Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Faustino Martínez was born on August 13, 1926, in Cruz Grande, Guerrero, Mexico; his mother, Epimenia Balanzar, was a housewife and she also made clay pots; his father, Tomás, worked in agriculture; Mr. Martínez had fourteen siblings; only he and three others survived past infancy; he began working with his father in the fields at a very young age and consequently never received any formal schooling; later, in 1957, he became a bracero and worked in the fields of California picking carrots, lettuce and beets; his last bracero contract was in 1962; he later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Martínez briefly recalls his childhood and the work that his father and mother did; he was in his hometown when he heard about the bracero program; he decided to enlist in the bracero program and went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; he was stripped and medically examined; he details the harsh conditions he and other men endured while waiting there; he was sent by train to Mexicali; upon crossing into the United States, he was deloused and so were his luggage and clothing; he travelled by Greyhound bus to his first contract in the San Joaquin Valley, California in May of 1957; he returned to Mexicali and contracted to go to the Imperial Valley where he worked in the carrot fields; he became ill and was sent to the hospital; his next contract was in Holtville, California where he worked with a short-handled hoe in the lettuce fields; he states that they were forced to remain hunched over while working; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, payments, deductions, remittances to his parents, treatment, correspondence and recreational activities; he recalls that in El Centro, they closed the camp during Holy Week and the braceros were left without food; they complained and the contractor was no longer allowed to contract braceros; some braceros would go dancing and drinking on the weekends; he met his wife in Mexicali after his last contract; he and his wife had eight children; with the help of his boss he became a U.S. resident.
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Interview with Faustino Martínez by Violeta Mena, 2006, "Interview no. 1300," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.