This book investigates the history of the Salinas Valley to show how agriculture-centered environments and economies affected the politicization of U.S.-born and immigrant Mexicans in twentieth-century California. Located in Monterey County on California's central coast, the Salinas Valley occupied a central place in debates over agribusiness, labor, and immigration policy during the 1960s. Today, the valley's multibillion-dollar agricultural industry, and U.S. agriculture more generally, remains heavily dependent on Latino (mostly Mexican immigrant) labor. This book argues that the Salinas Valley, as an agricultural empire, was a microcosm of key transitions and moments in America's labor, immigration, and Latino history. It examines how Mexican Americans navigated their social place and political identity in an increasingly corporatized agricultural setting, especially in the face of a large influx of Mexican guestworkers brought by the government-sponsored Bracero Program (1942–1964). It also considers how people “became Mexican American” and articulated that identity in agricultural settings, as well as how these Mexican Americans then became Chicanos. Finally, it traces the Chicano Movement's evolution in California.
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