Migrant Workers in the 1930s‚Äč
"The migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabbling to live, looked always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they were hungry for amusement." -  The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 23
"The migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabbling to live, looked always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they were hungry for amusement." - The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 23



For many the 1930s were a time of sadness. The Great Depression left a heavy mark on the country. Many people remained unemployeed for years and thousands became homeless every year. Migrant workers, who led nomadic lifestyles traveling from place to place as the seasons changed were common across the US particularly in the Midwest where most of the farming occurred.

external image gd44.gif

After the dust bowl hit and farmer's crops wouldn't grow all of them started heading torwards California. The highway all theses families took was U.S. Highway 66 -- also known as "Route 66," "The Mother Road," "The Main Street of America," and "Will Rogers Highway" -- abetted the westward flight of the migrants. A trip of such length was not undertaken lightly in this pre-interstate era, and Highway 66 provided a direct route from the Dust Bowl region to an area just south of the Central Valley of California.




external image 3_2_main_c.jpgIn this photograph, a family gathers outside their "home" in California, a typical shack in a camp of Mexican and Mexican American migrant farm workers during the 1930s' Great Depression. The walls and roofs of the shack are patched together from different materials, reminiscent of the quote above. Migrant farm workers of all races lived in temporary camps like this as they moved from farm to farm to follow the seasonal work.
Mexican and Mexican American migrant farm workers expected conditions like those pictured here as they sought farm work in California and other states in the early 1900s. At that time, the Mexican Revolution and the series of Mexican civil wars that followed pushed many Mexicans to flee to the United States. Many U.S. farm owners recruited Mexicans and Mexican Americans because they believed that these desperate workers would tolerate living conditions that workers of other races would not.
Mexican and Mexican American workers often earned more in the United States than they could in Mexico's civil war economy, although California farmers paid Mexican and Mexican American workers significantly less than white American workers. By the 1920s, at least three quarters of California's 200,000 farm workers were Mexican or Mexican American.