Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Hilario Martínez Cortez was born on March 31, 1931, in the small pueblo of General Cepeda, Coahuila, México; he was the second youngest of his nine siblings; his mother was a housewife, and his father worked in agriculture on a hacienda; when Hilario was five years old, his father passed away; shortly thereafter, he began working the land and caring for the animals with the rest of his family; he later enlisted in the bracero program, and he worked in the fields of California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Texas, picking various fruits and vegetables; after the program ended, he was an undocumented worker in the United States, but he ultimately returned to México and settled with his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Martínez talks about his family and life growing up on an hacienda; moreover, he weeps upon recollecting his early childhood and his father’s subsequent death; he also remembers one of his older brothers trying to enlist in the bracero program but not being accepted; sometime later, Hilario began working as a tailor, but he did not make enough money, which led him to enroll in the program; his family did not want him to go, because they were afraid he would not return; even so, he went through contracting centers in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Monterrey, Nuevo León, and Empalme, Sonora, México; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Texas, picking various fruits and vegetables; he goes on to detail the different worksites, camp sizes, housing, amenities, duties, treatment, remittances, correspondence, contract lengths and renewals and recreational activities; in addition, he also discusses deserting one of his contracts, because he was paid so poorly; he explains how he escaped immigration checks and even had a social security number that helped him maneuver more easily when in town; he also remembers never having to go into town for alcoholic beverages, because a truck stocked with them would go into the camps for the men; later, after the program ended, he was an undocumented worker in the United States, but he ultimately returned to México and settled with his family.
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Interview with Hilario Martínez Cortez by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1439," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.