Browse Oral Histories (737 items total)

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Guadalupe Estrada Estrada was born in San Francisco de Borja, Chihuahua, México, in 1934; he worked the fields of his hometown with his father for ten years; in 1952, he enrolled in the bracero program and came to the United States; he worked in the cotton fields of Texas and New Mexico.




Summary of Interview: Mr. Estrada initially learned of the Bracero Program while working the fields of his hometown in San Francisco de Borja, Chihuahua, México; his first work contract was in Lamesa, Texas, for twenty-eight days; he was paid $1.50 per pound of cotton that he picked; while working, he hurt his hand and a rancher took him to the hospital; he also worked in Dell City, Texas and Las Cruces and Deming, New Mexico; when he returned to México it was difficult for him to find work.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Guadalupe Balderrama was born in Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, México, in 1920; he helped his father work in the fields; he also went to school for a few years; he worked as a bracero in Texas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Colorado.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Balderrama briefly recounts his childhood, and how times were very hard for him and his family; he was only able to go to school for three years; he went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, to begin the hiring process for the Bracero Program; in 1953, he was sent to El Paso, Texas; his first work contract took him to Canutillo, Texas; as a bracero, he worked in cotton, cucumber, and beet fields; he recalls that many braceros bought their groceries from the rancher’s stores; whenever the braceros had free time, they liked to play billiards.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Gonzalo Morales Urbide was born in Santa Bárbara, Chihuahua, México, in 1930; he helped his father work the fields of their hometown; his parents passed away when he was only seven years old; he and his six siblings went to live with an uncle; when he became a bracero, he was married and had three children; he worked in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Morales briefly recounts his childhood; in 1954, he heard about the bracero program; due to financial difficulties, he decided to go to Chihuahua, Chihuahua México, to begin the hiring process; he recalls how the Mexican President, Lázaro Cárdenas, prohibited people on ejidos from being hired as braceros; only people from ranches were allowed to be braceros; while working as a bracero he was unaware that the Mexican government received 10¢ per bracero that was hired from the ranchers; while waiting in Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, the food the braceros were given was rotten; the water used for showers was often frozen during the winter months; when he worked in Lovington, New Mexico, he was the veterinarian for the ranch; in addition, he was a tractor driver and he helped prepare food for the cattle; this was his best working experience as a bracero.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Francisco García Carrillo was born in Cusihuiriachi, Chihuahua, México, in 1933; his father was a rancher; at the age of seven, he would help his father work; later, when he was fourteen, he began working in the mines; because working in the mines was such a dangerous job, he decided to go to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to be hired as a bracero; he began working as a bracero when he was only eighteen years old; he worked in Texas and New Mexico.



Summary of Interview: Mr. García recalls that during the hiring process, people from the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Zacatecas received privileges; during the general hiring process, American officials would ask people if cotton and apples could be picked the same way; anyone who answered that they could, would be dismissed; Mr. García also remembers that he and his friends would drink milk prior to taking X-rays so that their lungs would appear healthy and clean; after working as a bracero for a time, he was promoted to steward; during the holidays, the braceros would celebrate by grilling chicken for dinner and drinking beer; the Mexican Counsel was helpful in resolving any problems braceros may have encountered.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Florencio Magallanes Parada was born in Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, México, in 1933; he helped his father work the fields and he also went to school; he worked as a bracero in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado; he was able to renew his work contract eight times.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Magallanes briefly recalls his childhood during which time he went to school for only three years; he was hired as a bracero in 1954, and worked in cotton and beet fields; he worked in Pecos, Texas, where the living conditions were harsh; there were between 200-300 braceros living in the same barracks; the food service was terrible as well; sometimes there was not enough food for all the braceros, but they had to pay for the food regardless of whether they ate or not; whenever they had free time, they liked to drink beer and have races.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Eulalio Hernández Guzmán was born in Cusihuiriachi, Chihuahua, México, in 1931; his father worked in the fields, and his mother passed away when he was only six years old; because there were a limited number of teachers in the town, he only attended school for three years; in 1952, he was hired as a bracero; he worked in the cotton fields of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, the beet fields of Colorado and Montana, and the corn fields of Wyoming.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Hernández went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, in the hopes of being hired as a bracero; he had to wait for two weeks before he could actually begin the hiring process; he and other braceros were given vaccinations, but none of them were ever told what the immunizations were for; his first work contract took him to Wyoming; he was transported there by airplane; he recalls that the trip took seven hours and that it was very noisy; as a result of the trip, he developed an ear ailment for which he was never medically treated; he remembers that in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, workers could obtain fake work permits for only $4.00.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Elías García Venzor was born in Gran Morelos, Chihuahua, México, in 1925; his parents passed away when he was only seven years old; in 1950, he learned about the bracero program; he was married and had children at the time; he worked in the cotton and beet fields of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.



