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.
Published:Seattle :University of Washington Press,
Publisher:Seattle : University of Washington Press, 
Includes bibliographical references (pages 225-230) and index.
Labor and the railroad industry before World War II -- The Great Depression, deportations, and recovery -- We will need the Mexicans back -- Railroad track workers needed; where are the domestic laborers? -- Bracero railroaders, "soldiers of democracy" -- Contractual promises to keep -- The perils of being a bracero -- The deception further exposed -- Split families: repercussions at home and away -- Victory and going home -- Forgotten railroad soldiers -- Epilogue.