Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Interviewee: Juan Aguilar Lopes was born on August 21, 1931, in Jiquilpan, Michoacán, México; he is the youngest of four siblings; at an early age, he began working in agriculture with his family; he never received formal schooling; in 1950, he entered the United States as an undocumented worker, and shortly thereafter decided to join the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in California and Texas picking cotton, peaches and tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Aguilar Lopes remembers his childhood growing up in Jiquilpan, Michoacán, México; he states he worked from an early age in agriculture, resulting in him never attending a formal school; as an adult, he taught himself to read and write, and his wife helped him learn to manage his finances; in 1950, he entered the United States as an undocumented worker, and shortly thereafter decided to join the bracero program; he explains he was contracted the first time in Mexicali, Baja California, México and details what the contracting process was like; specifically, he describes how officials performed medical exams, which included blood tests; once in the United States, he states that farmers would pick workers from the processing center at a location he called La Asociación; he worked in California and Texas picking cotton, peaches and tomatoes; in addition, he describes what daily life was like for braceros, the living quarters they had, the food they ate, and what they did for recreation; moreover, he relates the difficulty of the work braceros did, and the pay they received; he specifies that deductions were made to his paycheck to cover food costs; furthermore, he states how he communicated via letters with his family, and how he sent money back to México; to conclude, he recounts how he legally brought his family to the United States.
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Interview with Juan Aguilar Lopes by Alma Carrillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1204," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.