Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Francisco Ceceña was born in Choix, Sinaloa, México, but his family later moved to Culiacán, Sinaloa; his father was an agriculturalist; as a boy he received very little formal education; he later married and had two children, but his wife left him; in 1954, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in California picking chile, corn, dates and tomatoes until 1959; during this time he met his second wife; shortly after, his brother’s employer helped him obtain legal documentation, and he was ultimately able to do the same for her and his two children from his previous marriage.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ceceña talks about his decision to enlist in the bracero program in 1954, out of financial necessity; he went through the contracting center in Mexicali, Baja California, México, and from there he was transferred to El Centro, California, before finally arriving at his worksite in Coachella, California; as part of the processing, he was fumigated and generally treated very poorly; as a bracero, he worked in California picking chile, corn, dates and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he explains that he spent roughly four years with the same boss in Oasis, California, who treated the men like slaves; bigger stronger men worked in groups of two to pull a plough tied by a rope to their waist while planting, fertilizing and spraying the crops; he did, however, have some bosses who were good to him; during his time as a bracero, he met his second wife, and he moved her to Mexicali; on some occasions he was able to get passes to visit his family there; shortly after, his last contract in 1959, his brother’s employer helped him obtain legal documentation, and he was ultimately able to do the same for her and his two children from his previous marriage; in spite of all he suffered, he still has positive memories of the program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Listen to the Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Francisco Ceceña by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1213," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.