Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Bernardino Vilchis was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México; he grew up in a middle class family, and later worked as an electrician; he joined the Bracero Program in 1943, and worked in Arizona as a railroad line laborer.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Vilchis recalls growing up in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México; he states that his family was part of the middle class in México, and he was trained to be an electrician; additionally, he remembers joining the Bracero Program to prove to himself that he could do hard physical labor; he worked in Arizona as a railroad line laborer from 1943 to 1948; he relates the bad impression he initially had of the program because of the train ride he was forced to endure to Querétaro, Querétaro, México in a dirty cattle car; furthermore, he describes the hiring process there, the contract he signed, and his arrival at the bracero camp; he details what daily activities they did, the horrible food they ate, the housing they had and the work they did; moreover, he explains how he learned English, and became the interpreter for braceros when they went into town; he also helped illiterate braceros write letters; beyond these memories, he discusses the good treatment they received from foremen, the wages they made, and the difficulty of working in extreme weather; he also reflects on the way many promises made to them were broken, and how the Mexican government defrauded them of their savings; he explains why he decided to return to México, and how he has mixed feelings about the program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Bernardino Vilchis Cesar by Violeta Domínguez, 2002, "Interview no. 1045," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.