Rafael Cortez


Araceli Esparza


Bracero Oral History

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee

Rafael Cortez was born in Techaluta [de Montenegro], Jalisco, México; some of his family members, including uncles and cousins, came to the United States under the bracero program; Rafael longed to come to the states in the hopes of finding a better life or more aptly stated, to live the American dream; when he was eighteen, he traveled to Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist in the program; as a bracero, he worked on several contracts throughout California and once in Arizona, as well.

Summary of Interview

Mr. Cortez describes how the Mexican government would often send notices about forty-five day contracts with the bracero program to various cities throughout the country; upon receiving these announcements, men would travel to designated work locations in order to obtain the necessary paperwork for contracting centers; Rafael went to the center in Empalme, Sonora, México, to enlist in the program; he states that there were over twenty-five thousand men waiting at the center, but there were only between three and five thousand men processed daily; Rafael goes on to describe the medical assessments he underwent while at the center; upon arriving in the United States, he was examined again and deloused; consequently, when blood samples were drawn, many men fainted; after being processed, ranchers would pick and choose which men they wanted to work, like they would animals; the men were singled out based on their size and what crop they would be harvesting; they were then transported by bus to their worksites; as a bracero, Rafael worked on several contracts throughout California and once in Arizona; he details the different cities he was sent to, as well as duties, daily routines, housing, provisions, payment, remittances, and recreational activities; in addition, he states that his initial salary was 75¢ an hour, but he ultimately earned up to $2.25 an hour; moreover, in spite of the fact that none of the men had cars, they would often go to the drive-in movies after work, and they would sit on the floor; although the films were always in English, they all enjoyed themselves nevertheless.

Date of Interview


Length of Interview

22 minutes

Tape Number

No. 1167

Transcript Number

No. 1167

Length of Transcript

12 pages

Interview Number

No. 1167

Terms of Use



Interview in Spanish.