Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Valentín Murillo Ortiz was born in 1932, on a ranch in Michoacán, México; his parents worked on an ejido, and he had five siblings; he was formally educated through the third grade; as a young boy, he helped his family by working in the fields and caring for animals; his mother died when he was a teenager; the family moved to México, Distrito Federal; he eventually married, in 1953; two years later, in 1955, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in Arkansas, California and Texas, picking asparagus, beets, cotton, green beans and tomatoes; his last bracero contract was in 1961; he later immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Murillo briefly talks about his family and what life was like growing up on an ejido; in 1955, he decided to enlist in the bracero program and went through the contracting center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México; he recalls the entire process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times, and transportation to and from the center; in addition, he mentions going through centers in Empalme, Sonora and Monterrey, Nuevo León, México; he was also briefly examined at the centers and again, in more detail, at the border; although he suffered greatly during processing, once he began working in the United States, his situation improved; as a bracero, he labored in Arkansas, California and Texas, picking asparagus, beets, cotton, green beans and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, amenities, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, contract lengths, correspondence, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; moreover, he explains that although some contracts were only forty-five days, it was not uncommon to stay an additional fifteen days without renewing the contract; many men deserted, because forty-five days was not a sufficient amount of time to earn enough money, especially given the debt they incurred coming to the United States; in 1961, he completed his last contract; he ultimately immigrated to the United States in 1995, with the help of his son.
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Interview with Valentín Murillo Ortiz by Marina Kalashnikova, 2008, "Interview no. 1358," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.