Braceros’ Struggle Continues

By Isaac Beachy

This past Monday a multi-cultural crowd gathered at Goshen College to listen to an 89 year old worker from Tlaxcala, Mexico. Don Felipe Muños came to spread the word about the struggle of 5,000 workers organized in Mexico to retrieve their promised wages.

Over fifty years ago, Don Felipe worked in the United States as a part of the Braceros guest worker program. As a part of this program, the U.S. Government withheld 10% of the Bracero’s wages for a retirement fund to encourage them to return to Mexico. At one point the U.S. Government sent some of the funds to the Mexican government. This past Monday however, Don Felipe reported that none of the retirement funds made it to the Braceros and instead were lost to U.S. Bankers and Mexican government officials.

Don Felipe Muños told the story of how he and other ex-Braceros began to organize in 2000 in Mexico to demand the full payment of their wages. In response to their struggle, the Mexican government has offered a settlement of 36,000 pesos or about $3,500 to ex-Braceros. Some braceors accepted this deal, as they are of old age, and cannot travel to other states. But they were tricked, and once they signed the receipts were taken away along with their contracts, never receiving any money.

Don Felipe spoke of the struggle the ex-Braceros faced even while trying to gather simple information. Wells Fargo Bank currently has access to the list of all the workers who went through the Bracero program. Don Felipe and the other ex-Braceros have been refused access to this list by Wells Fargo. The ex-Braceros have also had the Mexican archives closed to them after doing research on the location of their lost funds.

 

Don Felipe Muños was the main speaker on the Mexico Solidarity Network’s two week speaking tour through the midwest titled “Examining Immigration Policy History: The Bracero Guest Worker Program.” Goshen was Don Felipe’s sixth speaking stop of ten. The evening was sponsored by Goshen College Sociology and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies departments, Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, Goshen College Latino Student Union, and SweatFree Communities. For more information about the ex-Bracero’s and their campaign contact Eva Nagao at laureneva@mexicosolidarity.org.

L to R., Odelet Nance, Director of Multicultural of Goshen College, Felipe Muñoz guest speaker from the Bracero Guest Worker Program, Rebecca Hernandez, director of the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, her department, the sociology department and the peace, justice and conflict studies department sponsored the program, Hector Varela, Goshen College student who along with Isaac Beachy organized the event.

Photo by Axel Hernández