Bracero Railroaders

The Forgotten World War II Story of Mexican Workers in the U.S. West

Erasmo Gamboa

  • Published: 2016. Paperback October 2018
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Latino/a Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 248 pp., 13 bandw illus., 1 table, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Desperate for laborers to keep the trains moving during World War II, the U.S. and Mexican governments created a now mostly forgotten bracero railroad program that sent a hundred thousand Mexican workers across the border to build and maintain railroad lines throughout the United States, particularly the West. Although both governments promised the workers adequate living arrangements and fair working conditions, most bracero railroaders lived in squalor, worked dangerous jobs, and were subject to harsh racial discrimination.

Making matters worse, the governments held a percentage of the workers' earnings in a savings and retirement program that supposedly would await the men on their return to Mexico. However, rampant corruption within both the railroad companies and the Mexican banks meant that most workers were unable to collect what was rightfully theirs.

Historian Erasmo Gamboa recounts the difficult conditions, systemic racism, and decades-long quest for justice these men faced. The result is a pathbreaking examination that deepens our understanding of Mexican American, immigration, and labor histories in the twentieth-century U.S. West.
Erasmo Gamboa is professor of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Mexican Labor and World War II: Braceros in the Pacific Northwest, 1942-1947.

"Bracero Railroaders documents a hidden dimension of the World War II bracero program and details the experiences of the bracero railroad workers and the difficult conditions under which they worked. It documents an important part of World War II and Mexican immigration history."
-Lynn Stephen, author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon

"Gamboa captures the rigors and limited opportunities of the bracero railroad workers in the Pacific Northwest. Bracero Railroaders is an invigorating treatment of a displaced generation of Mexican men who cannot remain in the margins."
-Ana Elizabeth Rosas, author of Abrazando el Espíritu: Bracero Families Confront the US-Mexico Border

Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations

1. Labor and the Railroad Industry before World War II
2. The Great Depression, Deportations, and Recovery
3. We Will Need the Mexicans Back
4. Railroad Track Workers Needed;
Where Are the Domestic Laborers?
5. Bracero Railroaders, "Soldiers of Democracy"
6. Contractual Promises to Keep
7. The Perils of Being a Bracero
8. The Deception Further Exposed
9. Split Families: Repercussions at Home and Away
10. Victory and Going Home
11. Forgotten Railroad Soldiers

Illustrations follow page