Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Rafael Cortez was born in Techaluta [de Montenegro], Jalisco, México; some of his family members, including uncles and cousins, came to the United States under the bracero program; Rafael longed to come to the states in the hopes of finding a better life or more aptly stated, to live the American dream; when he was eighteen, he traveled to Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist in the program; as a bracero, he worked on several contracts throughout California and once in Arizona, as well.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cortez describes how the Mexican government would often send notices about forty-five day contracts with the bracero program to various cities throughout the country; upon receiving these announcements, men would travel to designated work locations in order to obtain the necessary paperwork for contracting centers; Rafael went to the center in Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist in the program; he states that there were over twenty-five thousand men waiting at the center, but there were only between three and five thousand men processed daily; Rafael goes on to describe the medical assessments he underwent while at the center; upon arriving in the United States, he was examined again and deloused; consequently, when blood samples were drawn, many men fainted; after being processed, ranchers would pick and choose which men they wanted to work, like they would animals; the men were singled out based on their size and what crop they would be harvesting; they were then transported by bus to their worksites; as a bracero, Rafael worked on several contracts throughout California and once in Arizona; he details the different cities he was sent to, as well as duties, daily routines, housing, provisions, payment, remittances, and recreational activities; in addition, he states that his initial salary was 75¢ an hour, but he ultimately earned up to $2.25 an hour; moreover, in spite of the fact that none of the men had cars, they would often go to the drive-in movies after work, and they would sit on the floor; although the films were always in English, they all enjoyed themselves nevertheless.
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Interview with Rafael Cortez by Araceli Esparza, 2006, "Interview no. 1167," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.