Un Simple Bracero


Un Simple Bracero


Mary Vargas


Mary Vargas


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A particular bracero, age 17, was convinced by his cousin back in 1951 to join. This bracero's father passed away when he was 7; he took on the challenge of taking care of his mother and siblings. As a family provider, he figured the Bracero Program was his ticket to a better future.

He felt at ease knowing he was going to the USA with his cousin. As they arrived in Arizona, he found himself in a small room overcrowded with others. His stomach growled with hunger; he was surviving on limited meal portions. After a couple of days of waiting, he started to smell. No showers or restooms were available to them.

They were ordered to form 2 lines. They were told to take off all their clothes and walk into a room and stand there. Soon, he heard a spraying sound. He found himself covered with a white powder substance, he was told the powder was to kill lice, yet no shower was provided afterward. The men were ordered to put their clothes back on. As they waited for their next orders, his impatient cousin convinced him to sneak out that night. His cousin painted a better picture for him - Modesto, California.

They made it to California, but the harvest was over. As they stopped at sidewalk to discuss Plan B, the Border Patrol arrived and asked them for documentation. His cousin, quick to speak, responded. His cousin would go back home to get the documentation. He left and never returned. It was then this bracero realized he should have never believed his cousin.

He was taken by bus back to Arizona, then Texas. He was boarded onto a ship. He slept on the upper deck floor, which was full of a tar-like substance. For the next four days, his meals consisted of oatmeal for breakfast, fideo for lunch, and fideo for dinner. Along with a slice of bread for lunch and dinner. Thin, worn,fragile and near starving, his feet once again were on Mexican soil. He arrived in Vera Cruz. His only hope was getting back home.

After many obstacles, he reached La Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico. As he walked down the street he came across a familar face. It was his cousin's brother. He was well dressed and clean cut. Feeling shamed, the bracero hid. He was dirty from the tar on the ship,unshaven, and smelled from a lack of showers. He purchased a razor and found a public restroom to clean himself up. He finally arrived back home.

The following year he attempted to become a bracer again. This time, he was conned and robbed of $350, money he was going to use for the sign up fee.

It was not until 1953, at age 19, he finally entered the Bracero Program. Assigned to work in Arizona, his hard labor paid off. He found favor with his employers. Out of 160 braceros, 3 were chosen as supervisors to apply for legal residency. Their aplication fees were fully paid by his employer. They were the lucky ones. The less fortunate braceros were subjected to racism, segregation, physical abuse, and sometimes death.

This bracero is my father. He married in 1968 and migrated to the beautiful Salinas Valley, where he continued his work in farm labor and still takes pride in being a busy, hard working man. In 2002, 49 years later after entering this country, my father became a US Citizen! I was so proud of him.

Today, he sits and watches how the country which once desperately needed him,at times still continues to despise and mistreat Mexican laborers.


Mary Vargas, “Un Simple Bracero,” Bracero History Archive, accessed May 27, 2024, https://braceroarchive.org/items/show/3239.