Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mr. Juan Virgen Díaz was born on May 6, 1943, in Zacoalco, Jalisco de Torres, Mexico; he had nine siblings; his father joined the bracero program before Mr. Juan Virgen Díaz was born; in 1946, his father relocated the family to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico; in 1961, at the age of seventeen, he became a bracero; he labored in the citrus orchards of Oxnard and Riverside, California; his last bracero contract was in 1964.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Virgen Díaz recalls his childhood; he remembers hearing stories about his father working as a bracero in the United States; his father encouraged him to join the bracero program; they traveled to the processing center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; he recalls the entire process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times and transportation; he details the harsh conditions he and other men endured while waiting there; the center was overcrowded, they slept in barracks constructed of cardboard and on the floor; both he and his father were stripped, examined, and deloused on both sides of the border; in addition, he details how rudely the physical exams were conducted and the humiliation he felt when an inspector slapped his bottom; the braceros called the inspectors that drew blood “vampires”; some men fainted during this process; he recalls the advice his father gave him; his first contract sent him to work in the orchards of Oxnard, California; his second contract sent him to work in the orchards of Riverside, California; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, duties, payments, deductions, remittances, treatment, friendships, correspondence and recreational activities; he earned $8.00 a day and paid $1.75 a day for room and board; he recalls that the braceros issued a complaint about the food, changes were made, and their morale improved; he recalls the nicknames they gave to each other; he recalls the women he met while in the U.S.; he discusses the women that worked as prostitutes at the camp; he recalls the recreational wrestling matches, and actual altercations, between the men; he concludes by discussing both the negative and positive aspects of the bracero program.
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Interview with Juan Virgen Díaz by Anais Acosta, 2006, "Interview no. 1320," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.