Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Juan Contreras was born in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México; his father was in the military, and the family consequently moved around a lot; Juan later enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington picking various fruits and vegetables; while in Oregon, he worked for Libby’s picking fruits; he later immigrated to the United States, married and raised a family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Contreras initially learned about the bracero program through a friend and went to enlist; a few weeks later, he received a telegram telling him to go to the Buena Vista station in México, Distrito Federal, where he volunteered for Exterior Relations; later, he traveled by train to the United States; Mexican soldiers watched over the seven cars with roughly eighty men in each; by the time they reached El Paso, Texas, only three or four cars were left; he did not have to endure any physical exams; however, he later went through the center in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México, and he was stripped, examined and shaved for lice; he was given special preference, because he had already worked in the United States; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington picking various fruits and vegetables; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, treatment, payments, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town; while in Portland, Oregon, he worked for Libby’s picking fruit that was later canned; the bed linens were changed every three days; they also had ice cream parties and other social events, including dance lessons; in Utah, women often went to the camps, and they were rumored to be especially fond of Mexican men; while in Arizona, he was refused service at a restaurant and noticed a discriminatory sign; he and others complained to the Mexican consul, and the sign was removed; in addition, he relates other anecdotes about his experiences as a bracero; he later immigrated to the United States, married and raised a family.
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Interview with Juan Contreras by Mario Sifuentes, 2006, "Interview no. 1072," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.