in the U.S. because the means for survival in Mexico was sparse during the World War II era.
“I came here twice and both times were difficult,” one said in Spanish.
“I became a bracero because I needed to help at home. I needed to help my parents and siblings. There were times we had nothing to eat. I’d look at my mom and she’d cry,” said Alfredo Gutierrez, as he fought to hold back his tears.
Sometimes braceros would only be paid $3 dollars a day. In some states, they would be paid $6-7 a week. In the labor camps where many braceros lived, they would have to pay to sleep in a cardboard box.
“They would have to pay for everything,” said Henry Anderson, author of “The Bracero Program in California.”
“I barely made it through with my bracero money,” said Jose Hernandez, a former bracero, as he spoke about surviving on his earnings.
In addition to the inferior living conditions, the film looks at the violation of workers rights. When workers injured themselves, American authorities would send them back to Mexico and never report the injuries—even though these workers were on contract. There was also no life insurance policy for braceros while working under a contract. When a bracero died on the job, his family received no compensation.
Braceros were also denied the right to join a union to improve these conditions.
The film visually explains the bracero dream: to send money back to their native land of Mexico, buy land and use the new farming techniques they learned in the U.S. to make a living. Unfortunately, this dream was unattainable for the majority of braceros who went back.
The hour-long film archived 2,400 photos from various sources including the Smithsonian Museum and the families of braceros. It won the Cine Latino Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.
"Harvest of Loneliness" uncovers the hidden aspects of the Bracero Program by using personal stories of braceros and their families, historians and academic experts to convey the flaws within guest worker programs and how they affect those on both sides of the border.
Reach reporter GinaLisa here.