Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Roberto Sotelo was born September 1, 1933, in Pénjamo, Guanajuato, México; his mother’s name was Aurelia Arias, and his father’s name was Sotero Sotelo; Roberto had two sisters and two half siblings; his parents were campesinos; when he was two years old, his father died, and his mother later remarried; consequently, he was raised by his paternal grandmother; he went to school through the second grade, but he had to stop in order to work and help support his family; during the early 1950s, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, California and Texas picking various crops; he later immigrated to the United States with the help of an employer and eventually became a citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Sotelo briefly discusses his family; during the early 1950s, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he describes the contracting process he underwent at the centers in Monterrey, Nuevo León and Empalme, Sonora México, including medical exams; when going through Empalme, he worked in California, and when he went through Monterrey, he worked in Texas; from the centers he was transported by trains or buses to the border, where he was further examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, California and Texas picking various crops; he goes on to detail the different worksites, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, payments, deductions, remittances and contract lengths; in addition, he explains that initially, California’s primary crops were citrus, dates and grapes; it wasn’t until later that they began growing an assortment of vegetables; once, he was very ill and after finally being taken to the hospital he had to stay for three days; his bracero insurance paid for his stay; it was rumored that the insurance paid up to fifteen thousand dollars if a bracero died in the United States; he spent five years in Coachella, California, which was his last contract; during that time he was given a thirty day pass to return home every year; he later immigrated to the United States with the help of an employer and eventually became a citizen; overall, he as positive memories of his time with the program.
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Interview with Roberto Sotelo A. by Verónica Cortés, 2006, "Interview no. 1251," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.