Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mr. Juan Virgen Díaz was born on May 6, 1943, in Zacoalco, Jalisco de Torres, Mexico; he had nine siblings; his father joined the bracero program before Mr. Juan Virgen Díaz was born; in 1946, his father relocated the family to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico; in 1961, at the age of seventeen, he became a bracero; he labored in the citrus orchards of Oxnard and Riverside, California; his last bracero contract was in 1964.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Virgen Díaz recalls his childhood; he remembers hearing stories about his father working as a bracero in the United States; his father encouraged him to join the bracero program; they traveled to the processing center in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico; he recalls the entire process, including lists of eligible workers, waiting times and transportation; he details the harsh conditions he and other men endured while waiting there; the center was overcrowded, they slept in barracks constructed of cardboard and on the floor; both he and his father were stripped, examined, and deloused on both sides of the border; in addition, he details how rudely the physical exams were conducted and the humiliation he felt when an inspector slapped his bottom; the braceros called the inspectors that drew blood “vampires”; some men fainted during this process; he recalls the advice his father gave him; his first contract sent him to work in the orchards of Oxnard, California; his second contract sent him to work in the orchards of Riverside, California; he goes on to detail the camp size, living conditions, provisions, duties, payments, deductions, remittances, treatment, friendships, correspondence and recreational activities; he earned $8.00 a day and paid $1.75 a day for room and board; he recalls that the braceros issued a complaint about the food, changes were made, and their morale improved; he recalls the nicknames they gave to each other; he recalls the women he met while in the U.S.; he discusses the women that worked as prostitutes at the camp; he recalls the recreational wrestling matches, and actual altercations, between the men; he concludes by discussing both the negative and positive aspects of the bracero program.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Juan Virgen Díaz by Anais Acosta, 2006, "Interview no. 1320," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.