Acts of Kindness

Title

Acts of Kindness

Creator

Ron Taylor

Contributor

Ron Taylor

Rights

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Contributor is Creator

Yes

Online Submission

Yes

Text

I grew up in Ventura County, California in the 1960s. Every summer the braceros would magically appear, working in the agricultural fields surrounding our tiny town of Somis. They would stay for a few months and then just as magically disappear – headed north, we heard. I was curious about them, and to be honest a little afraid of them. They seemed rough and tough and free, quite unlike anyone else I had ever seen.

The summer after my freshman year in high school I was able to get a job working in the fields. I was the only “gringo” kid in the crew and, although I could work almost as hard and as long as the braceros, the fact that I could speak Spanish really made a difference. I was invited to join them for lunch and for their morning and afternoon “taco breaks”, and they taught me words that were much more colorful than those I learned in Spanish class.

I had asthma as a kid and one day I came to work after a particularly difficult bout, still having difficulty breathing. I knew that if I worked in the sun for a few hours I would probably be OK, but I wasn’t sure I could make it. We were all supposed to work our way down the field rows at the same pace, and if you fell behind or were seen helping someone else you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.

The field boss was in a particularly foul mood that day, which only made matters worse. I began to fall behind and was growing really worried when the bracero in the row to my left began stealthily working my row in addition to his own. Then the one to my right began doing the same thing. Neither of them said a word, but both of them were risking the wrath of the field boss just to help me. We worked this way for about two hours until I was able to handle it myself.

I have never forgotten those acts of kindness or the generosity of spirit they showed. They demonstrated in a very personal way the real purpose of the bracero program, extending an arm to help a neighbor.

Citation

Ron Taylor, “Acts of Kindness,” Bracero History Archive, accessed July 4, 2022, https://braceroarchive.org/items/show/3209.