Written by Becky Tyner Sandoval Latinos doing Vino in the USA..where it began To understand the contribution and history of Latinos in the American wine industry, we have to go back to the great depression. It was perhaps one of the most frightening times to be an American. Unlike many stock market crashes that only seem to affect the stock holders and make no difference to the average joe, this depression made the rich poor and the poor even poorer. These situations always bring out the best and the worst out of people and nations. On one hand people learn to help one another out, they learn about mercy and kindness, but on the other they always look for a scapegoat. During this time Mexicans became part of the scapegoat. The USA began pressuring Mexicans to return to Mexico so that Americans could have the jobs previously performed by Mexicans. This was fine for the Americans until WWII, when the vast majority of the labor force left the work force to join the military. When this happened the USA was faced with a major labor shortage. It was during this time that many women entered the work force for first time. Women such as my grandmother went to work in the factories in Detroit. And while the women did all they could to help out, there was still a major shortage of labor in agriculture. The solution to this problem became known as the Los Braceros program. In 1942 President Roosevelt met with Mexican President Camacho to hammer out a deal that would create a guest worker program. The very first Braceros to come to the USA via Los Braceros went to work in the sugar beet fields near Stockton. When the war was over the agriculture business insisted they still had a labor shortage. (many Americans never returned home from WWII and those that did often had missing limbs and major injuries that prevented them from working) . They persuaded the US government to keep the Los Braceros program in place until 1968. During that time over 5 million Mexicans entered the USA via the Los Braceros program. Many of them were able to gain legal residency and later citizenship because of this program, and this is how today we are enjoying some wonderful Latino made wine in the USA. Some of the most well known Latino vintners can trace their roots to the Los Braceros program: Ceja, Robledo, and Encanto to name a few. Their fathers and grandfathers came here to work the fields, and in the case of Ceja and Robledo, ended up owning many of them! One of our favorite wines is the Los Braceros red blend created by Robledo. It’s a Cab, Merlot ,and Syrah blend..a beautiful expression of how grapes that aren’t from the same place can still come together to make something approachable, delicious, and better, which in many ways, is the true result of the Los Braceros program! Becky Tyner Sandoval Co Founder of www.VinoLatinoWineClub.com has spent most of her life in Napa, CA. She has worked in the wine industry for 15 years. Credit: B&W photos from Wikipedia
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