Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Roberto Silva M. was born June 6, 1938, in Calvillo, Aguascalientes, México; he had six sisters and five brothers; his father was a campesino; the family moved to Jalpa, Zacatecas, México when he was eight years old; as a young boy, he helped his father work in the fields; during the mid-1950s, when he was eighteen years old, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California and Texas, cleaning, pruning, picking and packing beets and lettuce; when he was twenty years old, he married and later had three daughters and one son; the entire family immigrated to the United States during the early 1970s.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Silva talks about his family and childhood, and how they all suffered due to poverty; the lack of rain and crops prompted the family to move from Calvillo, Aguascalientes to Jalpa, Zacatecas, México; they lived on a ranch by a large lake, which greatly improved their situation; during the mid-1950s, when he was eighteen years old, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; in order to join, he had to complete his military service, which he was able to do early by altering the dates on his papers, pay two hundred pesos and pick two thousand kilograms of cotton in Sonora; as part of the process, he was also stripped, medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California and Texas, cleaning, pruning, picking and packing beets and lettuce; he goes on to detail the camp sizes, housing, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, contract lengths, working relationships, friendships, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; his brother went with him, but he could not handle the work and he missed his wife too much; Roberto also relates other anecdotes about his experiences as a bracero; when he was twenty years old, he married and later had three daughters and one son; moreover, he briefly talks about his life after the program; during the early 1970s, the entire family immigrated to the United States.
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Interview with Roberto Silva M. by Alma Carrillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1084," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.