Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Plutarco Chávez Ruiz was born on a ranch in Manuel Doblado, Guanajuato, México, in 1933; he is the youngest of his seven siblings; his parents were agricultural workers; although he was never formally educated, he did learn how to care for animals and work the land; when he was twenty years old he married, and four years later he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California picking various fruits and vegetables; when the program ended, he continued working in the United States illegally for a time, but he eventually returned to México with his family.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Chávez talks about his family and growing up on a ranch; when he was roughly sixteen years old, his older brother enlisted in the bracero program; a number of his friends did as well, so he often heard about the program; by the time he was twenty-four years old, he was married and had two children; hoping for a better life, he also enlisted as a bracero; he describes the difficulties he faced in Empalme, Sonora, México, and what it was like for him while he waited there; in addition, he underwent brief physical exams while there and much more detailed ones, including x-rays in El Centro, California; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California picking various fruits and vegetables; he goes on to detail the different worksites, living, housing, amenities, provisions, daily routines, treatment, payments, remittances, working relationships, correspondence, and recreational activities, including trips into town; in Fillmore, California, the workers had a television that they could all watch; moreover, Salinas, California, was the best place to work, because everything was generally better there; he also explains sending money via check to his father rather than his wife, because it was easier for his father to cash the checks than his wife; his father would then give his wife money; later, after the program ended, he continued working in the United States illegally for a time, but he eventually returned to México with his family; overall, he has positive memories of having been a bracero.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Plutarco Chávez Ruiz by Mireya Loza, 2007, "Interview no. 1281," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.