Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jorge Ortiz Marquez was born in July of 1931, in Colonia San Diego, in the municipality of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, México; he had four sisters and two brothers; when he was five years old, the family moved to Colonia Juárez, because their mother was very sick; Jorge only went to school for two years before he had to start working to support the family, because his father was badly injured; when he was eighteen, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the cotton fields of New Mexico and Texas for a total of six years; his brother was also a bracero; Jorge later worked in the United States without documents, but he ultimately obtained legal status.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortiz talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; when he was eighteen, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he describes the contracting process he went through in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, including the long waiting times and medical exams; from there he was transported in a cargo train to El Paso, Texas; he explains that roughly one thousand five hundred men were transferred daily; once in El Paso, he was taken to a center called Rio Vista, where he underwent further assessments and delousing procedures; afterward, he was fed, but the food had some kind of purgative, because they were all sick and had to stop several times on their way to the worksites; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of New Mexico and Texas for a total of six years; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, remittances, contract lengths and renewals, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he also talks about his brother, Isabelo Ortiz, who was also a bracero; they worked together in Texas for a widowed woman; Isabelo was injured while working, but he was taken to the doctor and quickly recovered; Jorge wrote letters for Isabelo, because he did not know how to write; after the program ended, Jorge worked in the United States without documents, but he later obtained legal status with the help of his employer.
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Interview with Jorge Ortiz Marquez by Marina Kalashnikova, 2008, "Interview no. 1364," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.