Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Nicolás Rodríguez was born October 14, 1914, in Acaponeta, Nayarit, México; when he was a year old, his mother moved him to La Concha, Sinaloa, México, to be with his grandparents, because she was crippled; he was never formally educated, but he was already learning to work in the fields by the time he was eight years old; sometime later, he married and started a family, which ultimately included eleven children in total; he enlisted in the bracero program and labored in the fields of California picking almonds, cantaloupe, pecans, tomatoes and watermelon; afterward, he immigrated to the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Rodríguez briefly talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; he recalls recruiters for the bracero program going to Culiacán, Sinaloa, México and giving out papers to enlist in Empalme, Sonora, México; at the time, he had a wife and children to support, and he decided to join the program; he describes the entire process he underwent in Empalme, including necessary documents, waiting for fifteen days and being stripped and medically examined; from there he was sent to the border at Calexico, California by train, where he endured further exams, including x-rays, injections and several blood samples, which caused many men to faint; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California picking almonds, cantaloupe, pecans, tomatoes and watermelon; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, amenities, accommodations, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, contract lengths, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; while working in Lemoore, California, his appendix ruptured, and he was rushed to the hospital by an ambulance; after his surgery, he was out of work for eighteen days; during this time, he and others that were ill stayed in a hotel; the men were encouraged to return to México, but Nicolás told the Mexican consul he wanted to go back to work, which he was able to do; he later immigrated to the United States and became a legal resident; overall, he had a positive experience with the program and is proud of his work as a bracero.
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Interview with Nicolás Rodríguez by Manuel Sanmiguel, 2008, "Interview no. 1372," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.