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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Juanita Parra was born May 12, 1955, in Mercedes, Texas; her mother was a native Mexican who left her first husband, because he was abusive; in order to support her seven children, she picked crops in the United States during the bracero program; she later asked Juanita’s father to marry her, which is how Juanita later came to be born in Texas; the family migrated with the crops and braceros to several states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Summary of Interview: Ms. Parra discusses her family and her mother in particular; while picking crops in the United States, she was often caught and sent back to México, which was especially traumatic; she could hear the bullets flying by as she ran away; her children hid in holes she previously dug, and she would come back for them the following day; she insisted on working, because she was trying to save enough money to begin the process for legal residency for herself and seven children; her sister’s husband was a successful businessman in México, and she asked his brother to marry her; she needed a husband to get her residency papers; the family migrated with the crops and braceros throughout several states; in 1955, Juanita was born at a camp in Texas; the family later settled in Glendale, Arizona; Juanita also talks about her aunt, her mother’s sister, and uncle being responsible for feeding braceros; in addition, Juanita recalls her parents taking her with them to pick in the fields; they often pulled her along as she sat on top of their sacks; when she was old enough she began picking crops as well; she remembers the braceros as very quiet and hard working men; they often worried about their families in México, and some even drank to help them cope; the men lived in barracks or small homes, some of which were not up to par; she also recounts several other anecdotes about living and working with braceros; overall, Juanita sees both the negative and positive aspects of the program; some men were separated from their families for too long and started over in the United States, while others were able to legally immigrate with their families and have a better life in general.

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Governor of Baja CA (white suit) cutting cake for inauguration of Acapulco Gardens restaurant. Juanita & Refugio on right side of Gov with Sal and Lupe Villasenor next to mariachi , 1949

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: José Parra was born in Sahuarichi, Chihuahua, México, in 1949; he and his father worked together in the fields for seven years; in 1949, he was hired as a bracero; he worked in the cotton fields of New Mexico and Texas; his last year as a bracero was in 1956.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Parra learned of the bracero program from an Immigration official while he was working illegally in Texas; the first time he was hired as a bracero, he was sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, but then he had to return to Chihuahua, México, in order to renew his work contract after that; he recalls that there were centers strategically placed near towns where there were ranches so that the braceros could quickly be sent to the ranches where they would work; the main difference for him between working as a bracero and working illegally was the freedom he enjoyed to go wherever he pleased as a bracero; even so, he and other braceros suffered from racism; they were viewed by some Americans as foreigners who stole their jobs.

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Alien Laborers Identification Card for Jose Parra,
1956.

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Social Security card for Jose Parra.

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Social Security card for Jose Parra L.

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Alien Laborers Identification Card for Jose Parra, 1956.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Manuel Vazquez was born in Santa Bárbara, Chihuahua, México, on October 23, 1928; when he was seven years old, he began helping his father work in the fields, and consequently he never received any formal education; in 1942, he and his brother went to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and crossed into the United States illegally, but he could not work because he was too young; later, in 1945, he became a bracero and worked in the cotton fields of Texas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Vazquez briefly recalls his childhood; in 1945, he was hired as a bracero, and taken to work in El Paso, Texas; the only requirement for him to work was his Mexican military I.D. card; he recalls that representative from the Mexican consulate approved the work contracts for the braceros, but they denied renewals for those who had already been contracted three or four times; because of this, he often had to return to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, in order to obtain new work permits; upon passing through the Stanton Bridge in El Paso, Texas, he and other braceros were often examined and deloused in front of everyone who happened to be passing by; from there they were transported by truck to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas; as a bracero, he worked in the cotton fields of Texas; it was while working as a bracero that he learned how to write his name; he recounts how his boss was killed and how the United States and Mexican governments worked together to find the murderer.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Cecilia E. Concha was born in El Paso, Texas, in October of 1925; she was the second generation in her family to be born in the United States; in 1896, her grandfather immigrated into the United States through El Paso, Texas; her mother was born in Ysleta, Texas, and her father was born in Guanajuato México.


Summary of Interview: Ms. Concha recalls what it was like growing up during the 1930s; her mother would shop in Ciudad Juárez, México, in order to avoid the rationing of food; she recounts her memories of World War II, while she was a high school student at St. Joseph’s Academy from 1941 to 1945; in addition, she describes the discrimination immigrants in El Paso, Texas, faced; she also details her employment opportunities during and after the war; her grandfather, Trinidad Concha, served as an assistant director to Profirio Díaz, before arriving in El Paso, in 1896; he formed a musical group that crossed the river to welcome and serenade the Maderistas in 1911.

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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.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Eduardo De Santiago was born in Jerez, Zacatecas, México; he had seven sisters and only one brother; his father took him out of school when he was in third grade because he needed help working the land; he worked as a bracero form 1954 to 1960; while a bracero he was promoted to ranch foreman.


