Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Alfonso Ceja was born on September 23, 1934, in Villamar, Michoacán, México; his parents worked in agriculture, and he had six brothers and one sister; he helped his parents work the land; consequently, he received very little formal education; in 1954, he enlisted in the bracero program, where he continued working for the next ten years; as a bracero he worked mainly in California, where his primary job was to prune and prepare crops such as celery, lettuce, peaches, strawberries, and tomatoes; he later returned to the United States as an undocumented worker, but he was eventually able to obtain legal residency.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ceja briefly mentions his family; in 1954, he traveled to Mexicali, Baja California, México to enlist in the bracero program; in addition, he went through contracting centers in Hermosillo and Empalme, Sonora, and Irapuato, Guanajuato, but he was not always able to get a contract; he also describes the transportation from the centers to border towns and how he was treated badly upon being physically examined and deloused; oftentimes the men would faint when blood samples were collected, because they were so weak and malnourished; as a bracero he worked mainly in California, where his primary job was to prune and prepare crops such as celery, lettuce, peaches, strawberries, and tomatoes; his duties required him to remain hunched over using a short hoe for hours at a time, which he describes as discriminatory; he worked extremely hard for relatively little money; moreover, he details how much he was paid for different crops, the difference between hourly and contract work, and the deductions taken from his paycheck; he goes on to talk about the various places he worked, duties, contract lengths and amendments, housing, amenities, provisions, remittances, and recreational activities; furthermore, he comments that ignorance often led the braceros to work much harder than necessary in an effort to compete with each other; he later returned to the United States as an undocumented worker, but he was eventually able to obtain legal residency.
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Interview with Alfonso Ceja by Adriana Sandoval, 2006, "Interview no. 1214," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.