Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Guillermo C. Manzo was born in Villamar, Michoacán, México, on February 22, 1939; he was the eldest of his nine siblings; as a boy he often helped his father work the land, which left him little time for school; in 1959, he enlisted in the bracero program, like his father; he continued working with the program until it ended in 1964; as a bracero he labored in the fields of Arizona, California, and Kansas, picking beets, carrots, cotton, garlic, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cervantes recalls his family and childhood; initially, the thought of working as a bracero was intimidating to him, because he knew how hard the work would be; when he was eighteen he traveled to Empalme, Sonora, México, with his father to enlist in the bracero program, but he became ill and had to go back home; in 1959, he returned to Empalme and began the contracting process; from Empalme he was transported by train to Mexicali, Baja California; oftentimes, he was treated poorly when he underwent physical exams and delousing procedures; he goes on to describe the various worksites, duties, provisions, treatment, payment, deductions, and recreational activities; in addition, he provides a detailed description of the meals they received, which were often poor, and how they had to wake up early in order to eat before the food finished; furthermore, he explains how risky it was to walk into town, because braceros were often beaten or even killed by people who wanted to steal their money; he was later able to work with his father in El Centro, California, and from there they went to Merced, California; when he heard that the program was ending he decided to stay rather than return to México so that he could continue working; ultimately, he was able to obtain citizenship; he also talks about how the meaning of the term bracero has changed from something that was simply descriptive to something negative; he concludes by stating that although he suffered greatly, he still has good memories of the program, because it gave him the opportunity to work.
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Interview with Guillermo C. Manzo by Verónica Córtez, 2006, "Interview no. 1227," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.