Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Francisco Sáenz was born October 4, 1931, on a ranch in Manuel Doblado, Guanajuato, México; his mother’s name was Leonor, and his father’s name was Simón; they both worked on their family owned ranch; Francisco was the fourth born of his nine siblings; in 1951, he married, and he started a family soon after; a few years later, in 1956, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California cleaning, pruning, fumigating, picking and packing various crops; he eventually immigrated to the United States, and he slowly began bringing his wife and ten children.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Sáenz talks about growing up on a ranch with his family, and he shares several stories about his life in México; in 1951, he married, and he started a family soon after; a few years later, in 1956, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México and recounts the entire process, including the various requirements and long waiting times; from there he traveled by train to the border in Mexicali, Baja California, México, where he was stripped, examined and deloused, which he describes as very aggressive; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California cleaning, pruning, fumigating, picking and packing various crops; he goes on to detail the different worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, contract lengths and renewals, payments, deductions, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town; one of his favorite places to shop was JC Penney; after the crops were fumigated it was especially difficult to pick, because the smell was so bad; he also remembers that a friend from his hometown was killed in an accident after being trampled by heavy machinery; his remains were sent home, and his family was paid a compensatory fee; in addition, he offers other anecdotes about his time as a bracero; he eventually immigrated to the United States, and he slowly began bringing his wife and ten children; overall, he had positive experiences working with the program, and he learned a great deal.
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Interview with Francisco Sáenz by Alejandra Díaz, 2008, "Interview no. 1375," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.