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Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Bob Porter was born in Roscoe, Texas, in 1929; a year later, his family moved to the Las Cruces, New Mexico area, and later they moved again to Hatch, New Mexico, which is where he grew up; in 1954, upon finishing a tour of duty in the military, he began working for the Doña Ana County Farm Bureau; while there, he administered the bracero program for two years; he later took a position with the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, spending his last fifteen years there as director and CEO.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Porter briefly recalls his childhood; in 1954, he began working for the Doña Ana County Farm Bureau as an assistant director, and he then moved up to director; while there, he administered the bracero program for two years; the Doña Ana program was the largest one with 6,000 braceros during the cotton season; at that time, about 500 braceros were transported daily between Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico; while at the reception center, the braceros were medically examined and given time to clean up and rest from their trips; the centers operated year round with some of the braceros working on ranches and in vegetable production; he recalls a trip he took to México, for a special crossing of braceros, in which a few hundred workers were requested by local farmers, but thousands showed up waiting to be hired; there were meetings and negotiations between the Department of Labor and area farmers; he also mentions labor strikes in the area, and he recalls one instance in which Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta came through town; in his opinion, the Department of Labor’s stringent and increasing demands led farmers to purchae mechanization, which ultimately ended the bracero program.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Benito Fierro was born on March 20, 1932, in Julimes, Chihuahua, México; he was the third of nine brothers to be born, and they all learned the agricultural trade from their father; in 1953, he became a bracero; his primary duties in Texas and New Mexico were picking and irrigating cotton crops; in Montana and Colorado, he cleaned and pulled sugar beets; he continued working as a bracero until 1961.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Fierro recounts his childhood and the difficulties he and his family faced; he describes the various stages of the hiring process, including the contracting center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, and the medical examinations he underwent at Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas; as a bracero, his work included the following: picking and irrigating cotton crops, picking peas, harvesting lettuce, pulling sugar beets, and cleaning the fields in which they grew; he explains the different wages he received for the various jobs he performed and what he did when his contracts expired; in addition he recounts his experiences when he was sick; he goes on to detail what life was like for him and others on the farms, including what their food was like, what their hobbies were, and what they often did on weekends and in their spare time; furthermore, he concludes that he was grateful to have worked as a bracero and how much that had an impact on not only him, but his family as well; working as a bracero helped him obtain legal residency and ultimately citizenship in the United States.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Anastacio Montalvo Salazar was born on January 22, 1916, in Villanueva, Zacatecas, México; he was the second of six brothers to be born; at the age of six, he began sowing corn and beans in order to help his family; in 1942, he enrolled in the bracero program using someone else’s name.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Montalvo briefly recalls his childhood and the Cristero War, which took place during that time; later, in 1942, he began the hiring process for the Bracero Program in Querétaro, México, using someone else’s name; while there, he was medically examined and then sent to the border by train; upon arriving at the reception center, he and other braceros saw movies that gave them information regarding their rights and obligations; he describes his first job in the United States, which was hammering the rail road tracks in California, and his second job, which was picking cotton in Texas; in addition, he also explains what the living and sleeping arrangements were like, what they were given to cook and eat, what their hobbies were, and what they did on weekends and in their spare time; he would periodically send money to his family in México; after the bracero program ended, he was illegally hired in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México, by an American rancher who took him to work in New Mexico, where he consequently spent the next four years; he finally returned to México, and has remained there ever since.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Alvaro Hernández was born on September 21, 1928, in Julimes, Chihuahua, México; his father worked in agriculture and his mother was a teacher; he moved to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, where he went to school for a short time, but he returned to his hometown to help his father work in the fields; in 1943, when he was only fourteen years old, he came into the United States illegally; a few years later, in 1946, he became a bracero and worked primarily in the cotton fields of New Mexico and Texas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Hernández briefly recalls his childhood and the financial difficulties he and his family endured; he moved from Julimes, Chihuahua, to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, where he went to school up to the sixth grade, but he left school in order to go back to his hometown of Julimes to help his father work in the fields; in 1943, when he was fourteen years old, he crossed into the United States illegally; he spent a few months working in the cotton fields of Mesquite, New Mexico, and soon returned home; in 1944, he crossed again to work with the same rancher, and the following year, he went back home; two years later, in 1946, he went through the hiring process to become a bracero; he recalls that one of the requirements for the braceros was to have calloused hands; as part of the process, he was medically examined, vaccinated, and deloused; his first contract took him to work in the cotton fields of Pecos, Texas; in 1947, a new working contract took him to Doña Ana where he stayed working until 1949; later that same year, he married and was able to bring his wife with him to the ranch in Doña Ana; he eventually learned how to work the cotton machines and was in charge of one of them; Mr. Hernández concludes that he is very proud to have worked with the bracero program.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Tomás Zapata Castañeda was born in Ejido el Faro, Chihuahua, México in 1937; although he did help his father in the fields, he also went to school; in 1956, he was hired as a bracero at the age on nineteen; he worked as a bracero in Texas, Montana, New Mexico, and Colorado.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Zapata was hired as a bracero in 1956; his first work contract took him to New Mexico, where due to the rain, he was unable to work; in the various places he went, he worked in the cotton and beet fields; he recalls that the braceros would use signs to communicate with the ranchers; in Colorado, he was able to earn $12.00 per acre that he worked; he also recalls that during the month of December, work contracts were given for three months at a time, whereas during the month of May, work contracts were given for forty-five days at a time.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Socorro Flores Pando was born in Delicias, Chihuahua, México in 1942; while his father worked in the fields he helped as a water boy; in 1960, he learned of the bracero program and went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua to enroll; he worked in the fields of Texas.


