Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Gustavo Eloy Reyes Rodríguez was born in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, México, on July 19, 1941; his parents were campesinos who worked on an ejido and sold their goods; he had two brothers and one half sister; when he was roughly four years old, his mother passed away; by the time he was twelve years old, he took on the hard labor of plowing the land on his own; in 1960, he enlisted in the bracero program, where he continued working until 1962; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of Arizona and California; during the mideighties, he was an undocumented worker in the united States, but he ultimately returned to México to raise his six children with his wife.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Reyes talks about his family and what it was like growing up on an ejido; as a teenager he had heard about men coming to work in the United States as braceros and how well it had gone for them; in 1960, he paid the one hundred pesos necessary to get proper documentation to enlist in the bracero program; he traveled by train to Empalme, Sonora, México, where at least five hundred men were processed on a daily basis; as part of the contracting process, he underwent medical exams; upon arriving in Calexico, California, on top of being stripped and deloused, he was forced to throw away what little food he had managed to bring with him; moreover, he was also given laxatives prior to undergoing further medical exams, which included blood samples; as a bracero, he continued working in the fields of Arizona and California until 1962; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, living, duties, treatment, payment, deductions, correspondence and recreational activities; in addition, he also mentions that members from the American and Mexican consuls visited the campsites to ensure that workers were treated appropriately; he also discusses an incident in Gilroy, California, where braceros went on strike for better pay; later, during the mideighties, he was an undocumented worker in the united States, but he ultimately returned to México to raise his six children with his wife; overall, he has positive and negative memories of the program.
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Interview with Gustavo Eloy Reyes Rodríguez by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1452," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.