Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Claro Ruiz Ortíz was born August 12, 1936, on an ejido in Chihuahua, México; his mother’s name was Secundina Ortíz, and she was a housewife; his father’s name was Mariano Ruiz, and he was a campesino; when Claro was ten years old, his father died; as a result, he had to stop going to school and start working; several of his family members served in the bracero program; in 1956, he also joined the program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah cleaning, pruning and picking apples, beets, cotton and pears; he continued working with the program until 1961.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortíz talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; in 1956, he decided to enlist in the bracero program, because there was no work in México; he went through the contracting center in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México, and he describes the process as very long and sad; thousands of men were waiting, and they were divided into groups, stripped and examined altogether in a large room; he explains that if he had proof he had already worked as a bracero, he was able to pass through more quickly; from there, he was transferred in a cargo train that had previously been filled with metals to the border in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México; upon crossing into the United States, he was deloused and further examined before going to the worksite; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah cleaning, pruning and picking apples, beets, cotton and pears; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, working relationships, payments, remittances, contract lengths, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; although he obtained yearly contracts from 1956 to 1959, in 1960, it was too hard, and he had to wait until the following year, which was his last; in addition, he offers several anecdotes about his experiences with the program, including attending religious services and celebrating holidays; overall, he has positive memories of his time as a bracero.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Claro Ruiz Ortíz by Manuel Sanmiguel, 2008, "Interview no. 1374," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.