“The Braceros and the Rubber Soldiers: A History of labor and power in the Americas”

Fri, March 15, 2024, 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Dr. Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez (Stanford University), Wolney Oliveira (Federal University of Ceará/ Brazil)

“The Braceros and the Rubber Soldiers” is an exhibition of historical photographs that juxtaposes the histories of two of the most important joint governmental programs between the U.S., Brazil and Mexico during the Second World War. The WW2 Emergency Farm Labor Program, popularly known as the Bracero Program, operated between 1942 and 1964, bringing Mexican guest workers to the U.S., who were then assigned as agricultural laborers. Concurrently in South America, in 1943, the Special Service Mobilizing Workers to the Amazon (SEMTA) enlisted a cheap labor force from the impoverished Brazilian Northeast region, transforming them into Rubber Soldiers. These individuals journeyed north to extract latex from seringueira trees in the Amazon rainforest, contributing significantly to the production of rubber exported to the Allies during the war. The exhibition, comprised of 15 pairs of historical images, provides a visual narrative depicting daily life within recruitment centers and lodging facilities in Mexico, the U.S., and Brazil. The show uses the lens of the built environment to untangle complex themes such as race and racialization and its connections to labor and migration patterns, and the power and influence of international politics in the construct of modern – and contemporary– planning in Latin America. 


Special thank you/gracias/obrigada to our co-sponsors and partners:

Department of Architecture, UC Berkeley

The Joan E. Draper Architectural History Research Endowment 

Townsend Center for the Humanities 

Berkeley Food Institute

Chicanx Latinx Studies Program UC Berkeley

Global Metropolitan Studies UC Berkeley

Center for Race and Gender UC Berkeley

Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies UC Berkeley

Department of Spanish & Portuguese

Latin American Cities Working Group