Summary of Interview: When Mr. Flores began the hiring process in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, he was asked for a Mexican military ID and a recommendation letter; he came to the United States as a bracero when he was only eighteen years old; upon entering the United States, he was sent to El Paso, Texas, and then to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, for a physical examination; while there, he signed a job contract and was sent to the ranch where he would work; he worked in Fort Stockton, Texas, for seven months watering the fields; his weekly salary was $116.00.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Roberto Ponce Covarrubias was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, México in 1929; he helped his father work the land; his father was 108 years old when he passed away, and his mother was 104 years old when she passed; both he and his brother decided to enroll in the bracero program; he worked for ten years as a bracero in Texas and New Mexico.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Ponce and his brother decided to enroll in the bracero program due to their family’s financial difficulties; when they were taken to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas, they were deloused and given a blood test; they were offered help when filling out work contracts; Mr. Ponce’s first work contract took him to Las Cruces, New Mexico; the worst place he worked was Lamesa, Texas; he recalls that the graveyards near the ranch were said to have been for the braceros; he sent money to his family via certified mail.

Description:

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.

Description:

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.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Raúl Enríquez González was born in Julimes, Chihuahua, México, in 1927; he worked in construction until he came to the United States under the bracero program; he had a wife and children at the time.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Enríquez recalls the privileges the people from Chihuahua, México, enjoyed during the hiring process; he raised cattle and worked in the cotton fields of the same ranch for six years; the ranchers he worked for spoke Spanish, and the rancher’s wife would bring him lunch while he was out working in the fields; although he also worked in Arizona and Texas, working in Colorado was the best experience he had as a bracero.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Perfecto Márquez was born in Villa Aldama, Chihuahua, México, in 1936; in 1957, he traveled to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to begin the hiring process; he worked in the cotton fields of New Mexico and Texas.


Summary of Interview: When Mr. Márquez was hired as a bracero in 1957, he was married and had two children; as part of the hiring process, he and a group of other braceros were physically examined while in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México; upon being hired, they were then transported from there to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and were not allowed to bring any personal belongings with them; they were physically examined again in El Paso, Texas and in Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas; while in Rio Vista, the Mexican Counsel spoke with the braceros about what was expected of them, and the directions they were to follow if any problems arose; while working in New Mexico, Mr. Márquez never encountered any problems because the rancher he worked for was a very good and kind man; he was paid $1.55 per pound of cotton that he picked; there were twenty-seven braceros living in the same barracks; during their free time, they liked to go to the movies; he recalls that in Texas, there were roughly about 700 braceros that encountered several problems.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Norberto Mata Baylón was born in Coyame, Chihuahua, México, in 1934; he worked in a candle factory when he was only twelve years old, and consequently, had to hide from the boss; in 1956, he went to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to begin the hiring process; he renewed his work contract seven times; he worked in the cotton fields of Artesia, New Mexico and Dell City, Pecos, and Olton, Texas; he also worked in the beet fields of Montana.


