Nevada The Bracero Program
When World War II created a labor shortage in the United States, the federal government signed an agreement in 1942 with the Mexican government that came to be known as the Bracero program, whereby Mexico would provide workers for U.S. farms and railroads. Both Nevada’s railroads and its agribusiness benefited from this program. The Southern Pacific railroad contracted for large numbers of Mexican nationals to work its northern lines, as did the Union Pacific in the South.
Braceros were also contracted to work on farms and ranches in and around the Nevada towns of Elko, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, Pioche, Caliente, Moapa, and Las Vegas, which boosted the state’s agricultural industry. The first major wave of Mexican migrant labor occurred during the mid-1950s. Nevada’s farmers, in desperate need of workers, turned to the federally organized Bracero program. During that time the most dependable source of farm labor in Nevada were Mexican nationals, who usually returned to Mexico at the end of the growing season. Mexican Americans were also part of the farm labor force. Many Mexican farmworkers came to Nevada’s Moapa Valley for the spring harvest, stayed three to four months, and then moved on at the end of May to harvest or weed crops in other states, depending on the growing seasons.
In the late 1950s the U.S. population of Moapa Valley numbered 500; the seasonal Mexican migrant laborers in the valley numbered between 1,500 and 2,000. Today there are several Mexican families living in the valley whose older members originally came to the area in the 1950s as migrant farmworkers. In 1964 the Bracero program was allowed to expire because of intense opposition from U.S. organized labor.
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