Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesus Solis was born August 11, 1931, in Manuel Doblado, Guanajuato, México; he was raised by his grandparents on a ranch with his three siblings; as a young boy, he worked on the ranch and cared for animals; he was never formally educated; during his early twenties, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking and packing tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Solis talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; although joining the bracero program was never an economic necessity for him, he longed to come to the United States to know what it was like; when he was in his early twenties, he went with two of his friends to the contracting center in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; they paid a lawyer who was responsible for the list of eligible workers two hundred pesos to get on the list; by the next evening they were on a train headed for the United States; during the process, he was most embarrassed by the fact that he did not know how to sign his name on the contract; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking and packing tomatoes; he goes on to detail housing, provisions, duties, routines, payments, deductions, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; shortly after arriving at the worksite, the men were taken to a store to buy supplies, including paper to write letters home; after some trouble, he managed to find someone to help him and even teach him how to read and write; he recalls making two hundred and fifty dollars per paycheck and sending money home to his grandmother who saved it for him; some braceros deserted their contracts after being promised they could make more money at other camps; Jesús’ employer offered to help him stay in the United States, but he refused thinking it would be easy to obtain a new contract; after returning to México, however, he found it was impossible; he later bought thirty-five heads of cattle with the money his grandmother saved; not long after, his wife became ill, and he was left a widow at the age of thirty-two; he later remarried and his life changed for the better.
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Interview with Jesus Solis by Violeta Mena, 2006, "Interview no. 1248," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.