Preservation Magazine, Summer 2017

Revisiting the Little-Known History of Rio Vista Farm

Rio Vista, Texas

photo by: Kip Malone

In 1942, the United States reached an agreement with Mexico to establish the Bracero Program, which brought Mexican workers known as braceros (“strong arms”) into the U.S. on a temporary basis to ameliorate domestic farm-labor shortages. Of the five processing centers created over the duration of program, Rio Vista Farm in Socorro, Texas, is likely the last one that remains.


Originally a 14-acre farm built in 1915 to shelter El Paso County’s indigents and orphans, Rio Vista Farm becomes a processing center for more than 80,000 braceros per year. Once they enter the country, Mexican laborers endure invasive examinations and DDT fumigation at these centers while they await their labor contracts.


Labor unionization, increased focus on protecting U.S. workers, the Civil Rights and Farmworker movements, and the mechanization of farm equipment lead to the end of the Bracero Program. Rio Vista Farm closes as a processing center soon after, and over the next few decades, many of its buildings fall into disrepair.


The National Trust declares Rio Vista Farm a National Treasure, helping pave the way for preserving 15 Mission Revival adobe buildings, one wooden structure, one cinderblock bathroom, and one Quonset hut, all on the north side of the complex.


In January, funding from the National Park Service allows the National Trust and the city of Socorro to begin the nomination of Rio Vista Farm as a National Historic Landmark.

In September, the National Trust will host the inaugural Bracero History Summit to bring attention to both the Bracero Program and the immediate need for preserving Rio Vista Farm.

A historic photo of braceros in line at the Rio Vista processing center in Texas.

photo by: History Library

Braceros at Rio Vista.

The interior of one of the existing buildings at Rio Vista.

photo by: Kip Malone

The interior of one of the buildings at Rio Vista.

The Mission Style Exterior of a Rio Vista Building

photo by: Kip Malone

The Mission-style exterior of a building at Rio Vista.

Meghan White Headshot

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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