Bracero Oral History Project
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Leo Montalvo was born on June 9, 1943, in Mexico; when he was nine years old, he came to the United States; he also worked in the fields for a time; during his senior year in high school, he worked as an assistant cook at a bracero processing center in Hidalgo, Texas; while there, he worked in the kitchen helping to prepare meals and cleaning; he went to college and eventually graduated from law school; later, he became involved in politics, and he went on to serve two terms as mayor of McAllen, Texas.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Montalvo recalls his senior year in high school when he worked as an assistant cook at a bracero processing center in Hidalgo, Texas; his shift started after school at 3:30 and lasted until 11:30; in addition, he also worked Saturdays and Sundays; he earned a little over $1.00 an hour; the braceros were given breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the meals consisted of chicken or meat, which was prepared as carne guisada, picadillo, or papas con carne picada, beans, powdered potatoes, bread, milk or an orange drink, and fresh fruit; anywhere between 200 and 300 people would eat at once, depending on the time of day; breakfast was served between 7:00 and 7:30, and dinner was served between 5:30 and 6:00; the braceros were always allowed a second serving if they so desired, and they were never denied more food; the mess hall was comprised of an open area with nothing but tables and up front was the counter; in order to get served a meal, the men would move in a line alongside the counter with their trays; he goes on to recall particular instances with braceros while he was in town; in addition, he comments on how and why he views the use of braceros as exploitative; in his opinion, a legal guest worker program would be beneficial insofar as it would ensure payment for the workers and provide an avenue for complaints.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Leo Montalvo by Homero Vera, 2003, "Interview no. 1548," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.