Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Claro Ruiz Ortíz was born August 12, 1936, on an ejido in Chihuahua, México; his mother’s name was Secundina Ortíz, and she was a housewife; his father’s name was Mariano Ruiz, and he was a campesino; when Claro was ten years old, his father died; as a result, he had to stop going to school and start working; several of his family members served in the bracero program; in 1956, he also joined the program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah cleaning, pruning and picking apples, beets, cotton and pears; he continued working with the program until 1961.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortíz talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; in 1956, he decided to enlist in the bracero program, because there was no work in México; he went through the contracting center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, and he describes the process as very long and sad; thousands of men were waiting, and they were divided into groups, stripped and examined altogether in a large room; he explains that if he had proof he had already worked as a bracero, he was able to pass through more quickly; from there, he was transferred in a cargo train that had previously been filled with metals to the border in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México; upon crossing into the United States, he was deloused and further examined before going to the worksite; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah cleaning, pruning and picking apples, beets, cotton and pears; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, working relationships, payments, remittances, contract lengths, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; although he obtained yearly contracts from 1956 to 1959, in 1960, it was too hard, and he had to wait until the following year, which was his last; in addition, he offers several anecdotes about his experiences with the program, including attending religious services and celebrating holidays; overall, he has positive memories of his time as a bracero.
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Interview with Claro Ruiz Ortíz by Manuel Sanmiguel, 2008, "Interview no. 1374," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.