• It's Official! Rio Vista Farm is a National Historic Landmark!

    December 19, 2023

    Elevation view of one of the historic adobe buildings used during the 1935 Transient Labor Camp era.

    photo by: Robert R. Arzola, Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) Architect

    On December 13th, 2023, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland officially designated the Rio Vista Bracero Reception Center in Socorro, Texas, as a National Historic Landmark. This designation comes after a multi-year effort to seek designation as well as support preservation and promotion efforts at the site. The Rio Vista Farm first came to the National Trust’s attention when it was identified during a 2015 National Trust internship to identify nationally significant Latine historic sites. The Rio Vista Farm complex is significant for its association with the Bracero Program that brought skilled Mexican workers to the United States during and after World War II.

    The National Trust’s years-long involvement with Rio Vista Farm has included assistance to document, designate, preserve and promote this important place. The National Trust helped secure funding for architectural studies and critical stabilization work for five key buildings as well as providing ongoing preservation advice and assistance. The National Trust’s assistance positioned the City of Socorro to receive a $750,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for the creation of a Bracero Museum at the site.

    The National Trust also helped to draw attention to the long-overlooked history of braceros, sponsoring a Bracero Summit in El Paso in 2017 that attracted more than 300 participants and resulted in the creation of theVoices from the Border: The Bracero Legacy video about bracero history through UTEP’s Institute of Oral History. The National Trust also created a Rio Vista Farm Guidebook in 2020 to help visitors understand the significance and use of buildings in the complex.

    Securing National Historic Landmark designation for the Rio Vista Farm has been a long process with the National Trust involved at every stage of the game. The National Trust helped to secure funding to hire expert consultants to prepare the nomination, and assisted the City of Socorro in the consultant selection and oversight process. While many National Trust staff were engaged in this effort, a huge thank you goes to Sehila Mota Casper, the National Trust’s intern in 2015 and staff member from 2016 to 2021. Sehila, who currently serves as the first executive director of Latinos in Heritage Conservation noted, “Being part of the National Trust team that led the efforts to designate Rio Vista Farm as a National Historic Landmark has been a long and profound journey. Collaborating with our exceptional and expert team, we worked tirelessly to preserve Rio Vista and promote the rich history of the Bracero Program. This designation is not just a recognition of the past, but a commitment to ensuring that the stories and contributions of the braceros are honored and remembered for generations to come. It's a privilege to have played a role in this important chapter of American history.”

    Congratulations to everyone who helped to make this important National Historic Landmark designation possible.

  • Rio Vista Clears Important Hurdle in Quest for National Historic Landmark Designation

    November 22, 2021

    The National Historic Landmark nomination for the Rio Vista Bracero Reception Center in Socorro, Texas was approved by the National Historic Landmarks Committee in late October. This significant Latinx site, the National Trust’s first Latinx National Treasure campaign, is the most intact extant bracero reception center remaining the U.S. Braceros were Mexican workers who secured labor contracts for agricultural work in the US under a bi-national program in the mid 20th century. Several National Trust staff testified in support of the nomination. The next step in the designation process will be review by the National Park Service Advisory Board in early 2022.

    Rio Vista was one of only seven locations in the US that served as bracero reception centers during the Mexican Farm Labor Program (1951-1964). This program was a bi-national effort between the U.S. and Mexican governments to bring skilled Mexican guest workers to the US, and it was the single largest temporary alien worker program ever undertaken in this country. The program was part of an effort to address critical farm labor shortages across America during and after World War II.

    The program had significant impacts on labor history with braceros comprising almost a quarter of agricultural workers in America by 1959. The bracero program stimulated migration between Mexico and America by introducing Mexican citizens to life in America. While the program provided a reliable source of highly skilled farmworkers who worked for relatively low wages, the program drew criticism because of the impacts on domestic farmworkers and because of exploitation of many braceros.

    The National Trust has been closely involved with the Rio Vista since 2015 when we conducted a national search for significant Latinx sites. A key objective of the Trust’s advocacy was to secure a National Historic Landmark designation for Rio Vista, and the National Trust played a key role in securing funds and assisting the City of Socorro to select and work with its contractor to complete the nomination. After five years of hard work and intensive research led by Front Range Research Associates, a highly respected preservation consulting firm, and guidance from a University of Texas at El Paso Latina scholar, Dr. Yolanda Leyva, the National Historic Landmark nomination has been completed and is moving through the National Park Service’s review and approval process.

