Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Clemente Velazquez was born on a ranch named El Molino, in San Diego de Alejandría, Jalisco, México, on November 23, 1931; his father’s name was Santos Velázquez, and his mother’s name was María Guadalupe Lucio; they worked for hacienda owners; Clemente had seven brothers and six sisters; he was never formally educated; when he was roughly sixteen years old, he worked illegally in Texas; in 1956, he enlisted in the bracero program, and he worked in the fields of Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Texas.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Velazquez recollects the humble home where he grew up with its roof made of grass and rocks; when he was twelve years old, he was responsible for about twenty cows on the hacienda; he was already married by the time he was roughly fifteen years old; not long after, he came to the United States illegally to work; he remembers hearing his uncles talk about the bracero program; in 1956, he was able to get on the list of eligible workers in order to get contracted in Empalme, Sonora, México; when not on the list, he had the option of going to Hermosillo, Sonora, to pick two thousand kilos of cotton, which was especially difficult; in Empalme, roughly two thousand men were processed daily, leaving anywhere between twelve and fifteen thousand men waiting for months at a time; from there he was transported in a cargo train to Mexicali, Baja California, México; he comments that the Mexican government was paid for each contract, which in essence allowed men to be rented out like cars for labor; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Texas; he goes on to detail various camp sizes, housing, living conditions, provisions, treatment, contract lengths, correspondences, remittances, and recreational activities; in addition, he states that in Texas he worked in a camp with five thousand braceros, which was difficult; when it was time to return to México, they had to wait up to three days, because there were so many men that needed transportation.
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Interview with Clemente Velazquez by Mónica Pelayo, 2006, "Interview no. 1161," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.