Summary of Interview: Upon entering the United States, Mr. García was sent to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, where he was given a physical exam; those who were sick or physically unable to work were sent back to México; he worked for about ten or eleven years as a bracero; his four brothers were also braceros; his worst experience was when he worked in Pecos, Texas, because he earned very little money for very difficult work there; the living conditions were also difficult because there were between 200-300 braceros per barracks; because they had no showers, they filled steel tanks with water and left them outside to be warmed by the sun; he was unaware of any medical services; his best working experience was in Colorado, where he earned up to $500.00 for forty-five days of work.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Elías Espino was born in Meoqui, Chihuahua, México, in 1929; his mother was a housewife and his father was a carpenter; he attended school for only a short time; he worked in construction until he was fourteen years old; in 1942, he learned of the Bracero Program and immigrated to the United States.



Summary of Interview: Mr. Espino was first hired in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he worked for a year; during his time as a bracero he worked in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona; he recounts his difficulties while working illegally; he also recalls the percentage the Mexican government received from the United States for each bracero worker; he lead a protest to stop the delousing process for braceros entering the United States; in addition, he also remembers that the bracero program was suspended for an entire year in 1959.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Bárbaro Chacón Delgado was born in San José de Carreras, Chihuahua, México, in 1923; his father was a farmer; in 1946, he became a bracero; he was hired by a food processing company in Michigan; in 1947, he was married during one of his visits to his family in Chihuahua; he went on to work across the United States, however, he worked primarily in beet fields; he eventually became a supervisor in one of those fields; he worked as a bracero for a total of fifteen years.



Summary of Interview: By the time Mr. Chacón became a bracero in 1946, thousands of people from the south of México had arrived in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to begin the hiring process; from Chihuahua, people were sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas; the ranchers came to Fort Bliss to take as many braceros as they needed for work; he recalls that as a direct consequence of World War II, people in the United States suffered from food shortages and other such difficulties; he also remembers that although he never personally suffered from racist aggressions or discrimination, groups like the Ku Klux Klan killed many braceros.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Aurelio Delgado Moreno was born in Las Nieves, Durango, México, in 1924; he helped his father work in the fields; he later helped work on the Pan-American Highway; in 1953, while he was working in Camargo, Chihuahua, he heard of the Bracero Program; he worked as a bracero for only three months; after that, he never returned to the United States.


Summary of Interview: In 1954, when Mr. Delgado became a bracero, he was married and had two children; he recalls that the officials from the United States chose braceros based on the way they walked and the condition of their hands; his first work contract took him to Pecos, Texas; the living conditions there were problematic because there were up to forty braceros per barracks; many of them stayed up late playing cards or talking; he remembers that there was one bracero that was particularly good at playing cards; as a result, this bracero and a rancher went from town to town playing cards, and consequently won a lot of money; Mr. Delgado tried sending money to his family, but they never received any of it.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Andrés Héctor Quezada Lara was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, in 1925; because of his outstanding scholastic abilities, he received a scholarship for secundaria, which is equivalent to middle school in the United States, in Durango; in 1945, he learned of the bracero program; it was then that he decided to quit school and go to the United States to work; he worked in South Dakota, Illinois, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, and Kansas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Quezada quit school in order to go to the United States and work as a bracero; he was hired in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, but was sent to Querétaro, Querétaro to sign the job contract; his first contract took him to work in the Chicago Milwaukee Pacific Union railroads; after working there, he was sent to Kansas to work in the fields; while there, he organized a meeting to ask for better salary for the braceros; their pay was increased from 50¢ to 90¢ per hour; he was then sent to work in Missouri, where he had an accident while working in the cornfields; after the accident, he was moved to the food processing factory; he recalls that while in Montana, it snowed for eight days, and they did not get paid during that time.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Jesús Aranda Morales was born in Gran Morelos, Chihuahua, México, in 1936; he started working when he was only nine years old; years later, in 1957, at the age of twenty, he came to the United States; he worked in the cotton and cucumber fields of Texas and New Mexico and the beet fields of Nebraska and Montana.



Summary of Interview: Mr. Morales traveled to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, in order to begin the hiring process for the bracero program; the only requirement was a Mexican Military ID card; he waited at El Trocadero, a processing center there in Chihuahua, for eight days to be hired; from there he was taken to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, where he had to pay $1.00 in order to get a place where he could spend the night; he was then sent to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas; he was then finally taken to Dell City, Texas, where there was a kind of Bracero Association; the ranchers would meet there to hire the braceros; he recalls that he and other braceros would use sign language to communicate with the ranchers; during their free time, they would pay 50¢ to see a movie.