Building Home

Labor Homogeneity from the Bracero Program to H2a Visa

audio visual installation, carpet, couch, glass table, curtains, 7:54 min looping, tv, family photos, faux apples, faux grapes, glass  bowl, faux roses,
side table, ceramic vase, doilies, hats, coat hanger, La Raza newspaper article print, UFW handkerchief, 2023
Photos by Amina Cruz

The four oldest son’s of my maternal great-grandfather, including my grandpa, Pedro Aguiñiga, were in the Bracero Program. My paternal grandfather, Ramon Aguila was in the Bracero Program and worked in the railroad. They traveled back and forth between the US and Mexico working in various jobs from building the railroad to picking melons in the agricultural sector. Despite the hardship they were able to build generational wealth by building their family homes or starting small businesses.

Through the memory of my family's bloodline my intention with the installation is to connect the past and present. The installation simulates my deceased grandfather's red living room in El Capulin, Michoacán, Mexico to thread the narrative of the commonality between the current H2a visa and the Bracero program. In the living room there is a video on a TV playing an interview of my cousin, who speaks about his experience of having a H2a visa so he can work seasonally picking apples in Washington State. The installation also centers the support that organizers and activists like my uncle Jorge Campos Aguiñiga and Cesar Chavez did in order to help the conditions of the work environment of the laborers. Using found objects, video and photographs I will demonstrate the ways in which the Bracero Program was the foundation model for the H2a visa, meaning the dependency on migrant labor is still very prominent in the US economy. Questions about how the dependency of laborers from Mexico has changed or how it has not changed in present time arise.

Family photographs, article of Boston “Grape” Party, and clips of Cesar Chavez speech at the Civil Rights Awareness Week 92 courtesy of Tio Jorge Campos Aguiñiga