Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Tarsicio Ortíz was born October 21, 1951, in Michoacán, México; his father was born in 1915, and he labored in the fields as a campesino; during the 1940s, before he married, he enlisted in the bracero program; he continued working as a bracero until Tarsicio was roughly ten years old; in addition, several of his family members were also braceros; Tarsicio was formally educated through the third grade; he later came to the United States without documents, but he was ultimately able to obtain legal status and help his father do the same; his father later died at the age of seventy-nine.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ortíz talks about his father’s time as a bracero; he initially enlisted in the bracero program during the 1940s, before he married; some of his friends were hesitant to join, because they were afraid of being sent off to war; even so, he had to take the chance; he went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México; his hands were checked for calluses; some of the men that did not have any work experience rubbed sticks together in their hands to make calluses; he often talked to Tarsicio about how difficult life in México was and how working as a campesino was simply not enough, which is why he decided to leave; Tarsicio remembers that with the money his father sent, the family was able to buy land and livestock and make a better life for themselves; even so, it was difficult being without his father; he returned home once or twice a year, and he brought clothes, shoes and toys; he was an affectionate man and often told stories about his experiences as a bracero; during his free time, he played poker with other braceros and regularly won cigarettes; the men also listed to the radio; overall, Tarsicio admits that his life was better because of the money his father was able to send the family; his father later died at the age of seventy-nine; Tarsicio also mentions his on-going fight for bracero compensation.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Tarsicio Ortíz by Grisel Murillo, 2006, "Interview no. 1071," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.