Bracero Program forum highlights Hispanic Heritage Month at CSUMB

September 13, 2023

By Mark Muckenfuss

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Friday, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The commemoration is highlighted this year at CSU Monterey Bay by a presentation by Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez, a historian with the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at Stanford University. 

Rodriguez, a former CSUMB lecturer, will be on campus Sept. 28 as part of a panel discussion, along with panel host Luis “Xago” Juarez and several local elected leaders, to reflect upon the history of often-overlooked farm labor populations in the tri-county area.

Rodriguez has been recognized for his work on Mexican-American history, particularly the Bracero program, a guest worker program that ran from 1942 to 1964. More than 2 million workers participated in the program. 

“When you think of the Monterey Bay area, many of the immigrants have connections with the former guest workers,” Rodriguez said. “These are workers that not only saved the agricultural industry [when there was a domestic worker shortage], but transformed it into the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.”

Yet, he said, many who live in the tri-county region are unaware of this impact on local history. 

”It’s hardly taught,” Rodriguez said. “I think Hispanic Heritage Month is a reminder of how important it is to teach this history and that these contributions to the United States were very important.”

Juarez said it’s good to tie that history to the everyday benefits residents enjoy. 

“It is important not only to recognize the history, but to ensure the conversation and the efforts to improve conditions for workers, their families and the economies of communities built around this industry. The Salinas Valley agricultural industry has been built off the invaluable labor required to keep the healthiest foods on our tables.”

The event, from 5-7:30 p.m. in the main ballroom of the Otter Student Union, is sponsored by the College of Health Sciences and Human Services as part of its Diversity Celebration Series.