Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Roberto Sotelo was born September 1, 1933, in Pénjamo, Guanajuato, México; his mother’s name was Aurelia Arias, and his father’s name was Sotero Sotelo; Roberto had two sisters and two half siblings; his parents were campesinos; when he was two years old, his father died, and his mother later remarried; consequently, he was raised by his paternal grandmother; he went to school through the second grade, but he had to stop in order to work and help support his family; during the early 1950s, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, California and Texas picking various crops; he later immigrated to the United States with the help of an employer and eventually became a citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Sotelo briefly discusses his family; during the early 1950s, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he describes the contracting process he underwent at the centers in Monterrey, Nuevo León and Empalme, Sonora México, including medical exams; when going through Empalme, he worked in California, and when he went through Monterrey, he worked in Texas; from the centers he was transported by trains or buses to the border, where he was further examined and deloused; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arizona, California and Texas picking various crops; he goes on to detail the different worksites, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, payments, deductions, remittances and contract lengths; in addition, he explains that initially, California’s primary crops were citrus, dates and grapes; it wasn’t until later that they began growing an assortment of vegetables; once, he was very ill and after finally being taken to the hospital he had to stay for three days; his bracero insurance paid for his stay; it was rumored that the insurance paid up to fifteen thousand dollars if a bracero died in the United States; he spent five years in Coachella, California, which was his last contract; during that time he was given a thirty day pass to return home every year; he later immigrated to the United States with the help of an employer and eventually became a citizen; overall, he as positive memories of his time with the program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Roberto Sotelo A. by Verónica Cortés, 2006, "Interview no. 1251," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.