Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Marcos Ruíz was born in Villa Corona, Jalisco, México; he was never formally educated, and he worked instead; when he was seventeen years old, after he completed his military service, he moved to Mexicali, Baja California, México; he later enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in California primarily irrigating crops; his employer later helped him obtain legal status in the United States, and he ultimately became a citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ruíz briefly talks about his life in México; when he was seventeen years old, after he completed his military service, he moved to Mexicali, Baja California, México, where he learned about the bracero program; he went through the contracting center in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México; from there, he was transported by train to the border, where he was stripped and medically examined; many men fainted when blood samples were collected, because they had not eaten; worse yet, they were forced to strip in spite of the women present; an American official told them it did not matter, made them bend over and pinched their bottom; as a bracero, he worked in California primarily irrigating crops; he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, routines, provisions, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; oftentimes, he chose to irrigate crops, because he earned more money; he even worked with the same employer for seven years, because he was repeatedly asked to return; consul representatives regularly visited the camps to speak with braceros; the representatives even gave out fines if any leftover food was given to the men; in addition, Marcos talks about an Arab employer in Brawley, California, who set up an altar for the Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12; he even received special permission to have a procession down the town’s main street; sometime later, an employer agreed to help him obtain legal status, and just as his last contract was ending, his papers came through; he ultimately became a citizen.
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Interview with Marcos Ruíz by Mario Sifuentes, 2006, "Interview no. 1243," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.