I will be reviewing Jeffrey Marcos Garcilazo, Traqueros: Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2012). It will appear in the Western Historical Quarterly, the preeminent journal in American history on the western historical experience. When in graduate school at Saint Louis University, my dissertation advisor, Fredrick J. Dobney, suggested I pursue an original study of the bracero programme. I was unaware of this and remember asking Dr. Dobney: “Can I be me? Will the subject matter allow me to pursue my ethical mission?” He said, “Sure, I think this will be very much to your liking.”
Well he was right. I published my dissertation, Anglo Over Bracero and several scholarly articles on the topic. I was probably the first scholar to publish on the guest-worker railroad bracero programme that was established during the genocidal Second World War: not the great war, or the good war or the just war, but an atomic genocidal war with conventional genocidal strategic bombing. While most of my research was on farm labour, one of the book’s chapters and a separate journal article was on railroad labour. I gave talks and papers in Mexico and in the US on the topic and loved it. Yet due to my Anglo background, I began to feel perhaps a certain limitation in maintaining interest in Mexican immigration matters.
I continued to do work on the war but the Atomic Bomb was my focus. It has remained so but I have kept reasonably current on Mexican-labour history and noted that my original work is still widely cited in the literature. This is not so much a testimony to the quality of my work but the unremitting, unwavering interest in Mexico and its expatriate population in the US. Not much has changed since the war. A poor nation next to a rich nation will send its poor for work in the more developed land. It just has to be that way. Employers in the rich nation will always seek to “outsource” its labour either ABROAD to the textile death camps in Bangladesh or bring the labour here. Mexico is here: in fact we stole 50% of it in the invasion and conquest of the country in the Mexican War (1846-1848).
So when I was contacted by the Western Historical Quarterly, which is published at Utah State University, I was very pleased to once again have the opportunity to weigh in as a historian on the topic of Mexican-migrant labour: traqueros (railroad workers in Spanglish) on the railroad. We shall see when it appears but probably not for awhile.