Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Gonzalo Quiroz was born September 1, 1937, in Chilchota, Michoacán, México; he came from a family of agricultural workers; when he was seven years old, he began working the land and caring for livestock; his formal education extended through the third grade; he later married in 1957, and shortly after, he and his wife had their first child; the following year, in 1958, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California and Texas, picking lettuce, oranges and strawberries; he continued with the program until 1960 and completed four contracts; in 1962, he obtained legal residency status in the United States, and he was ultimately able to do the same for his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Quiroz talks about getting married in 1957 and having his first child shortly after; the following year, in 1958, he decided to enlist in the bracero program, because he was not earning enough money; he was able to get on the list of available workers, and he went through the center in Empalme, Sonora, México, where he suffered greatly due to the long wait and scarcity of food; from there, he was transported by train to Mexicali, Baja California, México, before going through Calexico, California, where he was stripped, medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California and Texas, picking lettuce, oranges and strawberries; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, contract lengths, payments, deductions, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he explains that his longest contract was five and a half months in Castroville, California, with roughly eight other hundred men; during this contract, he worked in various places, because the camp was so large and covered so much area; he continued with the program until 1960, and he completed a total of four contracts; in 1962, he obtained legal residency status in the United States, and he was ultimately able to do the same for his family; he briefly talks about his life after the program and asserts that he has positive memories of his experiences.
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Interview with Gonzalo Quiroz by Verónica Cortez, 2006, "Interview no. 1239," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.