Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Tarsicio Ortíz was born October 21, 1951, in Michoacán, México; his father was born in 1915, and he labored in the fields as a campesino; during the 1940s, before he married, he enlisted in the bracero program; he continued working as a bracero until Tarsicio was roughly ten years old; in addition, several of his family members were also braceros; Tarsicio was formally educated through the third grade; he later came to the United States without documents, but he was ultimately able to obtain legal status and help his father do the same; his father later died at the age of seventy-nine.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortíz talks about his father’s time as a bracero; he initially enlisted in the bracero program during the 1940s, before he married; some of his friends were hesitant to join, because they were afraid of being sent off to war; even so, he had to take the chance; he went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; his hands were checked for calluses; some of the men that did not have any work experience rubbed sticks together in their hands to make calluses; he often talked to Tarsicio about how difficult life in México was and how working as a campesino was simply not enough, which is why he decided to leave; Tarsicio remembers that with the money his father sent, the family was able to buy land and livestock and make a better life for themselves; even so, it was difficult being without his father; he returned home once or twice a year, and he brought clothes, shoes and toys; he was an affectionate man and often told stories about his experiences as a bracero; during his free time, he played poker with other braceros and regularly won cigarettes; the men also listed to the radio; overall, Tarsicio admits that his life was better because of the money his father was able to send the family; his father later died at the age of seventy-nine; Tarsicio also mentions his on-going fight for bracero compensation.
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Interview with Tarsicio Ortíz by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1071," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.