Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Artemio Cantú Benavides was born on a ranch in China, Nuevo León, México, on September 16, 1932; he was the oldest of six children; as a child, he helped his father work the land and care for the animals; he was never formally educated; when he was eleven years old, his mother died, and he and his siblings were left in the care of their paternal grandmother; in 1959, he enlisted in the bracero program; he worked primarily in Texas as a tractor driver, but he also picked cotton, tomatoes, and other vegetables; he remained with the program for a total of four years.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cantú Benavides discusses his childhood and family; in 1959, he traveled to Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, to enlist in the bracero program; he mentions that while there, people often paid for the necessary documentation and were left without any money, but they still had to wait for months to be called; from Monterrey he was taken by bus to a reception center at the border where he was discriminated against and treated poorly; moreover, he describes the delousing process where the men were treated like animals, and the medical examinations, which included collections of blood samples, that were very painful; he endured what he had to, because he needed the money; his first bracero contract was only forty days, but he was later able to prolong it for another six months; he continued to obtain contract extensions over the next four years; consequently, he returned to México every six months to a year; as a bracero, he worked primarily in Texas as a tractor driver, but he also picked cotton, tomatoes, and other vegetables; he goes on to discuss various work-sites, duties, wages, work schedules, living conditions, provisions, remittances, and recreational activities; in general, he was treated well by his employers; with the money he made as a bracero, he was able to open a small grocery store; unfortunately, he started drinking too much, and he lost the store and most of his money; he comments that he was too young at the time, and he did not know how to manage his money; eventually, he was able to obtain a visa in order to stay in the United States; his overall memories of the program are positive, with the exception of the border checkpoints, where he was treated very badly.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Artemio Cantú Benavides by Magdalena Mieri, 2005, "Interview no. 1267," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.