Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Arturo Vargas Rios was born July 4, 1929, in Rodeo, Durango, México; his mother, Amelia Ríos, was a housewife, and his father, Primitivo Vargas, worked in the fields; Arturo had four siblings; as a young man, he came to work in the United States without proper documentation for a short time; later, he was able to acquire a bracero contract, and he worked in the fields picking celery and lettuce; he was ultimately able to legally immigrate to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Vargas talks about what his life was like growing up in México; he remembers that the bracero program was greatly publicized in his hometown of Rodeo, Durango, México; in order to enlist, he traveled to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México by cargo train; he waited for fifteen days with several thousand other men for their names to be called; they were often solicited by people from town to help pick cantaloupe and watermelon, but if they left, they risked losing their place in line and their chance at a contract; from there, he took another train to the reception center in the United States, where he was medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he worked in the fields picking celery and lettuce; he goes on to detail housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, treatment, payments, remittances, friendships and recreational activities; in addition, he explains that many men arrived thin, but with the food they ate, they left rather plump; one of his boss’s wives was involved with a church that gave religious English classes, but the men were not required to attend; while he was away, he sent letters, money and photographs to his mother so she would know he was fine; upon returning home, he often brought gifts for his family, including electric shavers, coats and dresses; sometime later, he married in Durango, México and eventually began raising a family; he was ultimately able to legally immigrate to the United States; overall, he has positive memories of the program, and he is proud to have been a bracero.
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Interview with Arturo Vargas Rios by Anaís Acosta, 2006, "Interview no. 1253," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.