Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Ignacio I. Álvarez was born February 10, 1933, in Guerrero, México; his parents worked in agriculture, and he had six sisters and three brothers; he was formally educated through the second grade; his family was poor, and consequently, he had to work; one of his uncles worked with the bracero program, and when Ignacio was twenty-five years old, he decided to do the same and enlist in the program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California, irrigating and picking cotton, cucumbers, lemons, oranges and tomatoes; he eventually immigrated to the United States and later married.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Álvarez briefly talks about his family; one of his uncles worked with the bracero program, which later led him to do the same when he was twenty-five years old; he describes getting on the list of available workers before going to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México, where his hands were examined for signs of manual labor; from there, he was sent by bus to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, where he was given a thorough medical examination; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California, irrigating and picking cotton, cucumbers, lemons, oranges and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the worksites, housing, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, working relationships, payments, deductions, remittances, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; a group of forty to fifty men, including some his friends, went on strike in Arizona, because the conditions were so poor; as a result, they were all fired and sent back to México; Ignacio chose to remain uninvolved, because his family was hungry and suffering in México; he makes repeated comparisons between the camps in Arizona and California, which highlight how deplorable conditions in Arizona really were; once, while he was eating dinner, immigration officials went to the camp to check for proper documentation; after his last contract, he stayed in Tijuana, Baja California, México for a few months, where he met his wife, before immigrating to the United States; he helped her do the same in 1963; overall, he has positive memories of the program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Ignacio I. Álvarez by Adriana Sandoval, 2006, "Interview no. 1069," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.