Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jose Alvarez M. was born December 5, 1946, in Jamay, Jalisco, México; he had seven siblings; his father was a bracero, and he completed roughly five contracts; José was formally educated through the fourth grade; he also worked in the fields; in 1953, after his father passed away, he and two of his brothers also enlisted in the bracero program; José was only sixteen years old at the time; he completed two contracts at the same place in California picking tomatoes; he later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Alvarez remembers growing up hearing his father talk about the United States; he was about ten years old when his father was a bracero; he often sent money, and the family lived off of that and what little they could bring in from the fields; his father completed roughly five contracts; after he passed away, José decided to enlist in the bracero program in 1953; he and his two brothers signed up on the list of eligible workers in their hometown of Jamay, Jalisco, México; even though he was only sixteen at the time, he was still able to pass; he went to Empalme, Sonora, México where he was medically examined and waited four days to get his contract; from there, he was transported by train to Mexicali, Baja California, México; he was given three ham sandwiches, milk and juice for the ride; although he did not like it, he had no choice; in Mexicali he was further examined and deloused; as a bracero, he completed two contracts at the same place in California picking tomatoes; he goes on to detail camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, correspondence, contract lengths and recreational activities; his brothers were on different lists, and they were unable to work together; José lived in a huge barracks with nine hundred other men and they were all taken to different worksites each morning; the men were treated very well, and their employers often had raffles for prizes like boots, shirts and pants; José also relates other anecdotes about his time with the program; he later immigrated to the United States; upon final reflection, he is proud to have been a bracero.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Jose Alvarez M. by Verónica Cortez, 2006, "Interview no. 1079," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.