Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Refugio L. Saldaña Sandoval was born in Tlaltenango [de Sánchez Román], Zacatecas, México, on December 21, 1939; she was the fourth born of her three brothers and two sisters; her father was a metal worker, and her mother was a housewife; she was formally educated through the sixth grade; in addition, she grew up surrounded by a very close-knit family, which included extended relatives; in December of 1958, when she was nineteen years old, she married a man named Nicolás, who served in the bracero program both before and after their marriage.
Summary of Interview
Ms. Saldaña describes her childhood and adolescence; she recalls meeting Nicolás, her husband, when she was fifteen, and she details their four year courtship; in 1959, a few months after their marriage, he returned to the United States on a new contract; while he was away, she stayed with her parents; shortly after his first return home, she became pregnant; his mother and sister, who lived in Santa Ana, California, insisted that Refugio have the baby in the United States; Refugio was hesitant at first, but she eventually agreed; Nicolás obtained a visitor’s permit and worked at a bakery in San Bernardino, California, while she lived with her mother-in-law in Santa Ana; consequently, all six children were born in the U.S.; Refugio goes on to chronicle the different places she worked and how her husband studied to become a realtor; although she did not suffer very much, because she was surrounded by her family, her husband did; he often cries when reflecting upon his experiences as a bracero; even so, these memories served as motivation for him to work hard so his children would have a better life; traveling to the United States was especially difficult, because he was transported in trains used for animals, which smelled horribly; Refugio concludes by stating that what helped her the most, especially in dealing with the clash between two cultures, was her family and the faith they instilled in her.
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Length of Transcript
Interview with Refugio L. Saldaña by Anabel Mota, 2006, "Interview no. 1171," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.