Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesús Ponce was born on July 11, 1919, in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México, but he was raised in México, Distrito Federal; he was the second eldest of eight siblings; during his first year in secondary school, he had to quit in order to work; when the factory where he worked closed, he decided to enlist in the Bracero Program; in 1944, he became a bracero, and he worked on the railroads in Chicago, Illinois; two years later, in 1946, he emigrated into the United States, and he continued working on the railroads in Chicago; he worked for a total of thirty years before retiring; in 1980, he became a United States citizen.
Summary of Interview
Summary of Interview: Mr. Ponce recalls his family, childhood, and adolescence; when he was fifteen, he quit school and began working at a factory; in 1944, the factory closed, and he decided to enlist in the Bracero Program; he goes on to describe the medical exams, including the delousing procedures he went through at the contracting center in México, Distrito Federal; from there he was transported by passenger train to Bensenville, Illinois, just outside of Chicago; he describes the living situation there as horrible; there were several cargo trucks without wheels on the floor, and inside of each one of them, there were about forty bunk beds, which is where they were expected to sleep and live; the only bathrooms were outside, and they had to bathe out of buckets; he later became friends with a woman who allowed him and other workers to stay in her home; rather than in the trucks, while they worked; every six months he acquired new work contracts without having to leave the country, but in 1946 he was no longer allowed to do so; after returning to México; in May of that same year, he was able to emigrate into the United States; he went on to work on the railroads for a total of thirty years before retiring; in 1980, he became a U. S. citizen.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Jesús Ponce de León by Claudia Morales, 2003, "Interview no. 1261," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.