Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Juan Padilla was born July 9, 1932, in San Agustín, in the municipality of Jamay, Jalisco, México; he was raised on a ranch with his four siblings; when he was eight years old, his mother died, and his father later remarried; Juan eventually married, and he and his wife had two children; he enlisted in the bracero program in 1956; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, cleaning, pruning and picking cabbage, chile, lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes; after his time with the program, he continued working in the United States without proper documentation; he was ultimately able to arrange legal status.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Padilla talks about the difficulties he faced growing up in México; in 1956, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he explains that he went through contracting centers in Mexicali, Baja California, Empalme, Sonora and Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; while at the centers he suffered greatly, because he had to wait for up to a month, there was nowhere to sleep and not very much to eat; as part of the process, he was stripped, medically examined and fumigated; many men fainted by the time blood samples were taken, because they were so weak from the trip and had not eaten; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, cleaning, pruning and picking cabbage, chile, lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, routines, housing, provisions, treatment, deductions, working relationships, friendships, correspondence and trips into town; two of his cousins worked with him in Watsonville, California; in order to send letters to his wife, he had to ask others to read and write for him; he also explains that contracts were initially for forty days, and later they were six months long; he eventually got so annoyed at having to work so hard for so little money, that he decided to stop working as a bracero; with the money he saved he was able to buy livestock and stay in México with his family for a time; afterward, he began working in the United States without proper documentation; he was ultimately able to arrange legal status through amnesty.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Juan Padilla by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1236," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.