Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Tirso Yepes was born on January 28, 1929, in Ocampo, Guanajuato, México; he is the youngest of his three siblings; as a child he helped work the land and care for animals, which consequently left him without a formal education; when he was about sixteen years old, after his mother died, he came to the United States as an undocumented worker; in 1949, his brother died, and he returned to México; he later worked with the bracero program from 1959 to 1963; as a bracero he labored in the fields of California and Texas picking cotton, strawberries, and tomatoes; he also drove a tractor and irrigated crops; in 1964, he emigrated to the United States, and by 1973, the rest of his family was able to do the same.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Yepes briefly recounts his childhood and adolescence; from 1946 to 1948 he labored in the United States as an undocumented worker; he explains how people were often mistreated by immigration officials upon being deported, and they were intentionally sent to the wrong places; in 1959, he enlisted as a bracero, and he describes what he went through at the processing center in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México; his initial contract was three months, but he renewed it, and ended up staying in Earth, Texas, for a year and a half before returning to México; he had a great relationship with his boss there, and they maintained contact during the following years; as a bracero he went on to work throughout California and Texas picking cotton, strawberries, and tomatoes, and he also drove a tractor and irrigated crops; in addition, he talks about the various worksites, duties, living conditions, provisions, payment, treatment, remittances, and recreational activities; moreover, he talks about how workers’ rights were often violated, but they had no one to turn to for help or support; he relates one incident in which he was verbally and physically mistreated and humiliated at a processing center in Calexico, California; in 1964 he legally emigrated to the United States with the help of his first employer from Earth, Texas; by 1973, the rest of his family was also able to do the same.
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Interview with Tirso Yepes by Angélica Rivera, 2005, "Interview no. 1279," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.