    The addition of Rio Vista to the list of National Historic Landmarks will help the National Register of Historic Places in telling the full American story, providing long overdue recognition of a nationally significant site that has been too long overlooked and underappreciated. The City of Socorro, the owner and steward of this property, has made a tremendous investment in stabilizing and rehabilitating this important landmark for future generations. If approved as a National Historic Landmark, this recognition will be extremely beneficial as revitalization and interpretation efforts continue in the years to come.

  • Raising a flag over bracero soil

    March 9, 2018

    As of today, visible from the El Paso–Juárez horizon, a new flag stands as a marker for Rio Vista Farm, the last known standing bracero (Mexican guest-worker) processing site.

    Now on view through May 31, 2018, Unearthed: Desenterrado is the latest outdoor, site-specific installation by Texas-based artist Adriana Corral. Unearthed: Desenterrado is produced by Black Cube, a nomadic contemporary art museum, based in Denver, Colorado, and curated by Cortney Lane Stell.

    The solitary 60-foot flagpole hoists an enormous white, cotton flag that speaks to the deeply rooted history between the U.S. and Mexico—embroidered on one side by an illustration of a “Mexican” golden eagle and, on the other, an “American” bald eagle. During the three-month installation, the flag will become tattered and worn from its exposure to the elements. After its display in Socorro, Texas, Corral’s flag will be exhibited in museums and cultural institutions across the country.

    In a recent interview with Hyperallergic, Corral describes her approach:

    I’ve always had an interest in human rights, architecture and the type of facilities that housed people, humane or not. This project emphasizes the importance of recognizing and confronting the absences within our American history.

    The time I spent at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien residency in Germany exposed me to the complexities of history. When I saw the dilapidated buildings at Rio Vista they were hauntingly similar to the concentration camps.

    The decision to produce a flag from white cotton corresponds to its location. The Rio Vista Farm resides in the center of a cotton field. Mexican labors have been, and continue to be, a part of the very fabric of this country, along with others unrecognized. And the flagpole is located at the same place where welcome flags once stood.

    In recent years, a resurgence of interest in the U.S. government’s Bracero Program, in effect from 1942–1964, has resulted in new analysis, discourse, cultural practice, and heritage work surrounding the program. Following the National Trust’s Bracero History Summit onsite last year, this contemporary artwork marks another step towards raising awareness of the complex bracero experience at Rio Vista Farm—a place where close to 80,000 Mexican guest-workers annually were met with medical and psychological examinations, stripped of their clothing and fumigated with DDT before being bused across the U.S. to be hired as farmworkers in any one of the dozens of participating states.

  • Rio Vista Farm Announced as National Treasure

    September 19, 2016

    Rio Vista Farm on  Announcement Day

    On Saturday, Rio Vista Farm in Socorro, Texas (just outside El Paso) was announced as our newest National Treasure as a prelude to the Chile War Festival.

    Local news coverage of the announcement emphasized re-use of the site to meet community needs:

    There are ideas floating around on how Rio Vista Farm could be used in the future. Some want a library, while others want recreational space. The NTHP wants to work with the community to better gauge of what's wanted.

    "The overall aim of our project and involvement is to help save the site," said Sehila Mota Casper, a field officer for the NTHP. "We want to envision a place that the community wants to come and use."

    Read more about the announcement — and check out a photo gallery — via the El Paso Times: Socorro's Rio Vista Farm named National Treasure.

    More stories about the announcement:

    El Paso Inc: Rio Vista Farm declared a ‘National Treasure’
    EL Paso Herald-Post: Socorro’s Rio Vista Farm named National Treasure

    Además, varios medios en español también cubrieron el anuncio:

    El Diario de El Paso: Designan tesoro nacional a histórica Granja Río Vista
    Agencia EFE: Sitio para braceros mexicanos es designado tesoro nacional
    Notimex: Tesoro Nacional sitio que albergó a campesinos mexicanos en EUA

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