Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesús Ortíz was born on March 7, 1938, in Ocampo, Guanajuato, México; he and his six siblings grew up very poor; rather than go to school, he helped his father work the land and care for animals; his mother died when he was about seventeen; in 1960, he was married, and shortly thereafter he began working as a bracero; he labored in the fields of Arkansas, California, Idaho, Michigan, and Texas, picking cotton, cucumbers, and tomatoes; after the bracero program ended he returned to the United States as an undocumented worker, but he was later able to obtain legal residency.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortíz recalls the humble beginnings of his childhood and how much he and his family suffered; in 1960, he married Juana Moreno Gómez [See also No. XX], and shortly thereafter he began working as a bracero; he initially traveled to border cities in México on his own, where the only requirement was to pick a certain amount of cotton in order to cross into the United States; there were times, however, that he still had to wait for days or weeks to be called even after picking cotton, but some men were never called; he talks about not having any more money after waiting so long and being so desperately hungry that he had to beg for food; upon arriving in the United States he was stripped naked and medically examined, which was embarrassing; as a bracero he worked in Arkansas, California, Idaho, Michigan, and Texas, picking cotton, cucumbers, and tomatoes; moreover, he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, living conditions, provisions, payment, and remittances; he also explains one instance in which there was a misunderstanding, and his family thought he had died; while working in Arkansas it rained a great deal, which made it impossible to pick crops or make any money; after the program ended he returned to the United States as an undocumented worker on several occasions, and he was also deported a few times, but he was ultimately able to arrange for residency; although he did suffer as a bracero, his overall memories of the program are positive.
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Interview with Jesús Ortíz Torres by Myrna García, 2005, "Interview no. 1278," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.