Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mr. Santiago Navarro was born on June 30, 1928, in Martin Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico; he was the youngest of eight children; as a young boy, he helped his family by working in the fields and caring for animals; he was formally educated through the third grade; in 1948 he became a bracero and worked in the lettuce, tomato and palm fields of Merced, Salinas, and Indio, California; later he married and had six children; he returned to Mexicali, Mexico and later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Navarro briefly recalls his childhood and the financial difficulties he and his family endured; he talks about his hometown and what his life was like growing up; when he was eighteen years old there was a drawing for the military but he was not selected; he briefly details working with his brother (1946-48); it was there that he heard about a call for braceros; he recalls the process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times, and transportation; he went through the processing center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; upon being hired, he was sent to a processing center in El Centro, California; he was given an injection at the camp which made him very ill; he worked in the tomato fields of Salinas, California; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, treatment, and friendships; he recalls that the braceros were told to remain hunched over while working in the tomato fields; he discusses working in the Palm fields in Indio, California; Mr. Navarro recalls that government officials would inspect the safety equipment; he discusses an accident in which his friend fell and broke his back; Mr. Navarro would visit his family in Mexicali every eight days and he would also telephone often; while at one of the camps, Mr. Navarro and the other braceros were suddenly told to board a bus headed back toward the Mexican border; they were told that the Mexican government did not want them to re-contract; with the help of his boss he and his family immigrated to the United States; his overall memories of the bracero program are positive.
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Interview with Santiago Navarro by Violeta Mena, 2006, "Interview no. 1305," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.