Arturo Vargas Rios


Anaís Acosta


Bracero Oral History

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee

Arturo Vargas Rios was born July 4, 1929, in Rodeo, Durango, México; his mother, Amelia Ríos, was a housewife, and his father, Primitivo Vargas, worked in the fields; Arturo had four siblings; as a young man, he came to work in the United States without proper documentation for a short time; later, he was able to acquire a bracero contract, and he worked in the fields picking celery and lettuce; he was ultimately able to legally immigrate to the United States.

Summary of Interview

Mr. Vargas talks about what his life was like growing up in México; he remembers that the bracero program was greatly publicized in his hometown of Rodeo, Durango, México; in order to enlist, he traveled to the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México by cargo train; he waited for fifteen days with several thousand other men for their names to be called; they were often solicited by people from town to help pick cantaloupe and watermelon, but if they left, they risked losing their place in line and their chance at a contract; from there, he took another train to the reception center in the United States, where he was medically examined and deloused; as a bracero, he worked in the fields picking celery and lettuce; he goes on to detail housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, treatment, payments, remittances, friendships and recreational activities; in addition, he explains that many men arrived thin, but with the food they ate, they left rather plump; one of his boss’s wives was involved with a church that gave religious English classes, but the men were not required to attend; while he was away, he sent letters, money and photographs to his mother so she would know he was fine; upon returning home, he often brought gifts for his family, including electric shavers, coats and dresses; sometime later, he married in Durango, México and eventually began raising a family; he was ultimately able to legally immigrate to the United States; overall, he has positive memories of the program, and he is proud to have been a bracero.

Date of Interview


Length of Interview

58 minutes

Tape Number

No. 1253

Transcript Number

No. 1253

Length of Transcript

27 pages

Interview Number

No. 1253

Terms of Use



Interview in Spanish.