Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Rafael Hernández was born on October 24, 1933, in Guadalcázar, San Luis Potosí, Mexico; he had eleven siblings; his mother was a housewife, and his father worked in agriculture; in 1947, his father died and he set out to find work; in 1954, he became bracero and remained working as such until 1960; he worked in Calipatri, California picking cotton; he also worked in El Centro, California; he met his wife in 1959; they had six children; his last contract was in 1960; he later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
In search for employment, Mr. Hernández traveled from San Luis Potosí to Hermosillo, Mexico where he found out about the bracero program; he was required to demonstrate that he was capable of picking cotton; he picked seven hundred kilos of cotton in fifteen days; he was given a letter which certified that he was a farm laborer and available for employment; he then traveled to the processing center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; he recalls that one of the requirements for the braceros was to have calloused hands; he and approximately 150 other men traveled by train from Hermosillo to Mexicali, Mexico; from Mexicali he was sent to El Centro, California where he was contracted to work in Calipatria, California picking cotton; he details the harsh living conditions he and the other braceros had to endure; in addition, he talks about how painful the physical exams were and how rudely they were conducted; as part of the process, he was stripped, medically examined, and deloused; Mr. Hernández describes the powder that was sprayed on his body; he believes it was sulfur because of the yellow residue that it left on his skin; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, duties, payments, deductions, friendships, correspondence and recreational activities; once his 18 month contract ended, he returned to Mexicali, Mexico where he renewed his contract; after his contract ended, he traveled to Monterrey, Mexico and obtained documentation to immigrate to the United States with help form his boss; he worked ten or more hours a day, seven days a week; Mr. Hernández studied in Brawley, California in order to operate cotton-picking machines.
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Interview with Rafael Hernández by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1296," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.