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.
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Interview with Juan Padilla by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1236," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.