Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Aristeo Ortega Acuña was born September 15, 1931, in Sahuaripa, Sonora, México; he was the second youngest of his nine siblings; his father was a laborer and also worked with seasonal crops; Aristeo was formally educated through the second grade; when he was fifteen years old, he worked in the fields of Obregón, Sonora, México; in 1957, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and loading apricots, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes and other citrus crops; he completed a total of four contracts; after the program ended, he immigrated to the United States; in 1967, he was able to bring his family with him.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortega briefly talks about his family; in 1957, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; initially, he signed up in Hermosillo, Sonora, México and then traveled to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; he recounts the entire process he underwent, including the requirements to pick cotton, necessary papers, long waiting times and medical examinations; as a bracero, he completed a total of four contracts and labored in Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and loading apricots, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes and other citrus crops; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, contract lengths and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he details picking peaches, which was especially difficult and dangerous, because of the high ladders they used; men often fell and were injured; despite the skill and risk involved, they were paid very little; he also recounts an incident in Sacramento, California when inspectors went to the camp, because the men were cheated out of their pay; they were transferred to another camp, and their boss was fined and no longer allowed to hire braceros; after the program ended, he immigrated to the United States; in 1967, he was able to bring his family with him; overall, his memories of the program are negative, because it was such a hard life, especially without his family.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Aristeo Ortega Acuña by Manuel Sanmiguel, 2008, "Interview no. 1361," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.