Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Guillermo C. Manzo was born in Villamar, Michoacán, México, on February 22, 1939; he was the eldest of his nine siblings; as a boy he often helped his father work the land, which left him little time for school; in 1959, he enlisted in the bracero program, like his father; he continued working with the program until it ended in 1964; as a bracero he labored in the fields of Arizona, California, and Kansas, picking beets, carrots, cotton, garlic, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Cervantes recalls his family and childhood; initially, the thought of working as a bracero was intimidating to him, because he knew how hard the work would be; when he was eighteen he traveled to Empalme, Sonora, México, with his father to enlist in the bracero program, but he became ill and had to go back home; in 1959, he returned to Empalme and began the contracting process; from Empalme he was transported by train to Mexicali, Baja California; oftentimes, he was treated poorly when he underwent physical exams and delousing procedures; he goes on to describe the various worksites, duties, provisions, treatment, payment, deductions, and recreational activities; in addition, he provides a detailed description of the meals they received, which were often poor, and how they had to wake up early in order to eat before the food finished; furthermore, he explains how risky it was to walk into town, because braceros were often beaten or even killed by people who wanted to steal their money; he was later able to work with his father in El Centro, California, and from there they went to Merced, California; when he heard that the program was ending he decided to stay rather than return to México so that he could continue working; ultimately, he was able to obtain citizenship; he also talks about how the meaning of the term bracero has changed from something that was simply descriptive to something negative; he concludes by stating that although he suffered greatly, he still has good memories of the program, because it gave him the opportunity to work.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Guillermo C. Manzo by Verónica Córtez, 2006, "Interview no. 1227," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.