Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Antonio H. Pérez Herrera was born December 27, 1942, in Zináparo, Michoacán, México; he had four brothers and three sisters; his mother was a housewife, and his father was a campesino on an ejido; Antonio later married at the age of twenty; his brother, who had previously enlisted in the bracero program, convinced him to join in 1964; as a bracero, Antonio labored in the fields of California picking cantaloupes and tomatoes; after the program ended, he worked in the United States without documents, but he ultimately obtained legal status for himself and his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Pérez recalls his brother working as a bracero and being fascinated when he returned home with new clothes and a radio; Antonio later married at the age of twenty; he taught for a while but did not make very much money, which is why he decided to enlist as a bracero in 1964; in order to get on the list of available workers, he had to pay two hundred pesos; he explains that the fee was imposed by the person making the list, not the government; once on the list, he traveled to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; he describes the requirements, long waiting times and medical exams he endured at the center; from there he was transported with other men by train to the border at El Centro, California; they were fed and taken to barracks to await departure to their individual worksites; as a bracero, Antonio labored in the fields of California picking cantaloupes and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, correspondence and recreational activities, including religious services; in addition, he recounts other anecdotes about his experiences; after the program ended, he worked in the United States without documents; he explains that he earned better pay this way than as a bracero; in 1978, he obtained legal status, and by 1981 he was able to do the same for his wife and five children; he and his wife later had two more children; although the program ultimately changed his life for the better, he still has distressing memories of his experiences.
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Interview with Antonio H. Pérez Herrera by Marina Kalashnikova, 2008, "Interview no. 1366," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.