When I was a little girl, I loved to listen to my Dad tell stories about his life´s adventures. He was such a big, strong, hard working man. We had ten children in our family and with our mom, our family made an even dozen. Dad worked three jobs to support us. He loved life. He was strong, handsome and very protective of all of his family.
He often told us that during the Depression, he was hired by the state of Michigan to bring up Mexican farm workers from Texas and Mexico to the Michigan farm fields. He also served as interpreter for the state and farm owners and protector of the migrant workers. In the 1940´s, he started working in the Auto factories and he worked as a house painter. He also kept his interpreter job, sometimes going to city or state offices to interpret for the workers.
As a little girl until I was twelve years old, every summer, we worked as migrant workers picking Cherries. Dad wanted to instill in us a good work ethic. We also had an opportunity to interact with the workers and understand their perspectives. They greatly appreciated the support my Dad provided.
Over the last few years, I have been writing a book about my family history. I´ve been conducting research for several years. This year, I have come across some significant findings which really (for lack of a better term) “blew my mind.”
The first mind-blower was finding out that my Dad did in fact work for and was contracted by the Governor´s office, but also for the Farm Bureaus. Documentation I found detailed how the Farm Bureaus were highly influenced (run) by the Sugar Beet Corporations. The reason these corporations were so interested in bringing Migrant workers up to Michigan was because they were trying to “break” the Farm Unions.
The farm unions were primarily comprised of Eastern and Southern European immigrant workers. The Corporations did not want to pay the wages or the benefits including tenant land ownership, the unions were demanding. They, instead, wanted the Mexican American and Mexican workers because, in their view, they were “hard working, easy to control, low pay and they left after each crop season.”
They were able to achieve their union busting goals by instituting this version of the Bracero program and by the exclusionary Immigration Act of 1924. The Corporation´s behaviors had been continuing through the twenties, thirties and forties, when my Dad came into the picture.
Finding this out, I was still proud of my Dad´s achievements, and of the workers´work ethic, but I was very disappointed in the employers and the government.
The second mind-blower was visiting the area where my great grandfather owned his ranch in SouthEast Texas. My dad often told us stories about his grandfather and how he received this grant and how it was later lost. There are several articles in the Handbook of Texas OnLine that details how American ranchers unscrupulously stole away the lands from the Texas American Citizens who were granted their property as American Citizens during the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
I visited this area last week only to find conditions the same. They are highly segregated in that area. Even the cemeteries are labeled as “White” and “Mexican” cemeteries. Not American, but White. I asked someone at the local gas station “Why?” He shrugged his shoulders and responded, “That´s the way it is and will always be I guess.”
I was flabbergasted.
It is no wonder we have the immigration issues we have today. History has brought us here.