Napa Valley College offering
course on Napa's Bracero history
Napa Valley College students will research the history of the Braceros in Napa County in a new semester course being offered this spring.
Napa Community History (History 200) will have students study the Bracero Program and its legacy in the Napa Valley.
"Students will study a historical topic significant to the Napa Valley, do original research and produce a final paper based on their own research, including an oral history interview," said Dr. Jim McGowan, who will teach the course.
The Bracero Program was a series of formal agreements between the U.S. and Mexican governments that contracted Mexican men to work in the U.S. during and after World War II. The war caused a severe labor shortage in agriculture as most local young men became involved in military service or found higher paying jobs in war-related industries.
The first contingent of 78 Mexican laborers to work the harvest in Napa Valley arrived by train to Sacramento and by bus to the Valley in May 1943. This was made possible by the Napa Valley Farm Labor Association and the Farm Security Administration. At the peak of the 1943 harvest, 700 Braceros were employed on Napa Valley farms.
Braceros were paid 60 cents per hour, plus free housing. The average workday was 10 hours.
Braceros played a key role in California agriculture, as their experiences and legacies shaped the state's history and culture.
"History 200 will include learning about the importance of Bracero workers in Napa agriculture, the methodologies of historical research, guest speakers, field trips to museums and archives, original research and oral history interviews with community members," said McGowan.
Student work will contribute to a Napa Valley Museum exhibit scheduled for Sept 2 through Nov. 12, 2017, titled "The Bracero Legacy in Napa."
The new course will be taught from 1:30 to 4:20 p.m. Thursdays. Registration is available through the Napa Valley College website, www.napavalley.edu.