Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Juan Baez B. was born on April 15, 1922, in Aguililla, Michoacán, México; his parents worked in agriculture, and he was the fourth eldest of his eight siblings; he was never formally educated, because there were no schools due to the Cristero War; consequently, when he was ten years old, he began working the land; he later worked in the United States illegally for a short time before obtaining a bracero contract in 1949, which took him to work in Arizona and California; in 1979, he returned to the United States as an undocumented worker; he later applied for amnesty and arranged for legal residency.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Baez briefly describes his family and childhood; later, he worked in the United States illegally for a short time before returning to México through Mexicali, Baja California, and obtaining a bracero contract in 1949; he goes on to explain the requirements, including how their hands were checked, physical exams, x-rays, and blood samples; consequently, he underwent similar procedures when going through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora; he also talks about transportation from the centers to the border by bus and train; as a bracero he worked in Arizona and California; he also details the various worksites, daily routines, housing, amenities, provisions, working relationships, payments, deductions, remittances, and recreational activities; moreover, he explains the difference between contract and hourly pay; he also describes contract renewals and how every eighteen months, braceros had to return to México; at one of the camps the cook would often buy chicken, fish, and meat, that was cheap, because it was old; when the workers complained to the Mexican consul, they would announce their visit and the food would be different, which nullified the grievance; in 1979, he returned to the United States as an undocumented worker; he later applied for amnesty and arranged for legal residency; overall he has positive memories of the bracero program, and he comments on how it changed his life for the better.
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Interview with Juan Baez Barragán by Mireya Loza, 2005, "Interview no. 1106," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.