PHOENIX, Arizona — Flowers in hand, day or night, visitors have been coming to the little house of Catalino Díaz Villa‘s widow to pay their respects after his death. Some never met him, but to them he is a brother. They share a common bond: they all were farmworkers in the American countryside as part of the Bracero Program over 50 years ago.
Díaz Villa, 84, died in a traffic accident when a vehicle struck him while crossing the street. It was the Fourth of July, but he was working as usual. He made a living by selling cans and metal scraps he picked up on the streets of central Phoenix.
He was part of a generation of aging braceros struggling to survive without a pension, hoping to win a fight to recover wages withheld from them decades ago as part of a controversial guest-worker program between Mexico and the U.S. The money that was supposed to be given to the workers to encourage them to return to their country was instead kept by Mexico.