Interviewer

Mireya Loza

Project

Bracero Oral History

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee

Roberto Meléndez López was born June 7, 1933, in San José [de] Carbonerillas, in the municipality of Mazapil, Zacatecas, México; he was the ninth born of his fourteen siblings; his parents worked on an ejido, and by the time he was eight years old, he helped them work the land; in 1955, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin picking, irrigating and driving a tractor in the beet, corn, cotton and tomato fields; he obtained roughly ten contracts, and two of his brothers were also braceros.

Summary of Interview

Mr. Meléndez talks about his family and growing up on an ejido where he learned to work the land and care for animals; when the land did not produce enough crops to maintain the family, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; his father was too old to work, and he had to help support the family; in 1955, he went to Monterrey, Nuevo León, México with the necessary paperwork and joined the program; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin picking, irrigating and driving a tractor in the beet, corn, cotton and tomato fields; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, provisions, payments, remittances, treatment, contract lengths, recreational activities, including trips into town, correspondence and friendships; his first contract took him to Edinburg, Texas, where he ended up working with his brother for over a year; when Roberto asked for a raise, his employer refused and took him and his brother to get a new contract; he picked cotton for the first time while in Texas; when he finished with that crop, he learned how to drive a tractor; as his contract was ending in Minnesota, his employer took him to another ranch to work; while there he was offered one thousand dollars to stay, but he decided to leave; moreover, he recalls that one boss would take the men beer at night to relax; he returned to Mexico in 1958 and married; the following year he fulfilled his last contract; he decided to stay home with his wife and start a family; overall he has positive memories of the program, because it helped him financially.

Date of Interview

6-22-2008

Length of Interview

32 minutes

Listen to the Interview

 
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Tape Number

No. 1442

Transcript Number

No. 1442

Length of Transcript

25 pages

Transcriber

GMR Transcription Services

Interview Number

No. 1442

Terms of Use

Unrestricted

Comments

Interview in Spanish.

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