Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jose M. Zepeda was born in Sinaloa, México, but he was raised in Mexicali, Baja California, México; his father served in the bracero program; José had two siblings; his formal education extended through the fifth grade; during the 1960s, he also enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking asparagus, cotton, dates, strawberries and tomatoes; in 1970, he returned to the United States and arranged for legal status; sometime later, he married and eventually had four children, two boys and two girls.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Zepeda talks about his life in México, including his various odd jobs; he initially learned about the bracero program through newspaper announcements; during the 1960s, after completing his military service, he went to Empalme, Sonora, México with a group of roughly four hundred men to pick cotton and get the necessary papers to enlist in the program; upon arriving in the United States, he was inspected like a piece of fruit and fumigated; many men were embarrassed by the entire process; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California, picking asparagus, cotton, dates, strawberries and tomatoes; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town; before leaving, his father had told him to go to Coachella, California, and say he was a palmero, or date picketer, even though he was not, because he could learn on the job; he enjoyed working as a palmero and explains that Levi’s were best to use, because they were especially durable; in addition, he used special boots; he also recalls going into town to see Spanish movies with some of the locals; on occasion, his mom was able to visit him, because she had a passport; he also recounts his life after the program; in 1970, he returned to the United States and arranged for legal status; sometime later, he married and eventually had four children, two boys and two girls; overall, he has positive memories of the program, because he learned a lot about different kinds of work.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Jose M. Zepeda by Mario Sifuentes, 2006, "Interview no. 1259," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.