Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
J. Jesús Villaseñor Santoyo was the third born of his eight siblings; growing up, his family often moved around, but they spent most of their time in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; although Jesús was never formally educated, he learned to read and write as an adult; in 1955, he followed in his uncle’s footsteps and enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California picking various fruits and vegetables; in 1960, he married and ultimately stayed in México with his wife and children.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Villaseñor talks about his life growing up; during the midforties, his uncle fulfilled several bracero contracts; Jesús saw how well it went for his uncle, and in 1955, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he describes how he was able to get on the list of eligible workers in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; from there, he was transported by airplane to Mexicali, Baja California, México, and then to Calexico, California, where ranchers picked the workers they wanted; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona and California picking various fruits and vegetables; he goes on to detail the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, payments, deductions, correspondence, working relationships, and recreational activities, including trips into town; in addition, he mentions a strike for better pay in Merced, California; the Mexican consul stepped in and convinced the braceros to stop the strike; while working in Salinas, California, he became ill with fever and was even urinating blood; he was properly cared for and quickly recovered; after each contract, he returned to México and worked in the fields there; by the late fifties he had to go to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México, because there were no longer any contracts in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; later, in 1960, he married and ultimately decided to stop working as a bracero to stay with his wife in México; they went on to have six children together.
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Interview with J. Jesus Villaseñor Santoyo by Mireya Loza, 2007, "Interview no. 1398," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.