LABOR BEND RISE:
Monument to Braceros
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Client: LA Department of Cultural Affairs
4.5 million Mexican nationals were legally contracted to work in the U.S. from 1942 to 1964 under the Mexican Farm Labor Program. These men are known as braceros. The finalist design proposal honors these men by "reframing" and "reclaiming" familiar symbols. When people walk through the new plaza, they will first see a big, golden-colored boulder. Etched on to the stone are the impressions of two hands. The backside contains a concave shape that recalls the shape of the short-handled hoe, "el cortito". People will want to sit in this concavity, but in order to do so, they will have to bend their back and lower their head. In doing so, they will hopefully feel what it was like for the braceros to work the fields in this position for hours on end. A cruel tool is reclaimed into a symbol of endurance and strength. Surrounding the boulder are benches that recall old agricultural crates. Fruit crate labels were once used to advertise the California as an Eden-like land of golden landscapes and rich bounties. The labels in this case, however, will show the everyday lives and work of the braceros and their families through historical photographs and quotes of bilingual oral histories.
Artwork of hand courtesy of Nguyen Ly