Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mr. Juan Topete was born on June 1, 1926, in Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico; he did not have a relationship with his father and he had a tumultuous relationship with his mother; as a young boy, he helped his family by working in the fields and caring for animals; he left his home at a young age and consequently never received any formal schooling; he had four half-brothers and two half-sisters; he traveled to the U.S. and was employed by the railroad; in 1960, he became a bracero and worked primarily in the fields of California; his last bracero contract was in 1964; he later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Topete recalls the humble beginnings of his childhood and how much he suffered; at the age of eighteen he and Margarita Becerra set out to Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico; along the way, he met a man who knew his father and he traveled to meet him; his father told him to return Margarita to her home and he sent him to the U.S.; he crossed into the U.S. through Mexicali, Mexico; he paid a man $125.00 to take him to Oakland, California; he worked for the railroad while in Oakland; he was deported to Mexicali, Mexico where he sold secondhand clothing and was a police officer for several years; he married the jailhouse secretary; they had five children; in 1960, both he and his wife lost their jobs; he decided to enlist in the bracero program and went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; he recalls the entire process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times, and transportation to and from the center; as part of the process, he was medically examined, vaccinated, and deloused on both sides of the border; many of the workers at the processing center wore facemasks while fumigating the braceros; his first contract took him to work in the orange groves of Anaheim, California; he also worked as an irrigator and heavy machine operator; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, remittances, treatment, friendships, and recreational activities; some braceros hid food under their pillows to eat at night; many braceros would play cards, drink, and attend local dances; Mr. Topete concludes that he is proud to have worked with the bracero program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Juan Topete by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1318," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.