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.
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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.