Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jose Gomez C. was born on December 22, 1923; he grew up working with his parents in the fields and caring for animals; in 1951, he was married, and a year later he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in Arizona, California, and Oregon, picking lettuce, pears, strawberries, and tomatoes; he was ultimately able to obtain legal documentation for himself and his family, and they settled in the United States.
Summary of Interview
In 1952, Mr. Gomez traveled with people from his hometown to Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist in the bracero program; from there he was transported in a cargo train to Mexicali, Baja California, México; while being fumigated at the reception center in Calexico, California, he was laughed at and taunted; as part of the medical exams blood samples were taken and injections were sometimes administered through the pants he was wearing; as a bracero, he worked in Arizona, California, and Oregon, picking lettuce, pears, strawberries, and tomatoes; he goes on to detail various worksites, living and working conditions, provisions, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, contract renewals, and recreational activities; in addition, he explains that before arriving in Arizona he was specifically forbidden to play betting games of any kind; when he arrived, however, the foreman initiated such activities with the men; when he won, he was transferred to another work location, but he chose to return to México rather than go against the foreman; moreover, he mentions that on occasion, women went into the camps for the men; after completing his last bracero contract in 1960, he decided to stay in México with his wife and children, because he had already been gone for so long; he was later able to use his previous work history to legally immigrate and permanently settle with his family in the United States; upon final reflection of the program, he is unsure he would do it again if given the choice.
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Interview with Jose Gomez C. by Mario Sifuentez, 2006, "Interview no. 1223," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.