This past June, I walked across the stage in front of thousands of students and family members to receive my bachelor’s degree from UCLA. There was a sea of black robes behind and in front of me, and as I set my feet on the stage and saw the crowd, I felt a rush of excitement. With the diploma in my hand, I felt the weightlessness of unlimited opportunity. Yet I knew that I didn’t get here alone. Two generations before me struggled to give me this chance.
Sitting in the living room at home in Santa Ana, Calif., my grandfather rocks back and forth as he tells me about his life as a Mexican bracero. Braceros were contract seasonal agricultural laborers who were part of a program between Mexico and the United States that lasted from 1944 to 1962 to help meet the U.S. needs for manual labor.