Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesús Rivera was born on October 7, 1934, in Corrales, Juchitlán, Jalisco, México; he is the eldest of his five brothers; from 1942 to 1953 his father worked in the bracero program; in 1956, against his father’s wishes, he also enlisted in the program; he labored primarily in the fields of California picking a variety of fruits and vegetables until 1963; later, in 1970, he moved to Los Angeles, California.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Rivera talks about his father who became a permanent resident of the United States in the early 1900s and was repatriated during the massive deportations of the 1930s; in 1942, his father returned to the United States as a bracero and stayed with the program until 1953; as the eldest son, Jesús was left to care for his family while his father was away; in 1956, against his father’s wishes, he went to Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist as a bracero; he describes the difficulties of surviving while waiting as well as the rudeness of the exams; from there he was transported in an already full cargo train to Mexicali, Baja California, México, and he had to stand for the entire trip, which was more than twelve hours; in El Centro, California, he was medically examined again and fumigated; he goes on to detail the various worksites, living conditions, housing provisions, duties, daily routines, payments, and contract renewals; more specifically, he discusses how incredibly grueling it was to stay hunched over all day and not being allowed to stand; by the end of the day he could no longer sit or lay down; moreover, he explains that when he packed tomatoes in Patterson, California, each box weighed forty-five pounds, each truck held eight hundred and sixty boxes, and he had to pack three to four trucks a day, in an eight hour span, all the while the trucks continued moving; he encountered a similar situation in Blythe, California, when packing boxes of alfalfa that weighed seventy-five to eighty pounds; despite his difficulties, he was able to save some money and help his family.
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Interview with Jesús Rivera L. by Perla Guerrero, 2006, "Interview no. 1178," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.