Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA

Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA

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By Ronald L. Mize and Alicia C.S. Swords
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2010
World Rights
304 Pages
ISBN 9781442601574
Published Oct 2010
Online discount: 15%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442604094
Published Oct 2010
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Mexican migration to the United States and Canada is a highly contentious issue in the eyes of many North Americans, and every generation seems to construct the northward flow of labor as a brand new social problem. The history of Mexican labor migration to the United States, from the Bracero Program (1942-1964) to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), suggests that Mexicans have been actively encouraged to migrate northward when labor markets are in short supply, only to be turned back during economic downturns. In this timely book, Mize and Swords dissect the social relations that define how corporations, consumers, and states involve Mexican immigrant laborers in the politics of production and consumption. The result is a comprehensive and contemporary look at the increasingly important role that Mexican immigrants play in the North American economy.

Ronald L. Mize is Associate Professor in the School of Language, Culture, and Society at Oregon State University. He is the author of over 40 publications, including Latino Immigrants in the United States (Polity Press, 2011).

Alicia C.S. Swords is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ithaca College. She is a Fulbright scholar whose research and teaching is engaged with grassroots organizations working for social justice and to end poverty, locally, nationally, and internationally.
List of Tables

List of Acronyms




Part I: Establishing Connections

1. The Bracero Program, 1942-1964

2. Operation Wetback, 1954

Part II: Mounting Resistance

3. Farmworker Civil Rights Movement / El Movimiento Campesino

4. Organized Labor and Mexican Labor Organization

5. Backlash and Retrenchment (1980s-1990s)

Part III: Regions

6. Mexican Labor in Aztlán

7. Mexican Labor in the Heartland

8. Mexican Labor in the Hinterlands

9. Mexican Labor en la Frontera

10. Mexican Labor in Mexico: The Impact of NAFTA from Chiapas to Turismo

11. Mexican Labor in Canada: From Temporary Workers to Precarious Labor





In the dismal shadow of Arizona and idiot nativism, this wonderful book reminds us of who turns the wheels of the North American economy and how their empowerment might save us all.

Mike Davis, author of No One Is Illegal and In Praise of Barbarians

In this stunning, authoritatively researched book, Mize and Swords move beyond the typical binaries and inspire readers' heads and hearts with a persuasive vision of transformational politics that empowers people. Reaching deep into the history of how we got into such perilous trouble and going far beyond throwing more money at the border, temporary worker programs, and increased criminalization strategies, Mize and Swords offer a brilliant, practical, and wholly attainable way forward. This book is a must-read for anyone serious about fixing the immigration crisis.

Ashley Judd, actor, advocate, Harvard MPA, '10

Consuming Mexican Labor ranges across regions and decades to reveal patterns that do not emerge from more narrow temporal and spatial approaches. By exposing the previously occluded connection between increasing consumer demand for goods and services and the exploitation of immigrant labor, Mize and Swords help us see how racist beliefs and actions concern interests, attitudes, and property as well as pigment, power, and prejudice.

George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness

Ronald Mize and Alicia Swords have penned a tour de force of Mexican labour, capitalism and consumers, marshalling an impressive array of evidence drawn from a variety of bibliographic and archival resources and spiced with data from interviews and personal experiences. [...] This is a wonderful contribution to the literature, an excellent combination of historical and sociological analysis that includes a perceptive and challenging political assessment of immigrant exploitation, struggles and resistances, and how and why Mexican immigrants can play key roles in bringing about more just societies in North America. I recommend it highly.

Leigh Binford, Journal of Latin American Studies

The real strength of this work, constituting over half of the book, is the attention given to the growing dispersal of Mexican laborers in the last few decades from the American West to the Midwest "heartland" (Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, and so on), the hinterlands of the Northeast (especially non-metropolitan New York), the Northwest, and, most importantly, the South, where the greatest demographic changes have taken place.

Pacific Historical Review

Consuming Mexican Labor is a well-researched, clearly written, insightful analysis of the relations between labour migration from Mexico and mass consumption in the US and, to a lesser extent, Canada.

Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies

Mize and Swords survey the range of solutions that academic experts and social activists have proposed over the decades, and use this historical framework to present their explanation of contemporary problems. The authors structure their book to give a thoughtful presentation for scholars and other specialists and also for readers who are seeking an introductory text.

John A. Britton, The History Teacher

Consuming Mexican Labor is a vigorous and refreshing attempt to bring labor migration back in to the study of contemporary social change.

Contemporary Sociology