Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mr. Tomás Pelayo was born on March 7, 1935, in Villa Purificación, Jalisco, Mexico; he had seven siblings; he and his siblings did not receive any formal schooling; in 1958, he became a bracero and worked in the melon fields of Blythe, California, the lettuce fields of Phoenix, Arizona, and on a dairy farm in Winterheaven, California; his last contract was in 1961; at the time of the interview, Mr. Pelayo was residing in Calexico, California.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Tomás Pelayo briefly recalls his childhood and the financial difficulties he and his family endured; as a young man, he traveled to the United States in search of adventure; he heard about a call for braceros and he returned to Mexico in order to join the program; he recalls the process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times, and transportation to and from the center; in addition, he mentions going through the center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; on another occasion, he traveled to Hermosillo, Mexico where he picked two thousand kilos of cotton in order to obtain a letter to present at the center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; his wife lived in Algodones, Baja California, Mexico while he worked as a bracero; his first contract took him to work in the melon fields of Blythe, California; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, duties, payments, deductions, remittances, treatment, friendships, correspondence and recreational activities; his second contract took him to work in the lettuce fields of Phoenix, Arizona; many braceros would drink on the weekends; Mr. Pelayo states that many braceros were not able to maintain friendships with each other because they were relocated often; he recalls that the braceros were forced to remain stooped over while working in the fields or they ran the risk of not having their contracts renewed; he earned seventy cents an hour while working in the fields; he worked at a dairy farm in Winterhaven, California, from 1959-1961; he describes the working and living conditions; he was in charge of milking two-hundred cows a day; he was kicked several times by the cows; he worked sixteen hour shifts and earned eight dollars a day; he had a day off every fifteen days; he would travel to visit his family during this time; in 1961, with the help of his boss, he became a legal United States resident.
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Interview with Tomás Pelayo by Mónica Pelayo, 2006, "Interview no. 1324," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.