Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Ignacio I. Álvarez was born February 10, 1933, in Guerrero, México; his parents worked in agriculture, and he had six sisters and three brothers; he was formally educated through the second grade; his family was poor, and consequently, he had to work; one of his uncles worked with the bracero program, and when Ignacio was twenty-five years old, he decided to do the same and enlist in the program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California, irrigating and picking cotton, cucumbers, lemons, oranges and tomatoes; he eventually immigrated to the United States and later married.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Álvarez briefly talks about his family; one of his uncles worked with the bracero program, which later led him to do the same when he was twenty-five years old; he describes getting on the list of available workers before going to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México, where his hands were examined for signs of manual labor; from there, he was sent by bus to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, where he was given a thorough medical examination; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California, irrigating and picking cotton, cucumbers, lemons, oranges and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the worksites, housing, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, working relationships, payments, deductions, remittances, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; a group of forty to fifty men, including some his friends, went on strike in Arizona, because the conditions were so poor; as a result, they were all fired and sent back to México; Ignacio chose to remain uninvolved, because his family was hungry and suffering in México; he makes repeated comparisons between the camps in Arizona and California, which highlight how deplorable conditions in Arizona really were; once, while he was eating dinner, immigration officials went to the camp to check for proper documentation; after his last contract, he stayed in Tijuana, Baja California, México for a few months, where he met his wife, before immigrating to the United States; he helped her do the same in 1963; overall, he has positive memories of the program.
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Interview with Ignacio I. Álvarez by Adriana Sandoval, 2006, "Interview no. 1069," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.