Summary of Interview: Mr. De Santiago worked on a ranch in Zacatecas, México, prior to becoming a bracero; in 1954, when he learned of the bracero program, he made a list of all the people who worked with him that wanted to go to the United States as braceros; he was of course included on that list; upon beginning the hiring process in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, the braceros were asked to undress for physical examinations; they were then vaccinated and deloused; in Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, ranchers from Pecos, Texas, came to hire braceros; none of the workers wanted to go with them because they had heard about a number of bad experiences there; Mr. De Santiago worked primarily in the cotton fields of Texas; he recalls how many braceros would use tricks to weigh down their cotton in order to get paid more; over time, he was promoted to head foreman of the ranch where he worked; he worked as a bracero from 1954 to 1960.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Nicolás Carreón Vega was born in Villa Aldama, Chihuahua, México, in 1933 [in 1995, the Mexican Congress changed the name from Villa Aldama to Ciudad Aldama]; as the eldest of the family, upon his father’s death he began working in the fields when he was only eight years old; he learned about the bracero program in 1953 and came to the United States.



Summary of Interview: Mr. Carreón briefly recounts his childhood; he focuses on his time in the United States as a bracero from 1953 until the mid 1960s; he discusses work contracts and the possibilities under which a mica card could be obtained; he worked in the cotton fields of Texas and New Mexico, the beet fields of Colorado, and on ranches in Arizona as well; while working in Artesia, New Mexico, he caught pneumonia and was hospitalized for a month; in 1955, he worked without a contract in Pecos, Texas, was caught and sent to jail; in 1958, the cotton field he worked was flooded so he and others were sent elsewhere to finish out their contracts.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Guadalupe Núñez was born in Saucillo, Chihuahua, México, in 1941; he and his brothers helped care for the cattle and ranch that their father owned; he helped his family until he was twenty years old; he knew that if he wanted to enroll in the bracero program, he had to put his name on a town list; in 1964, he worked in Pecos, Texas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Núñez recalls that during his enrollment process in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, there were only Mexican officers present; there were no American representatives; in addition, there were no exams or contracts given there; the United States government paid the Mexican government about 27¢ for each bracero that was hired; it was when they were moved to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, that they were medically examined and signed contracts; he recalls that it was the last year of the program; his work contract lasted only three months, and took him to work in the cotton fields of Pecos, Texas.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Esteban Saldaña was born on December 25, 1929, in San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí, México; as a child, he often helped his father work on their ranch and care for the animals; he never received any formal schooling; when he was twenty-one years old, he stopped working for his father and began the hiring process for the bracero program; he worked on and off as a bracero from 1949 to 1954.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Saldaña spent his childhood and adolescence helping his father work the land and care for the animals they owned; he married when he was only seventeen years old, and he had children shortly thereafter; when he was twenty-one years old, he stopped working for his father in order to become a bracero and make more money to support his family; he had heard of the bracero program through media and news advertisements; for this first contract, he went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, which in turn took him to work in Lovington, New Mexico, for three months; he later went through contracting centers in Durango and Monterrey México to find work; from 1949 to 1952, he worked as a bracero; he recalls that their meals consisted of a sandwich and an apple each day, for which they had to pay $12.00 per week; in 1953, he worked illegally in the United States, and a year later, in 1954, he was again able to work legally as a bracero; he comments that there were no differences in salary or duties while he worked illegally; that same year, while working in Arkansas, he organized a strike for workers to get paid 10¢ more per pound of cotton that they picked.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Gregorio Trejo was born on May 9, 1925, in Sánchez Román, Zacatecas, México; he began working with his father in the fields at a very young age and consequently never received any formal schooling; later in 1947, he became a bracero and worked in the corn, potato, and cotton fields of Illinois, Nebraska, and New Mexico.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Trejo very briefly recalls his childhood; when he was nine years old, he and his family moved to Plateros, Zacatecas, México; from there they moved to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, before returning to Zacatecas; because one of the recruiting and contracting centers was in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, he was aware of the bracero program; he recalls that the governor of Zacatecas did not want workers from the cities of Fresnillo or Plateros to be hired as braceros because there was plenty of work for them to stay and do in the mines; in spite of this, he managed to have his name put on the county’s list of workers in Zacatecas; he and other braceros were transported from Zacatecas to Irapuato, Guanajuato, for medical exams and vaccinations; while being transported to Illinois by train, they had to stop because the railroad workers were on strike; he also mentions that he and other braceros had a very good insurance plan; in addition, he goes on to describe how one of his coworkers passed away while working in the cornfields of Illinois, and how the ranchers behaved both during and after the tragic accident.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Manuel Márquez Flores was born in 1920; he spent his childhood with his seven siblings on the ranch where their father worked; he learned of the bracero program while he was helping his father work on the ranch; in 1959, he was hired as a bracero; he worked in the cotton and tomato fields of Las Cruces, New Mexico; he also worked in Pecos, Texas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Márquez traveled to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, in order to begin the hiring process; he recalls that there were thousands of people from cities all over México waiting to be hired as braceros; because many of them did not have any money, they looked for food in trash cans; Mr. Márquez was hired as a bracero when he was twenty-seven years old; he also remembers that at Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, whenever a potential bracero was turned away due to illness, the rest of the braceros would collect money for that man so he could return home; the Bracero Program was not at all what he expected.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Senor XX was born in Jerez, Zacatecas, México, in 1930; he received a formal education through middle school; in 1951, the bracero program was very popular in his home state of Zacatecas, which is why, at the age of twenty, he decided to become a bracero; he worked in the program for eight years in Pecos, Texas.


