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Volume 23 Issue 2 (August 2011), Pages 229-489

Breaking the Silence: Mexican Children and Women's Confrontation of  Bracero  Family Separation, 1942–64 (pages 382-400)

On 6 August 1942, the Mexican and US governments’ recruitment of Mexican men into the temporary contract labour programme known as the Bracero Program initiated a process that would deteriorate Mexican children and women's personal wellbeing and relationships to each other. The Bracero Program left children to endure the absence of their bracero fathers, while married women and caretakers transitioned into single motherhood under conditions and terms that drove an uncalculated number of these women into undocumented migration to the United States. Separation from their mothers further devastated children. The silence concerning the programme and the whereabouts and intentions of their immigrant parents alienated children from the mothers and caretakers left to care for them. Hence, mothers, caretakers and teachers came together to listen and talk to their children and each other about the dangerous realities of the programme in order to overcome the alienating silence driving them apart within the borders of Mexico. Using archival sources and the oral life‐histories of fifty Mexican children and women who endured the programme's separation of their families in San Martin de Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, I argue that the anxiety and loss of Mexican children and women inspired mothers, caretakers and teachers to transition into instilling a gendered and transnational understanding of the dangers of the programme to their children and among themselves to prevent the onset of permanent alienation from each other.

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