Food, Immigration, and Labor
Historian, Curator, and Author
Mireya Loza is an award winning historian and curator whose areas of research include Latinx History, Labor History and Food Studies. Her book, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual and Political Freedom (UNC Press), examines the Bracero Program and how guest workers negotiated the intricacies of indigeneity, intimacy, and transnational organizing. She is currently carrying out research for her second book project tentatively titled, The Strangeness and Bitterness of Plenty: Making Food and Seeing Race in the Agricultural West, 1942-1965.
Her first book won the 2017 Theodore Saloutos Book Prize awarded by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize. She was also named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the Mexico-North Research Network, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown University she was an Assistant Professor of Food Studies at New York University and a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History (NMAH). She continues to curate and collaborate on projects at the NMAH.
She regularly delivers lectures and keynotes on Food and Immigration, Agricultural Labor, and Latinx History. She also carries out workshops on Oral History Methods and Public History Techniques.
She earned her doctorate in American Studies and an M.A. in Public Humanities at Brown University. In addition, she holds an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana she designed her own major and became the first student to major in Latina/o Studies.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHING LATINX HISTORY
I love teaching Latinx Labor and Civil Rights History, highlighting stories about labor organizers and workers in our food system. Here are some of my favorite...
Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom
2016 Theodore Saloutos Book Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society
2017 Smithsonian Secretary's Research Prize, Smithsonian Institution
In this book, Mireya Loza sheds new light on the private lives of migrant men who participated in the Bracero Program (1942–1964), a binational agreement between the United States and Mexico that allowed hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to enter this country on temporary work permits. While this program and the issue of temporary workers has long been politicized on both sides of the border, Loza argues that the prevailing romanticized image of braceros as a family-oriented, productive, legal workforce has obscured the real, diverse experiences of the workers themselves. Focusing on underexplored aspects of workers’ lives--such as their transnational union-organizing efforts, the sexual economies of both hetero and queer workers, and the ethno-racial boundaries among Mexican indigenous braceros--Loza reveals how these men defied perceived political, sexual, and racial norms.
Basing her work on an archive of more than 800 oral histories from the United States and Mexico, Loza is the first scholar to carefully differentiate between the experiences of mestizo guest workers and the many Mixtec, Zapotec, Purhepecha, and Mayan laborers. In doing so, she captures the myriad ways these defiant workers responded to the intense discrimination and exploitation of an unjust system that still persists today.
BRACERO HISTORY ARCHIVE
Mireya Loza is a public historian who contributed oral histories, trained communities, and helped amass over 800 oral histories with bracero communities featured in the Bracero History Archive.
Supplemental materials including oral histories and doucments, for Defiant Braceros can be found in the Bracero History Archive. Below is a sampling.
IN THE MEDIA
May 17, 2019
July 25, 2018
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY
November 17, 2017
"The Worker's Turkey," O’ Say Can You See Blog, National Museum of American History
September 6, 2017
Web Interview, “These Intimate Photos Chronicle the Mexican Worker Program that Help Feed and Build America,” by Ryan Seibel
UNC PRESS BLOG
April 5, 2017
"100 Years of Mexican Guest Workers in the United States," Immigration Roundtable
NEW BOOKS NETWORK
September 7, 2016
Podcast Interview, "Defiant Braceros," hosted by Lori Flores
December 3, 2015
Lectures in History, "20th Century Latino Labor Movements: The Bracero Program," Series in the classroom
November 18, 2016
Web Interview, “Smithsonian Scholar Examines Legacy of the US-Mexico Bracero Program,” by Blake Thorkenson.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY
November 14, 2016
Podcast Interview, Al Cine Vámos - Braceros, by Mayela Caro
SELECT ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS
“The Japanese Agricultural Workers’ Program: Race, Labor, and Cold War Diplomacy in the Fields, 1956-1965.” Pacific Historical Review Vol. 86, No. 4.
*Winner of the Vicki L. Ruiz Award for the best article on Race in the North American West, Western History Association, 2018.
"From Ephemeral to Enduring: The Politics of Recording and Exhibiting Bracero Memory." The Public Historian, Vol. 38, No. 2: 23-41.
“Unionizing the Impossible: Ernesto Galarza and Alianzade Braceros Confront PL78.” In special issue co-edited with Bill Johnson-González. Diálogo 19, no. 2.
“Alianza de Braceros Nacionales de Mexico en los Estados Unidos, 1943-1964.” In ¿Que Fronteras?: Mexican Braceros and a Re-examination of the Legacy of Migration, ed. Paul Lopez (Dubuque: Kendall Hunt Publishing).