Between 1942 and 1945, more than 32,000 male migrant workers were transported to the Brazilian Amazon from the country’s Northeast, in the largest state-sponsored relocation of free labor in Brazilian history. These men were charged with supplying the United States with latex tapped from wild rubber trees, as part of a wartime campaign underwritten by the U.S. government.1 This essay investigates how notions of gender shaped the formulation of the wartime migration project, the formation of regional labor markets, and the historical experiences of the migrants.

Interregional migration is a key factor in understanding major changes in late-twentieth-century Brazil, including industrial development, proletarianization, frontier expansion, shifting patterns of political participation, and the transformation of individual subjectivities. Between 1960 and 1980 alone, 29.4 million Brazilians — a population larger than most Latin American nations — migrated from the countryside to the cities, in...

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