Bracero Burning: Towards an Ecology of Integrated Human Systems of Fire

Authors: Dennis Best*, University of California - Berkeley Press
Topics: Economic Geography, Food Systems, Land Use
Keywords: Economic Geography, Fire Ecology, Migration, Agriculture, Food Systems
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This work examines fire geographies in a narrative of “Bracero Burning” to illuminate environmental legacies, with emphasis on the mid 20th century in North America, and in particular, the Bracero Program 1942-1964. Examination of this program and subsequent periods of labor and land-use across California’s fire prone ecosystem and beyond, seeks to fill the void of knowledge and practice left behind by "missing persons" in an investigation of an Ecology of Integrated Human Systems that examines contemporary dialogues and future policy at the nexus of a range of trophic systems and fire ecologies. During World War II, with wartime labor shortages, large growers across California and Western States developed The Bracero Program, or Mexican Farm Labor Agreement. The multi-objective program aimed to support food security and American agriculturalists, large growers and ranchers by filling labor gaps left by enlisted servicemen. Following Pearl Harbor, Mexican officials promoted the program to support the war and provide economic development and international cash transfers to rural communities in Mexico. The labor program led to a northern mass migration of Mexican campesinos and their families - and a decoupling from their lands of origination, traditional agriculture, and indigenous land management practices - to work in agriculture, ranches and domestic services in the American Southwest and beyond. This paper examines the agricultural and cultural fire legacies of North America and asks the question - What is the enduring impact and legacy of the Bracero Program to the Fire Ecology of North American Landscapes?

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