Puerto Rican Migrant Farmworkers in the United States and the Farm Labor Program of the Government of Puerto Rico

Ismael Garcia-Colon, City University of New York, CSI and Graduate Center

This paper examines the long history of the administrative and legislative attempts by the government of Puerto Rico to manage farm labor migration to reveal how U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico and the political economy of U.S. agriculture intersected with projects of citizenship and guest work. The author argues that self-rule within the United States provided the government of Puerto Rico with the resources and legal framework to lobby U.S. federal officials and shape U.S. policies of immigration. Migrant farmworkers’ experiences and the Puerto Rican government’s attempts to manage those experiences reveal what is new about modern colonialism: that colonial entities have more agency than was previously assumed, even though that agency is limited by the unequal power relationship between metropolis and colony. The Puerto Rico Farm Labor Program (1947-1993) placed workers in more than 400,000 farm jobs, indirectly fostering the migration of thousands of non-contract workers and the emergence of many stateside Puerto Rican communities. The U.S. federal government used Puerto Rico as a laboratory and example for policies of development, including population control through migration. This research contributes to an understanding of migration from the intersection of the government of Puerto Rico’s development policies with the U.S. federal government’s efforts at regulating the labor market during the Cold War.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 210. Labor Migration and Technologies of Management