Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Nicolas Martínez was born on September 9, 1926, in Puebla, México; he came from a family of campesinos, whose main crops were beans and corn; when he was roughly thirty-five years old, he enlisted in the bracero program; after the program ended, he traveled back and forth between the United States and México in order to work; he later became a U.S. citizen; in addition, he became involved with different civic organizations intended to help field workers.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Martínez begins by stating that many men left their homes in México, because there was not enough work to support their families; when he was roughly thirty-five years old, he enlisted in the bracero program; he explains that in order to get on the list of eligible workers in his home town he had to work in the fields there; once he was on that list, along with several hundred other men, he went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; after waiting for up to one month, he was transported to Mexicali, Baja California, México, where he and the other men were treated like livestock; the medical exams were particularly embarrassing, because they were stripped in front of everyone and fumigated; the testicular exams were especially difficult and painful; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arkansas, California, and Michigan, picking apples, beets, cotton, cucumbers, lettuce, and peaches; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, provisions, payments, deductions, remittances, contract renewals, and recreational activities; more specifically, he reveals that after four or five months of working, employers would bring women into the camps for the men; in addition, he explains that if there were any complaints, the Mexican government would send investigators to look into the allegations; he also describes the various jobs he had after the program ended, and how he later became part of a group named Hermandad Mexicana, which helped people obtain visas; moreover, he talks about how he was part of the National Chicano Moratorium March when Rubén Salazar was killed.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Listen to the Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Nicolas Martínez L. by Pablo González, 2006, "Interview no. 1175," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.