Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Irene Solis was born on May 4, 1941, in Carrillo Puerto, Durango, México; by the time she was sixteen, she was already married and pregnant with her first child; in 1957, her husband, Fernando Barrios Domínguez, enlisted in the bracero program; in addition, her father-in-law and several other men in town were also braceros.
Summary of Interview
Ms. Solis recalls that there was no rain during the 1957 sowing season, which left them with no food or money; her husband, Fernando Barrios Domínguez, and other men from town tried to enlist in the bracero program, but they did not make it; later that same year they were able to travel to Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, and obtain a contract; although he never spoke much about his experiences, Irene recalls hearing her father-in-law assert that the men only left home out of necessity; moreover, he repeated that they were treated worse than animals while having to endure being stripped and fumigated; other men reiterated those sentiments; one man even said that he had been violated (violaron) while going through a border contracting center in Mexicali, Baja California, México; many men, including her husband, took such secrets to the grave; while Fernando was gone, Irene took on the responsibilities of a father in addition to those of a mother, which was especially difficult, because no one was there for moral support; when her children were sick, her mother-in-law helped her; in his letters home he told her how much he missed her, but he had no other choice; she goes on to describe in detail, the tragic events surrounding her husband’s death in 1970; consequently, she and her seven children had to move to Tijuana, Baja California, México, with her father; she later came to the United States with her children; time and again she thinks of what other possible things her husband and others had to endure out of simple necessity, which is in part why she continually volunteers to help feed day laborers in her area.
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Interview with Irene Solis by Araceli Esparza, 2006, "Interview no. 1183," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.