Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Isidro Herrera Ortega was born in Zacatecas, México, in 1934; he was the oldest of his three siblings; his parents were seasonal agriculturalists, and they planted beans and corn; when he was eight years old, he began helping his parents work the land and care for animals; he was formally educated through the third grade; his father and some of his uncles enlisted in the bracero program, and in 1955, Isidro also joined; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, watering, picking and packing grapes, lettuce and tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Herrera talks about his hometown and working in agriculture and with livestock while growing up; he knew about the bracero program when it first started in the early 1940s; a number of men joined and returned, including his father and some of his uncles; Isidro decided to follow in their footsteps and enlisted in 1955 with the hopes of having a better life; to begin the contracting process, he traveled by bus to Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; later, he also went through the center in Empalme, Sonora, México; the center in Irapuato was situated on an old military camp, and it held between thirty and forty thousand people at a time; he also describes the medical exams and required documents; some men were on lists of available workers by municipalities, while others were not and relied solely on the people they knew at the center in order to go through; Isidro waited four months to obtain a contract; from there he was transported by bus to Mexicali, Baja California, México; once he crossed the border, he was examined again; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, watering, picking and packing grapes, lettuce and tomatoes; he also goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, correspondence and contract lengths and renewals; moreover, he mentions an accident in which a bus crashed and killed roughly fifteen braceros.
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Interview with Isidro Herrera Ortega by Alejandra Díaz, 2008, "Interview no. 1348," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.