Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire is the first comprehensive look at the experiences of Puerto Rican migrant workers in continental U.S. agriculture in the twentieth century. Ismael García-Colón investigates the origins and development of the Farm Labor Program, which was established by the government of Puerto Rico in 1947. This program placed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers on U.S. farms and fostered the emergence of many stateside Puerto Rican communities.
Colonial Migrants is both a labor history and an ethnography of the experience of migrant farmworkers in U.S. rural communities. It evokes the violence, fieldwork, food, lodging, surveillance, and coercion that Puerto Ricans experienced on farms as well as their hopes and struggles to overcome poverty. One of the first books to explore the particular prejudice and racism faced by island farmworkers as they interacted with U.S. rural communities, it reveals the dual status of Puerto Ricans as both U.S. citizens and as racialized “foreign others,” and shows how immigration policies shaped their migration. Despite these challenges, many Puerto Rican farmworkers ultimately stayed in these communities and contributed to the production of food, the Latinization of the U.S. farm labor force, and demographic and ethnic changes in rural America.