Despite the lack of reliable audience responses to Nuestro Futuro, as part of the larger propaganda efforts of the OIAA, some Latin Americans may have taken the promise of fair wages and working conditions to heart. The comic book called for “cooperation in solving the problems of unemployment” and so encouraged the migration of labor (Nuestro Futuro 1942, 44). While Mexico struggled with significant unemployment, the USA, according to the big agricultural planters in the southwest, was experiencing a shortage of agricultural labor. Over the course of the war, hundreds of thousands of Latin American men participated in the Bracero program, toiling in the fields of the southwest USA, often in dangerous and exploitative conditions. Between 1942 and 1964, an estimated 4.6 million Braceros worked in the USA (Galarza 1964; Driscoll 1999; Cohen 2010; Snodgrass 2011, 256-260). Nuestro Futuro imagined these men’s desire to financially support their families at home as the embodiment of PanAmerican patriotism. Some Latin Americans may have easily dismissed the comic book’s propaganda because of its awkward framing of class and race. Despite the comic book’s rhetorical emphasis on fair labor practices and the promise of racial equality, a Caucasian upper class man narrated the story of the war and the arguments for cooperation from the comfort of his urban apartment. Apart from the working class dark-skinned Latin American family on the front cover, non-Caucasian faces rarely appear in the comic book, and they are never the focus of the storyline. This failure to visually represent ideological rhetoric was nothing new to the writers and artists who produced Nuestro Futuro. In the USA, the AJC’s racial and religious brotherhood comics existed in a context of racial segregation and often propagated racial equality without visualizing black characters. It is precisely these gaps in representation that enrich the historical recovery and analysis of the political economy of wartime propaganda.

Material culture, in this case the comic book Nuestro Futuro, enables a mapping of the political economy of production and distribution of wartime propaganda that operated through the nexus of the OIAA, the AJC, and the mass culture of comics. Moreover, Nuestro Futuro also shows how producers of wartime propaganda to Latin America thought of themselves, their role in the war, and their own country. The OIAA’s advocacy of the Good Neighbor Policy, including messages of Pan-American economic cooperation, echoed the AJC’s own wartime understanding that racial and religious tolerance as well as global peace could be achieved through capitalist economic security and democratic political stability (Hristova 2014, 147-148). To this day, the AJC works globally for Jewish advocacy; on the other hand, by 1946, most of the functions of the OIAA were either discontinued or integrated into other federal agencies, particularly the Department of State (Cramer and Prutsch 2006, 787). Preserved archival documents show the ways in which the wartime cooperation between the OIAA and the AJC utilized the mass culture of comics for the propaganda efforts of the Good Neighbor Policy. These archival documents remain a window into a complex cultural production effort that the US government, together with various civil liberties and philanthropic organizations, undertook during the war, an effort in which comics played an important role.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >