We Are Left without a Father Here is a transnational history of working people's struggles and a gendered analysis of populism and colonialism in mid-twentieth-century Puerto Rico. At its core are the thousands of agricultural workers who, at the behest of the Puerto Rican government, migrated to Michigan in 1950 to work in the state's sugar beet fields. The men expected to earn enough income to finally become successful breadwinners and fathers. To their dismay, the men encountered abysmal working conditions and pay. The migrant workers in Michigan and their wives in Puerto Rico soon exploded in protest. Chronicling the protests, the surprising alliances that they created, and the Puerto Rican government's response, Eileen J. Suárez Findlay explains that notions of fatherhood and domesticity were central to Puerto Rican populist politics. Patriarchal ideals shaped citizens' understandings of themselves, their relationship to Puerto Rican leaders and the state, as well as the meanings they ascribed to U.S. colonialism. Findlay argues that the motivations and strategies for transnational labor migrations, colonial policies, and worker solidarities are all deeply gendered.
Introduction. Bregando the Sugar Beet Fields 1
1. Family and Fatherhood in "a New Era for All": Populist Politics and Reformed Colonialism 25
2. Building Homes, Domesticity Dreams, and the Drive to Modernity 59
3. Removing "Excess Population": Redirecting the Great Migration 90
4. Arriving in Michigan: The Collapse of the Dream 118
5. The Brega Expands 148
Conclusion. Persistent Bregas 173
"In this fascinating study, Eileen J. Suárez Findlay reinterprets Puerto Rican history in the mid-twentieth century by placing labor migration, populist politics, and gender at the heart of her narrative. Thousands of Puerto Rican migrant workers, seeking modernity and an escape from the harsh colonialism on their home island, journeyed to sugar beet fields in Michigan. There they found exploitation harsher than they had known. Findlay eloquently explores their travels and travails and shows how they reshaped both U.S. colonialism and Puerto Rican populism."
Julie Greene, author of
The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal
"Eileen J. Suárez Findlay's new work illuminates a forgotten chapter of Puerto Rican history—the 1950 'Operation Farmlift,' which ended in protests by migrant workers in Michigan's sugar beet fields. Findlay's analysis is meticulously documented, imaginative, and insightful. It is also sensitive to the multiple intersections among gender, race, and class in postwar Puerto Rican economic development, colonial reforms, and mass migration. I learned much from reading this admirable book."
Jorge Duany, author of
Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States
“A most excellent gendered history of Puerto Rican political and labor history, this book will be required reading for Latin Americanists and labor historians. Essential. All levels/libraries.”
B. A. Lucero
"Suárez Findlay has managed to weave a transnational history in which the diaspora and the island are equally important for understanding the Puerto Rican experience.... While remaining accessible to undergraduate students, this work is aimed at labor and gender specialists."
Hispanic American Historical Review
"We Are Left without a Father Here offers an important contribution to the scholarship on gender, populism, colonial economic development and politics, and migration in the post–World War II era.... This story is a significant one that encapsulates far-reaching and multifaceted implications in an accessible and engaging prose. This book deserves a broad readership."
Carmen Teresa Whalen
American Historical Review
"For scholars of Latina/o history – Puerto Rican history and Puerto Rican diasporas in particular – this study produces a set of powerful arguments with which to investigate the histories of migrants and migration policy from the perspective of the countries of origin and destination.... Above all, the strength of the study lies in its use of gender criticism to interrogate grand narratives such as modernism and colonialism and to produce new connections between the micro and the macro."
Gender & History
"This book can be used as a reference or complementary text for a college and graduate level course. It is a valuable source for any course on American, Caribbean, Latino, and Latin American studies, and any other related fields."
Canadian Journal of History
"What [Findlay] has unearthed is rich, painful to read, but highly recommended to anyone wishing to understand the present moment of colonial crisis."
Maura I. Toro-Morn
"Adding a gender dimension is an important contribution to the scholarship of Puerto Rico, which has largely understood populism and migration within the frames of colonialism, development, and transnationalism. . . . Scholars of labor and state formation will find this book an excellent analysis of the significance of patriarchy in the politics of migration and populism."
Ismael García Colón
New West Indian Guide