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Fronteras: ‘These stories are part of our collective identity’ — Socorro’s Rio Vista Farm is a time capsule to bracero history

In 1942, the United States and Mexico entered an agreement to address the labor shortages caused by World War II.

The Bracero Program brought more than five million Mexican workers to legally work in the U.S., primarily in low-paying, agricultural jobs.

Starting in 1951, the Rio Vista Farm in the far West Texas city of Socorro served as a key processing site for braceros. Adobe structures on the site served as eating and sleeping quarters and an infirmary.

By the time the Bracero Program ended in 1964, almost 900,000 workers passed through the site.

The City of Socorro and other organizations have worked to recognize the unique history of Rio Vista — the last remaining facility associated with the Bracero Program.

It received a National Historic Landmark designation in December 2023, and recently unveiled the first bilingual marker in the program’s history.

Sehila Mota Casper, executive director of Latinos in Heritage Conservation, and Victor Reta, Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Socorro, have championed Rio Vista’s preservation.

Mota Casper said the site serves as a time capsule.

“You really step in there and visualize and see exactly what the braceros went through from one point to the next point,” she said. “They would get X-rays; their hands would be looked at to see if they were calloused … they would get DDT’d and deloused because they were seen as some type of animal.”

Reta said Rio Vista offers an opportunity to commemorate this pivotal — and often forgotten — portion of American history.

“The stories of the Bracero Program are crucial for understanding our shared American history and the genesis and challenges today faced by modern Latino communities,” he said. “These stories are still a part of our collective identity, and they still have lessons to teach us.”

The Rio Vista Farm National Historic Landmark wants to continue to collect and preserve stories from the Bracero Program.

Email vreta@costx.us to learn how to submit photos, artifacts, oral testimonies, and financial donations for a planned Bracero History Museum.

View Rio Vista’s National Historic Landmark designation ceremony below:

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1