Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mercedes Pérez Salazar was born in Guanajuato, México, on September 26, 1922; when she was still young, her family moved to a different ranch where she had extended family; her parents separated, and she was consequently raised with her maternal grandmother and all of her children; as a young girl she was not formally educated, but she did learn how to work the land; she later married José Biurquis Hernández; he enlisted in the bracero program, and he worked in the fields picking beets and cotton; José and Mercedes went on to have nine children, eight girls and one boy.
Summary of Interview
Ms. Pérez talks about her family and what life was like growing up with her grandmother; in addition, she remembers always having to carry water home from the well, which was far away; she describes meeting José Biurquis Hernández and their ensuing courtship; when she was twenty-four years old, they were married; they lived with his mother and sisters, and they all got along very well; José worked selling ice and sweet potatoes in town; a year later, José and Mercedes had their first daughter; not long after, he was not making enough money, and he decided to enlist in the bracero program; while he was gone her hands were full caring for their daughter who was very mischievous; Mercedes even had problems with her sisters-in-law, because they would hit her daughter for misbehaving; even so, they would read the letters José sent her and write responses for her; he sent money to his father, and he in turn gave it to her, so she could buy clothes or other necessities; in his letters he mentioned having to wear his pants backward, because they were so dirty; moreover, he also told her that life there was very sad, and he worked a lot; he returned home with a suitcase full of things, like clothes, a bedspread, pantyhose, and fabric to make clothes; one time, he even brought a radio; after his time in the program, he went back to selling sweet potatoes with help from Mercedes.
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Interview with Mercedes Pérez Salazar by Mireya Loza, 2007, "Interview no. 1287," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.