Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
José Humberto Félix Beltrán was born in Chacala, Durango, México, on October 11, 1932; as a child, he moved around a lot; in 1954, he enlisted in the bracero program; he worked in California for the next six years, primarily loading carrots; while laboring as a bracero he met a woman whom he later married; they continued working together in the fields, and they gradually built a family and a home in the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Félix acquired his first bracero contract in 1954, which took him to El Centro, California; his first year was the hardest, because he did not know what to do or how to work quickly enough to earn a profit; oftentimes, men who were new ended up owing money after only one week of work; when his contract ended he was given a special workers card, which allowed him to pass through a contracting center in San Luis, Sonora, México, within a day; he also mentions that he was given vaccinations, without ever being told what they were for, and deloused, which was humiliating; even so, he had to tolerate it in order to work; after a year he had saved enough to buy a car; by 1956, he had a U.S. driver’s license and was able to drive himself to work; José continued working as a bracero in California, primarily loading carrots, until 1960; he goes on to detail the various worksites, living conditions, housing, provisions, treatment, duties, daily routines, payment, recreational activities, incentives, and special privileges; in 1957, he married a woman who worked with him bundling carrots; he explains that in each cuadrilla or group of about one hundred and twenty, roughly thirty were local women; because he specialized in loading, he was able to rent an apartment instead of living in the camps, and whenever his work took him to a different city, he was able to take his wife with him; over time, they gradually built a family and a home in the United States; having been a bracero brings him certain joy, however, he is also saddened by how much some suffered.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
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Interview with Jesús Humberto Félix Beltrán by Mireya Loza, 2006, "Interview no. 1297," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.