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.
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Interview with Plutarco Chávez Ruiz by Mireya Loza, 2007, "Interview no. 1281," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Interview in Spanish.