Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jose R. Montañez was born in Aguascalientes, México, on March 6, 1932; he had four brothers and four sisters; when he was seven years old, he helped care for livestock; he was formally educated for only a year; sometime later, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California as a palmero and watering crops for a total of eleven years; his older brother was also a bracero; in 1964, José married, and he and his wife had seven children; he immigrated to the United States and ultimately became a citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Montañez talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; when he was seventeen years old, he went to Guadalajara, Jalisco, México to complete his military service, during which time his mother passed away; while there, he decided to enlist in the bracero program and went through the center in Guadalajara; he describes the necessary paperwork and medical exams, which were much more detailed in the United States; from there he was transported in a cargo train to Mexicali, Baja California, México; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California as a palmero and watering crops for a total of eleven years; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, working relationships, friendships, correspondence, payments, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town and celebrating holidays; while working in Coachella, California, his boss took him and the men to English classes given by his wife three times a week in the evenings; they also went to church every two weeks while there; he explains that when he irrigated crops, he worked eighteen hour shifts; eventually, he got a driver’s license and saved enough money to buy his own car; when necessary, he even took other braceros to the doctor or the hospital; in 1964, José married, and he and his wife had seven children; he immigrated to the United States and ultimately became a citizen; overall, he has positive memories of the program.
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Interview with Jose R. Montañez by Verónica Cortez, 2006, "Interview no. 1230," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.