The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942–1964” is on display at Northwestern University beginning February 15 and will be the centerpiece of a series of events that will take place across campus related to Latin American immigration to the United States.

Initiated in August 1942, the Bracero Program grew out of a series of agreements between the United States and Mexico that allowed tens of thousands of Mexicans to work as temporary contract laborers in the United States to fill labor deficiencies in agriculture and railroad work. By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded. The Bracero Program is considered “bittersweet” because of its history of both exploitation and opportunity.

The opening ceremony of the exhibit and a conversation with former bracero workers will take place at 6 p.m. February 20 at the Dittmar Gallery, the location of “Bittersweet Harvest,” on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Running through March 28, “Bittersweet Harvest” includes 15 freestanding, illustrated banners in a bilingual exhibition that combines recent scholarship, powerful photographs from the Smithsonian’s collection and audio excerpts by former bracero workers.

Related events on the Evanston campus will include conversations with former braceros currently living in the Chicago area, public lectures, a film series and dance performances.

Northwestern’s Latina and Latino Studies program chose to showcase “Bittersweet Harvest” to begin a conversation in Evanston and Chicago about the past and present of Latin American immigration to the United States.


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