Summary of Interview: Senor XX was hired as a bracero at a recruiting center in Zacatecas, México; he recalls that there were also other recruitment centers in the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Aguascalientes in México; there were two types of braceros, specialized and common; the specialized braceros were hired for eighteen months and received higher salaries; the common braceros were hired for only three months at a time; he worked as a specialized bracero weighing cotton; his job was to make sure that the cotton was not mixed with rocks, wood, or any other objects that would make the cotton weigh more; because the braceros were paid per pound of cotton that they picked, this was a major concern; he also recalls that in order for grocery stores to gain and keep braceros as clients, they would go out to the farms to pick up grocery lists; the groceries would then be delivered to the braceros.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Mauro González Gómez was born in La Boquilla, Municipio de Julimes, Chihuahua, México, in 1929; he helped his father work the land; in 1949, he learned about the bracero program and went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua to enroll; he worked in Texas and New Mexico.


Summary of Interview: In 1947, Mr. González worked illegally in the United States; when he learned of the bracero program he returned to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, to begin the hiring process; while there, people were given the necessary papers to be hired as braceros; he recalls that the bracero center in El Paso, Texas, was the County Coliseum; people with less experience were sent to work in Pecos, Texas; he also recalls one bracero who was a Mexican soldier that liked to play poker; because of his gambling habits, he once killed another bracero who had won his money.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Ignacio Nájera was born in 1937, in Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, México; he was formally educated for four years; in 1960, he and a group of friends traveled to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to begin the enrollment process for the bracero program; he worked in the cotton fields of Texas and New Mexico and the beet fields of Montana and Nebraska; he was a bracero for a total of six years.


Summary of Interview: When Mr. Nájera began the enrollment process in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México he showed his Mexican military ID and a letter of recommendation; he recalls that sometimes when traveling from Chihuahua to El Paso, Texas, the braceros had to pay in order to get a place on a train or bus; his first work contract took him to the lettuce fields of Hereford, Texas; while there, he was burned with a liquid that was used to disinfect the lettuce; he worked in Montana for three years, where they paid him $14.50 per acre that he picked; in Pecos, Texas the braceros had to pay $10.00 per week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; during their free time, the braceros often played cards.

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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.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Refugio Pérez Lolla was born in Gran Morelos, Chihuahua, México, in 1944; he began helping his father work the fields when he was only eight years old; due to his family’s financial difficulties, his father applied and was hired to work as a bracero; Refugio however, worked illegally in the United States.


Summary of Interview: When Refugio was only nine years old, he was put in charge of his father’s land because he was in the United States working as a bracero; his father worked in Dell City and Pecos, Texas, picking cotton and watering the fields; every six months his father would visit his family; Refugio decided to go to the United States to work because his father worked there; Refugio was unable to work for very long because he was apprehended by Immigration officials twice; he entered the United States through Palomas, Chihuahua, México, and walked for several days; he was hired in Deming, New Mexico, in 1966 when the bracero program finished.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Ismael Díaz de León was born on June 17, 1926, in El Paso, Texas; he and his family moved to Aguascalientes, México, when he was only two years old; in 1943, he became a bracero, and he worked primarily in the cornfields and picking apples in Washington; he continued to work as a bracero for the next fifteen years.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Diaz briefly recounts his childhood; his father worked on the railroads in El Paso, Texas; when he was still young, his father became very ill and moved the family to Aguascalientes, México; his grandfather set up a business for his father there, and the family decided to stay; in 1943, he began the hiring process for the bracero program; at that time, the El Paso County Coliseum was the reception center for incoming braceros; his worst job was working in the cotton fields of Texas; while working in the fields he recalls that the workers would often sing songs to help pass the time.

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Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Roberto Orduño García was born in Cusihuiriachi, Chihuahua, México, in 1931; he had fifteen siblings, and his father worked in the mines; he was formally schooled for four years; when he was fourteen years old, he began working by selling newspapers and magazines, shining shoes, and selling tacos to eat; he heard of the bracero program through an advertisement on the radio; he worked in Tularosa, New Mexico, for two years.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Orduño was hired as a bracero in 1956; in order to be hired, he lied about his working experience in the cotton fields; the rancher who hired him noticed that he did not have any experience working in the fields; instead he was put to weigh the cotton that each bracero picked; in 1958, he came back home to Cusihuiriachi, Chihuahua, México, because his father was very ill; he recalls how the ranchers would freely lend and borrow the braceros to each other depending on the amount of work to be done; during their free time, he and other braceros liked to play baseball, listen to the radio, or go to a bar where they used to get together with the Mescalero Indians.

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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.

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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.