Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 is a bilingual, traveling poster exhibit exploring the roots of Mexican migrant labor to the United States, and toured across the state from the Fall of 2013 through 2015. The posters were drawn from an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that examined the experiences of bracero workers and their families, providing rich insight into Mexican American history and historical background to today’s debates on guest worker programs.
Started in 1942 as a temporary war measure to address labor needs in agriculture and the railroads, the bracero program eventually become the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. Small farmers, large growers, and farm associations in 28 states, including Tennessee, hired Mexican braceros to provide manpower during peak harvest and cultivation times. By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded.
Nonprofit organizations in Tennessee hosted Bittersweet Harvest for a period of four to six weeks. Along with the exhibit, host organizations received a bilingual, scholar-facilitated program, "Life on the Fence: A Long View of Guest Worker Programs," as well as opportunities for additional programming funded by Humanities Tennessee.
The exhibit was hosted at the following locations:
- November 4- December 21, 2013 - Tom & OE Stigall Museum, Humboldt
- January 6-March 14, 2014 - Casa Azafran, Nashville
- April 1-April 25, 2014 - Hola Hora Latina, Knoxville
- May 1-30, 2014 - Heritage Center of Murfreesboro & Rutherford County
- October 1-November 12, 2014 - Beech River Cultural Center, Lexington
- February 23-March 31, 2015 - Kingston Public Library
- April 17-May 31, 2015 - Rose Center, Morristown
- June 5-July 19, 2015 - Greeneville Greene County History Museum
- August 2-30, 2015 - Arts in McNairy, Selmer
- October 12-November 23, 2015 - John Early Museum Magnet Middle School, Nashville