Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Lucas Benítez was born on October 18, 1918; his dad worked in the mines, and his mother often sold goods from a makeshift stand; he often helped his parents with their small family business; growing up, he and his family were extremely poor; he was formally educated through the third grade; when he was twelve years old, he began working in the mines, in order to help his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Benítez vividly describes his family and childhood; in 1942, he learned about the bracero contracts and started exercising in order to build calluses on his hands, because he knew they would be checked; he details the medical exams he underwent and how he was bathed in a liquid he was unfamiliar with; shortly thereafter, he and other braceros were loaded on buses and taken to different cities throughout the United States; he was taken to Salinas, California, where he labored in the beet and lettuce fields, which he explains was very difficult; in addition, he talks about working for other ranchers on weekends and being paid in cash; he also went to Saint Louis, Missouri, but did not stay very long, because it was so cold; in 1950, he obtained a new contract, which took him to Nebraska, but he only stayed there for a few weeks; moreover, he mentions one incident where he fainted while working in the fields, but no one helped him; for a time, he was an undocumented worker, but he was later detained and eventually deported to México; years later, he went to school and began to research the bracero program; he was saddened to learn about the promises neither the Mexican nor American governments kept; finding out about the 10 percent that was taken from the braceros was especially disheartening for him.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Lucas Edmundo Benítez Cárdenas by Alejandra Valles, 2008, "Interview no. 1335," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.