Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Lorenzo Perla was born in Concheño, which is in the municipality of Ocampo, Chihuahua, México; his father died a few months before he was born, and his mother died when he was only six months old; consequently, he was raised by his oldest sister and her uncle on her husband’s side; Lorenzo worked rather than go to school, and he learned to read and write as an adult; in 1949, he enlisted in the bracero program and completed three contracts; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Michigan, New Mexico and Texas, picking beets, cabbage, cotton, cucumbers and lettuce; in addition, he worked as a cook and drove tractors.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Perla talks about coming to work in the United States during the late 1940s without proper documentation; in 1949, while working in New Mexico, he was taken to El Paso, Texas to obtain documents through the bracero program; he describes the process he underwent in El Paso, including medical exams and delousing procedures, which made him feel like he was looked down upon; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Michigan, New Mexico and Texas, picking beets, cabbage, cotton, cucumbers and lettuce, and he completed three contracts; in addition, he worked as a cook and drove tractors; he also goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, accommodations, provisions, duties, contract lengths and renewals, remittances, correspondence, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; moreover, he explains that he was so bad at picking cotton he became a cook; the other braceros paid him to cook for them instead of picking; later, he even learned how to drive a tractor, which helped him obtain longer contracts; oftentimes, on his days off, he picked enough to fill his bag and get a head start on the week; he also relays several other anecdotes about his experiences; furthermore, he talks about meeting his wife, who he later learned was the daughter of a man he had previously worked with as a bracero; he was ultimately able to arrange for legal residency with the help of a family member.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Listen to the Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Lorenzo Perla by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1368," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.