Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Antonio Cisneros Piña was born in Tichpéual (??), México, in 1935; he has four sisters and two brothers, and his father was a campesino; his formal education extended through the fourth grade, at which point he began helping his father work in the fields; he married in 1955, and two years later, he had his first daughter; in 1958, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, Colorado and Texas picking beets, cotton, cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes until the program ended in 1964.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cisneros speaks of the obstacles he and his family faced working in the fields of México; in 1955, he married, and two years later, he had his first daughter; soon after his wife became very ill, which prompted him to enlist in the bracero program in 1958; he discusses waiting to get on the list of available workers before traveling by train and bus to get to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; in addition, he describes the difficulties he underwent while waiting there, including becoming sick from the heat; the resulting fever kept him from passing the medical exams; he went to a health center where he was given pills and a shot, and three days later, he was called again and passed the tests; from there he was transported by train to Mexicali, Baja California, México, where he underwent further medical assessments and delousing procedures; he remembers being fed like a king once he was in Calexico, California; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, Colorado and Texas picking beets, cotton, cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes until the program ended in 1964; he goes on to chronicle housing, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, correspondence, contract lengths and renewals and recreational activities; moreover, he offers detailed descriptions of working with beets including the use of a short hoe; during one of his contracts he also learned to drive, which changed his life; he was able to stop picking in the fields and assume driving responsibilities; upon returning to México he also found work driving; he later joined the Confederación Nacional Campesina in the fight for bracero compensation.
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Interview with Antonio Cisneros Piña by Alma Carrillo, 2007, "Interview no. 1390," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.