The Origin Of Migrant Farmworkers Essay

2604 words - 10 pages

The Mexican Migrant Farm Workers’ community formed in Southern California in the 20th century because of two factors that came together: farming emphasized by migrations like the Okie farmers from the East and Mexicans “imported” to the U.S. because of the need for cheap labor as a replacement of Americans during World War II. The migrant labor group formed after an already similar group in the U.S had been established in California, the American farm workers from the East, known as the Okies. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s caused the movement of the Okies to the West and was followed by the transition from American dominant farm labor to Mexican migrant labor. The Okies reinforced farming in California through the skills they took with them, significant to the time period that Mexicans arrived to California in greater numbers. However, the community was heightened by World War II from 1939 to 1945, which brought in immigrants to replace Americans that left to fight in the battlefields. Robin A. Fanslow, archivist at the Library of Congress, argues that because of World War II, “those who were left behind took advantage of the job opportunities that had become available in [the] West Coast” (Fanslow). Although some Mexican migrants already lived in the U.S prior to this event, a vast majority arrived at the fields of California specifically to work as farmers through the Bracero Program, created because of the Second World War. Why the Second World War and not the First World War? WWII urgently demanded labor and Mexico was the United States’ closest resource. Although WWI also caused the U.S. to have a shortage of labor; at the time, other minorities dominated, like the Chinese and Japanese.
The Dust Bowl contributed to one of the factors that led to the coming of this community, farming. Having to abandon their farms and damaged lands in Oklahoma, the so called “Okies” migrated to California in search of a new home. Thousands of families journeyed to California, settling in San Joaquin Valley. From 1930 to 1936, the Dust Bowl caused damages in agriculture in the Central Valleys all the way to the East Coast of the U.S. At the time, the majority of the farmers were from Oklahoma, in other words, they were American. Although most of the farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl were U.S born, some were Mexican-Americans living in Texas, Arizona and the states closer to the border (Gregory). However, this event did not fully give rise to the Mexican Migrant Farm Workers’ community. It was instead, the beginnings of successful farm labor in the valleys of California, which transformed California’s view towards farming. California seemed perfect, the climate was good for a diversity of crops and it promised a lot to the desolated farmers from the East. Why was this significant to the formation of the Mexican Migrant community? In other words, if the Dust Bowl would not have happened, then farm labor would have not been as significant in California as it is....

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