Interviewer

Ivonne Méndez

Project

Bracero Oral History

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee

José Natividad Alva was born on December, 8, 1939, in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México; as a child, he was raised by his grandmother, but when she died he went to live with his father and eight siblings; his father was abusive, which led him seek a life outside of his home very early on; he ultimately enlisted in the bracero program, which led him to work in California and Texas, picking cantaloupes, grapefruits, green beans, lettuce, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes; after the program ended he immigrated to the United States with his wife and children.

Summary of Interview

Mr. Alva talks about his childhood, family, and father, who was abusive, which led him to seek a life outside of his home very early on; growing up, he worked picking cotton in various places throughout México, and this eventually led him to enlist in the bracero program; he details the process he went through to get the necessary paperwork for the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; from there, he and the other men were loaded in cargo trains, about one hundred per box car, and transported to Calexico, California; he was treated so badly that he wanted to return to México, but he had to work; while being processed in the United States, he underwent what he describes as cruel and embarrassing medical exams; he was also deloused and vaccinated; moreover, he mentions that several men became ill and feverish due to the immunizations, but they had to work, because they were only able to acquire forty-five day contracts; as a bracero, he obtained a total of three contracts to work in California and Texas, picking cantaloupes, grapefruits, green beans, lettuce, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes; he goes on to explain the various worksites, duties, daily routines, living conditions, treatment, provisions, recreational activities, and remittances; in addition, he talks about the difficulties he had with fellow workers and how hard it was to manage, because there were no mediators; after the program ended he immigrated to the United States with his wife and children; he concludes by stating that being a bracero changed his life, because it opened his eyes to a lot of new things.

Date of Interview

1-12-2008

Length of Interview

53 minutes

Listen to the Interview

 
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Tape Number

No. 1330

Transcript Number

No. 1330

Length of Transcript

33 pages

Interview Number

No. 1330

Terms of Use

Unrestricted

Comments

Interview in Spanish.

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