Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Nicolas S. Saldaña was born on a small ranch just outside of Tlaltenango, Zacatecas, México; he has three sisters and one brother; as a child he helped work the land and care for the animals; in 1957, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Oregon, and Washington, picking corn, cotton, and pears.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Saldaña describes his very humble upbringing; his father was an undocumented worker in the United States and initially sent money home to his family, but he eventually stopped; his mother and sisters were left on their own, and he weeps at the recollection of how much they suffered; in 1957, he decided to enlist as a bracero with the hopes of earning money to help his family; he explains what he went through at the different processing centers in México, including paying money to gather all the required documents, the hundreds of thousands of men waiting for contracts, how hard it was waiting for weeks on end, and enduring harsh conditions throughout the entire time; in addition, he depicts his ride on a train without seats, the lingering smell of the animals that had previously been in there, and how the straw used to feed the animals was left on the floor of the train when he boarded; upon arriving in the United States, he recounts how he was examined, deloused, and taken to a holding area where ranchers would pick the workers they wanted; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Oregon, and Washington, picking corn, cotton, and pears; he goes on to describe the various worksites, duties, payment, living conditions, and provisions; while working in Medford, Oregon, picking pears, he fell off a fifteen foot ladder; although he was not seriously injured, he was given monetary compensation; while working as a bracero, he was able to communicate with his mother and sister who had since emigrated to the United States; upon finishing one of his contracts he had to return to México and consequently met up with his mother and sister in Tijuana, Baja California.
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Interview with Nicolas S. Saldaña by Perla Guerrero, 2006, "Interview no. 1179," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.