Summary of Interview: When Mr. Baylón was only sixteen years old, he worked in the United States illegally; in order to cross into the United States, he walked through the mountains, which took him an entire day to do; in 1956, he went to El Trocadero, a processing center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, to begin the hiring process; he paid the security officer in order to get a good place in line while waiting to be hired; in Pecos, Texas, he had very bad experiences because the wages were too low and there was too much work to be done; in addition, there were a lot of snakes; when he and a group of other braceros were sent to Olton, Texas, there were no jobs; they had to beg for food for two days.

Description:

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.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Natibidad Mancinas was born in Nieves, Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1929 [in 1995, the Mexican Congress changed the name of Nieves, Zacatecas to General Francisco R. Murguia]; he helped his dad work the fields as a young boy, and consequently did not receive any formal schooling; he worked as a bracero for six years; he worked in Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Colorado.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Mancinas was married and living in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, when he learned about the bracero program; consequently his brothers also decided to become braceros; his decision to become a bracero was based on the financial difficulties he faced at the time; he was paid only two pesos per week in México; in El Trocadero, a processing center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexican soldiers kept order; many people were scared of the soldiers; his first work contract took him to Pecos, Texas, where he earned 75¢ a day for working in the cotton fields; he recalls that the African-Americans in Arkansas were very friendly to the braceros.

Description:

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.

Description:

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.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Juan de Dios Estrada López was born in Rancho Rosas, Municipio de General Trías, Chihuahua, México, in 1929 [in 1993, the Mexican Congress changed the name of this Municipio to Santa Isabel]; upon his father’s passing, he began working on ranches at the age of ten; in 1954, he moved to the city of Chihuahua where he learned about the bracero program; he worked in the cotton fields of Texas and New Mexico and the beet fields of Colorado and Nebraska.



Summary of Interview: Mr. Estrada recalls a recruitment/processing center for braceros in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, called El Trocadero; the hiring process there was easier if your name was already on the county’s list; another center for braceros was located in Dell City, Texas; ranchers came here and hired braceros; legal and illegal workers were hired at the same time, but illegal workers received fewer wages; in their free time, the workers would go to the movies; sometimes the ranchers would give them rides on their planes for $2.00.

Description:

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.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Jesús Rodríguez Méndez was born in Guerrero, Chihuahua, México, in 1940; he helped his father work the land; due to the financial strain he and his family were under, he was never able to receive any formal schooling; he worked as a bracero for the first time in 1963, in Pecos, Texas.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Rodríguez learned of the Bracero Program while living in his hometown of Guerrero, Chihuahua, México; he traveled to Chihuahua, Chihuahua, in order to begin the enrollment process; he had to wait for two weeks to be called; during this time, he did not have money or a place to stay; he recalls that people coming from southern México waited for months at El Trocadero, the processing center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, to be hired; when the braceros were officially hired, the United States government paid the Mexican government 10¢ per bracero; in 1963, he was hired and sent to work in Pecos, Texas.

Description:

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.

Description:

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Herminio Quezada Durán was born in Satevó, Chihuahua, México, in 1925, to a family of farmers; he had ten siblings; upon his father’s passing in 1949, he and his family moved to Chihuahua, Chihuahua; he became a bracero in 1952, at the age of twenty-seven; he worked in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Utah.


Summary of Interview: Mr. Quezada briefly recalls having been born and raised in Satevó, Chihuahua, México; his entire family worked on ranches; when his father passed away in 1949, he and his family moved to Chihuahua, Chihuahua; prior to becoming a bracero, he worked illegally in the United States; in 1952, he was hired under the Bracero Program; he recalls that Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, was the first reception center he encountered as a bracero; he was then taken to Rio Vista, a processing center in Socorro, Texas ; he remembers that none of the braceros wanted to go to Pecos, Texas, because the fields there were enormous; for this reason, many braceros were hired; the ranchers often had agreements between each other to exchange or trade braceros as necessary for work; many braceros preferred working in the central United States; braceros cooked their own meals; stewards would take them to grocery stores to buy their supplies.

Description:

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.

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.