Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Lucas Benítez was born on October 18, 1918; his dad worked in the mines, and his mother often sold goods from a makeshift stand; he often helped his parents with their small family business; growing up, he and his family were extremely poor; he was formally educated through the third grade; when he was twelve years old, he began working in the mines, in order to help his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Benítez vividly describes his family and childhood; in 1942, he learned about the bracero contracts and started exercising in order to build calluses on his hands, because he knew they would be checked; he details the medical exams he underwent and how he was bathed in a liquid he was unfamiliar with; shortly thereafter, he and other braceros were loaded on buses and taken to different cities throughout the United States; he was taken to Salinas, California, where he labored in the beet and lettuce fields, which he explains was very difficult; in addition, he talks about working for other ranchers on weekends and being paid in cash; he also went to Saint Louis, Missouri, but did not stay very long, because it was so cold; in 1950, he obtained a new contract, which took him to Nebraska, but he only stayed there for a few weeks; moreover, he mentions one incident where he fainted while working in the fields, but no one helped him; for a time, he was an undocumented worker, but he was later detained and eventually deported to México; years later, he went to school and began to research the bracero program; he was saddened to learn about the promises neither the Mexican nor American governments kept; finding out about the 10 percent that was taken from the braceros was especially disheartening for him.
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Interview with Lucas Edmundo Benítez Cárdenas by Alejandra Valles, 2008, "Interview no. 1335," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.