Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Agustín Alvarez was born on August 28, 1941, in Los Volcanes, Jalisco, México; he lived with his mother and grandparents; at an early age, he began working in agriculture and, later, as a vaquero; he completed three years of formal school; his family moved to Mexicali, Baja California, México in 1960; he joined the bracero program that same year; as a bracero, he worked in Arizona and California picking cotton, lettuce, and tomatoes until 1964.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Alvarez remembers his childhood in Los Volcanes, Jalisco, México, and growing up with his mother and grandparents; he states that he only completed three years of formal school, because he started working in agriculture at an early age; after the death of his aunt, he remembers how his mother moved his family to Mexicali, Baja California, México to help his uncle; he recalls learning about the bracero program while living there; in 1960, he joined the bracero program; he describes how he was contracted in Empalme, Sonora, México, what the process was like there, and how he was later sent to a center in Calexico, California; additionally, he explains what medical exams braceros received in the processing center, how they were deloused, and the food they were given; he describes how he felt humiliated during his time at the centers; he compares it to being treated like an animal; once in the United States, he worked in Arizona and California picking cotton, lettuce, and tomatoes until 1964; he details what life was like as a bracero, the work he did, and the good treatment he received from his foremen; moreover, he discusses the pay he received, where he lived, and the food he was given; he continues to recount an accident that occurred while braceros were being transported to a worksite; he explains that they were traveling in two different trucks and the first one was hit by a train; furthermore, he states he witnessed the entire accident and that many braceros died; he also recalls working alongside Japanese workers; to conclude he says that he feels positive about his experience as a bracero even though he suffered many hardships, but that he feels the word ‘bracero’ is discriminatory.
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Interview with Agustín Alvarez by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1205," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.