Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Alfredo López was born April 15, 1939, in Guasave, Sinaloa, México; he had eleven siblings; by the time he was thirteen years old, he left home to work; in 1958, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and packing cotton, lemon, lettuce, tomato and other citrus crops; during the early 1960s, he returned to México between contracts and married; when the program ended, he stayed in California, and he eventually obtained permanent legal status in 1968.
Summary of Interview
Mr. López talks about his decision to enlist in the bracero program in 1958; in addition, he describes the process he went through to get the necessary paperwork before traveling to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; he estimates that there were between fifteen and twenty thousand men processed daily; they were organized by lists according to states; from there he was transported to Calexico, California, where he was medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and packing cotton, lemon, lettuce, tomato and other citrus crops; he also goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, treatment, payments, remittances, contract lengths and renewals, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; moreover, he explains that most men wanted to work in the northern states, because they would be paid by contract, whereas the southern states, including California and Arizona, paid by the hour, which meant less money; he also recalls fighting with several foremen, because he did not allow them to mistreat him; consequently, he often moved around to different camps; during the early 1960s, he returned to México between contracts and married; later, when the program ended, he stayed in California, but he returned to México every six months to a year; he eventually obtained permanent legal status in 1968.
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Interview with Alfredo López by Cristóbal Borges, 2008, "Interview no. 1352," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.