José Alberto Garza
Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesús Gallegos was born on July 1, 1945, in Ecuandureo, Michoacán, México; his parents worked in agriculture; he was the third born of his seven brothers and two sisters; by the time he was about six or seven years old, he helped his father work the land; consequently, he only went to school for roughly a year; when he was twelve years old, he went to work picking tomatoes in Sinaloa, Mexico; he continued working in Sinaloa until he was roughly sixteen years old.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Gallegos recalls what it was like growing up in his hometown of Ecuandureo, Michoacán, México; when he was sixteen years old, he moved from Sinaloa to Sonora, México, to work; while there, he learned about the bracero program, because many men worked there to obtain papers for the workers’ lists in Empalme, Sonora; in 1961, he acquired the necessary documents, but he was too young and gave it away; the following year, he was able to go to the contracting center in Empalme, where he waited for three weeks to be called; he recounts how difficult it was there; sometimes, men were found dead in the morning, because they had been robbed the night before; once called, he was stripped and examined; then he went to the train station, where he was given food and sent to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico; upon arriving in the United States, he was stripped, fumigated, and examined again before being sent to his worksite; he labored throughout California for two years, and he was treated well; his father was also a bracero, and they ran into each other on two occasions while they were traveling for the program; he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, living arrangements, daily routines, provisions, payments, deductions, and recreational activities; he also describes the events surrounding an incident he heard about where thirty-six braceros died due to a train wreck and the apparent neglect of a bus driver; in addition, he mentions that braceros were given laxatives in their food; even so, his overall experiences with the program were positive, and he is proud to have been a bracero.
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Interview with Jesús Gallegos by José Alberto Garza, 2008, "Interview no. 1344," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.