Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Pedro Velazquez was born on May 4, 1939, on a small ranched named El Molino in San Diego de Alejandría, Jalisco, México; his parents worked in agriculture; he was never formally educated; consequently, he did not learn to read or write until he was an adult; during his adolescence he helped his parents care for animals; in 1959, he enlisted in the bracero program, and he stayed working there until it ended in 1964.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Velazquez recalls learning to work the land with his family; in 1959, he traveled to Empalme, Sonora, to enlist in the bracero program, but his name was not on the list of eligible workers; in order he had to get the necessary papers, he had to pick two thousand kilos of cotton, which was very hard work; from then on, he preferred to pay a coyote to get the documentation; from there he went to Mexicali, Baja California, México, and the center there was only open from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM; his first contract took him to Arizona, where he stayed for a little over a year; some of the people who worked there but lived in town offered to give the braceros a ride whenever they needed one; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, living conditions, amenities, provisions, daily routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, and recreational activities, including trips into town; although it never happened to him, sometimes braceros were cheated out of their paychecks by the foremen; on paydays, groups of people would go to the camps in huge buses to sell goods, like clothes and shoes; in addition, he mentions that immigration officials would often go to the camp sites, because there were so many undocumented workers; during the program people without proper documentation were punished with jail time for a few months before being sent home, but when the program ended, they were sent straight home without having to go to jail; after his last contract in 1964, he returned to México, but he later came to the United States illegally; he was ultimately able to obtain legal documentation and permanently settle in the United States.
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Interview with Pedro Velazquez L by Annette Shreibati, 2006, "Interview no. 1162," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.