Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Perfecta Rivas de Rodriguez was born in Valparaíso, Zacatecas, México, on December 11, 1947; her mother, Consuelo Garcia, was a housewife, and her father, Juan Rivas Bañuelo, made marble headstones for cemeteries; Perfecta is the eldest of her twelve siblings; in the mid-fifties her father enlisted in the bracero program, which financially helped her family; later, in the early seventies she immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Ms. Rivas de Rodriguez briefly discusses her family and childhood; she recalls hearing about the courtship between her mother and father; in the midfifties her father enlisted in the bracero program, which financially helped her family, and they were able to move out of her paternal grandfather’s home and into their own; she remembers that there were always notices around town to sign up for the program; the men had to stay anywhere between eight and fifteen days in Empalme, Sonora, México; while waiting some men ate banana peels or nothing at all, and they used cardboard as blankets; the fumigations they underwent were also difficult, but necessity drove them; when her father left, the entire family was sad and worried about what could happen to him; upon receiving their first letter from him they were elated and relieved; every fifteen days her father sent letters and money home; her mother cashed the money orders at local stores, because they offered a better dollar to peso ratio than the banks; at the time they were able to receive twelve pesos for every dollar, which went a long way; with this money, some of her younger siblings were even able to attend secondary schools; they were able to buy their necessities instead of having to depend on whatever the crops would yield if there was even enough rain in a given season; one of her father’s employers offered to help him and his family obtain legal documentation, but her grandfather did not want to let them leave; overall, her family benefited greatly from the program.
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Interview with Perfecta Rivas de Rodriguez by Araceli Esparza, 2006, "Interview no. 1181," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.