Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Arturo Álvarez was born on September 1, 1938, on a small ranch in León, Guanajuato, México; he had three brothers and five sisters, two of which passed away; he was formally schooled for roughly three or four years; while going to school, he also helped his father work the land; in 1963, he enlisted in the bracero program, which took him to work in the lettuce and tomato fields of California; he eventually immigrated to the United States, and he ultimately became a citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Álvarez briefly discusses his family and childhood; he talks about growing up on a ranch and helping his father work the land; in 1963, a wealthy woman from a neighboring ranch gave him the necessary permits and papers to enlist in the bracero program; he went through the processing center in Empalme, Sonora, México; his first contract took him to Salinas, California, where he continued renewing his contract and remained there for one year and nine months; from there he went on to Stockton, California, where he stayed for a little over a year; he goes on to give a detailed explanation of what was required to maintain the lettuce and tomato crops, including planting, cleaning, cutting, packing, and loading; moreover, he describes his daily routine, housing, provisions, payment, deductions, remittances, and recreational activities; additionally, he talks about his contract renewals and how after a while he was just told to stay as long as he wanted to continue working; in general, he was treated well by his employers; he sent letters and money home to his father via money order; after the program ended he obtained a visa in order to come to the United States and visit his brother in Chicago, Illinois; he eventually decided to stay, and he brought his family with him; he was able to establish residency through one of his children that was born in the United States, and he ultimately became a citizen; his overall memories of the bracero program are positive, because he was able to help his father financially and save a little bit of money for himself as well.
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Interview with Arturo Álvarez Padilla by Angélica Rivera, 2005, "Interview no. 1264," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.