Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Paulino Martínez was born in 1940, in Ojocaliente, Zacatecas, México; he was the eldest of his three brothers and three sisters; his parents worked in agriculture; upon seeing other men come to work in the United States, he wanted the chance to do the same, and he enlisted in the bracero program in 1961; as a bracero he worked in Arkansas, California, and Texas, picking cabbage, carrots, chiles, cotton, lettuce, and tomatoes; in the early seventies, he came to the United States as an undocumented worker, but after amnesty was declared, he obtained legal status.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Martinez briefly describes his family and childhood; he saw other men coming to work in the United States, and he wanted the chance to do the same; in 1959, he married, and his wife became pregnant soon after; in 1961, he enlisted in the bracero program; his father-in-law knew people in the local government, which greatly helped him with the contracting process; he went through centers in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Empalme, Sonora, and Monterrey, Nuevo León, México; while there, he was medically examined, which was painful; upon arriving in the United States, he underwent further assessments that were embarrassing, because he was stripped naked, and sometimes secretaries were there as well; he describes one incident when a man fainted, and an ambulance was called; as a bracero he worked in Arkansas, California, and Texas, picking cabbage, carrots, chiles, cotton, lettuce, and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, living and working conditions, provisions, payments, deductions, and recreational activities; moreover, he talks about how difficult the work was for such relatively little money; although he was not always paid very well, it was better than what he would have made in México, because it was so hard to find work; he recalls that the borders were closed upon President Kennedy’s assassination; in the early seventies he came to the United States as an undocumented worker, but after amnesty was declared, he obtained legal status.
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Interview with Paulino Martínez by Violeta Domínguez, 2003, "Interview no. 1060," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.