Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesus Solis was born August 11, 1931, in Manuel Doblado, Guanajuato, México; he was raised by his grandparents on a ranch with his three siblings; as a young boy, he worked on the ranch and cared for animals; he was never formally educated; during his early twenties, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking and packing tomatoes.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Solis talks about his family and what his life was like growing up; although joining the bracero program was never an economic necessity for him, he longed to come to the United States to know what it was like; when he was in his early twenties, he went with two of his friends to the contracting center in Irapuato, Guanajuato, México; they paid a lawyer who was responsible for the list of eligible workers two hundred pesos to get on the list; by the next evening they were on a train headed for the United States; during the process, he was most embarrassed by the fact that he did not know how to sign his name on the contract; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking and packing tomatoes; he goes on to detail housing, provisions, duties, routines, payments, deductions, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; shortly after arriving at the worksite, the men were taken to a store to buy supplies, including paper to write letters home; after some trouble, he managed to find someone to help him and even teach him how to read and write; he recalls making two hundred and fifty dollars per paycheck and sending money home to his grandmother who saved it for him; some braceros deserted their contracts after being promised they could make more money at other camps; Jesús’ employer offered to help him stay in the United States, but he refused thinking it would be easy to obtain a new contract; after returning to México, however, he found it was impossible; he later bought thirty-five heads of cattle with the money his grandmother saved; not long after, his wife became ill, and he was left a widow at the age of thirty-two; he later remarried and his life changed for the better.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Jesus Solis by Violeta Mena, 2006, "Interview no. 1248," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.