Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jaime Rivas was born January 22, 1941, on a ranch in Morelos, Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango, México; he was the second eldest of his ten siblings; his father worked in agriculture and as a bricklayer; by the time Jaime was six years old, he was already working in the fields; his older brother enlisted in the bracero program; in 1959, Jaime also joined the program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Nebraska and Texas cleaning, pruning, picking and packing alfalfa, beets and cotton; he eventually immigrated to the United States, where he later married and started a family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Rivas briefly talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; after completing his military service in 1959, he heard about the bracero program contracting in Empalme, Sonora, México, and he went with his brother; he explains that they waited for one month to pick the cotton; they needed to obtain papers to enlist, but they did not have any more money and had to leave; they paid three hundred pesos to get on another list of available workers in Durango, and they went though the contracting center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México; several thousand men were waiting and roughly seven hundred were processed daily; when they crossed into the United States, they were stripped, medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Nebraska and Texas cleaning, pruning, picking and packing alfalfa, beets and cotton; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, contract lengths and renewals, payments, remittances, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he relates several anecdotes about his time with the program, including surviving a three day trip to Nebraska with only a sack lunch and getting snowed in at a barracks in Texas for fifteen days; he eventually immigrated to the United States, where he later married and started a family; overall, his experiences as a bracero were positive.
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Interview with Jaime Rivas by Marina Kalashnikova, 2008, "Interview no. 1370," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.