Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Artemio Cantú Benavides was born on a ranch in China, Nuevo León, México, on September 16, 1932; he was the oldest of six children; as a child, he helped his father work the land and care for the animals; he was never formally educated; when he was eleven years old, his mother died, and he and his siblings were left in the care of their paternal grandmother; in 1959, he enlisted in the bracero program; he worked primarily in Texas as a tractor driver, but he also picked cotton, tomatoes, and other vegetables; he remained with the program for a total of four years.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cantú Benavides discusses his childhood and family; in 1959, he traveled to Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, to enlist in the bracero program; he mentions that while there, people often paid for the necessary documentation and were left without any money, but they still had to wait for months to be called; from Monterrey he was taken by bus to a reception center at the border where he was discriminated against and treated poorly; moreover, he describes the delousing process where the men were treated like animals, and the medical examinations, which included collections of blood samples, that were very painful; he endured what he had to, because he needed the money; his first bracero contract was only forty days, but he was later able to prolong it for another six months; he continued to obtain contract extensions over the next four years; consequently, he returned to México every six months to a year; as a bracero, he worked primarily in Texas as a tractor driver, but he also picked cotton, tomatoes, and other vegetables; he goes on to discuss various work-sites, duties, wages, work schedules, living conditions, provisions, remittances, and recreational activities; in general, he was treated well by his employers; with the money he made as a bracero, he was able to open a small grocery store; unfortunately, he started drinking too much, and he lost the store and most of his money; he comments that he was too young at the time, and he did not know how to manage his money; eventually, he was able to obtain a visa in order to stay in the United States; his overall memories of the program are positive, with the exception of the border checkpoints, where he was treated very badly.
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Interview with Artemio Cantú Benavides by Magdalena Mieri, 2005, "Interview no. 1267," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.