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.
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Interview with Jose Alvarez M. by Verónica Cortez, 2006, "Interview no. 1079," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.