Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Aristeo Ortega Acuña was born September 15, 1931, in Sahuaripa, Sonora, México; he was the second youngest of his nine siblings; his father was a laborer and also worked with seasonal crops; Aristeo was formally educated through the second grade; when he was fifteen years old, he worked in the fields of Obregón, Sonora, México; in 1957, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and loading apricots, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes and other citrus crops; he completed a total of four contracts; after the program ended, he immigrated to the United States; in 1967, he was able to bring his family with him.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortega briefly talks about his family; in 1957, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; initially, he signed up in Hermosillo, Sonora, México and then traveled to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; he recounts the entire process he underwent, including the requirements to pick cotton, necessary papers, long waiting times and medical examinations; as a bracero, he completed a total of four contracts and labored in Arizona and California cleaning, pruning, picking and loading apricots, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes and other citrus crops; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, contract lengths and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he details picking peaches, which was especially difficult and dangerous, because of the high ladders they used; men often fell and were injured; despite the skill and risk involved, they were paid very little; he also recounts an incident in Sacramento, California when inspectors went to the camp, because the men were cheated out of their pay; they were transferred to another camp, and their boss was fined and no longer allowed to hire braceros; after the program ended, he immigrated to the United States; in 1967, he was able to bring his family with him; overall, his memories of the program are negative, because it was such a hard life, especially without his family.
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Interview with Aristeo Ortega Acuña by Manuel Sanmiguel, 2008, "Interview no. 1361," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.