In 1954, The US government instituted a program called, with astonishingly candid racism, Operation Wetback. Seeking to restrict legal immigration to the bracero program, it dramatically increased border patrols, and over a million people were deported in the first year alone. The lives of undocumented workers, and the relentless persecution of them, became the subject of many songs. A search for the word mojado in the Frontera Collection database returns a startling number of results, suggesting an attempt to reclaim, in song, the pejorative epithet.
“Undocumented Mexican workers board buses for deportation, Los Angeles, 1954” from the Los Angeles Daily News Negatives Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections.
Detail of an inscription on the negative of the above news photograph.
The duet Los Alegres de Teran are represented in the Frontera Collection more than any other musical act. One of the over 800 recordings in the collection is “Las Redadas.”
Listen on the Frontera website: “Las Redadas” by Los Alegres de Terán
See also: http://frontera.library.ucla.edu/blog/2017/09
Virtuoso accordionist Flaco Jimenez performed his song “Mojado sin Licencia” for the 1976 Les Blank film Chulas Fronteras, which was produced by Chris Strachwitz and is currently viewable on the streaming service Kanopy, which is available through UCLA and the Los Angeles Public Library.
Listen on the Frontera website: “Mojado sin Licencia” by Flaco Jimenez from Chulas Fronteras