José Alberto Garza
Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Jesús Gallegos was born on July 1, 1945, in Ecuandureo, Michoacán, México; his parents worked in agriculture; he was the third born of his seven brothers and two sisters; by the time he was about six or seven years old, he helped his father work the land; consequently, he only went to school for roughly a year; when he was twelve years old, he went to work picking tomatoes in Sinaloa, Mexico; he continued working in Sinaloa until he was roughly sixteen years old.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Gallegos recalls what it was like growing up in his hometown of Ecuandureo, Michoacán, México; when he was sixteen years old, he moved from Sinaloa to Sonora, México, to work; while there, he learned about the bracero program, because many men worked there to obtain papers for the workers’ lists in Empalme, Sonora; in 1961, he acquired the necessary documents, but he was too young and gave it away; the following year, he was able to go to the contracting center in Empalme, where he waited for three weeks to be called; he recounts how difficult it was there; sometimes, men were found dead in the morning, because they had been robbed the night before; once called, he was stripped and examined; then he went to the train station, where he was given food and sent to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico; upon arriving in the United States, he was stripped, fumigated, and examined again before being sent to his worksite; he labored throughout California for two years, and he was treated well; his father was also a bracero, and they ran into each other on two occasions while they were traveling for the program; he goes on to detail the various worksites, duties, living arrangements, daily routines, provisions, payments, deductions, and recreational activities; he also describes the events surrounding an incident he heard about where thirty-six braceros died due to a train wreck and the apparent neglect of a bus driver; in addition, he mentions that braceros were given laxatives in their food; even so, his overall experiences with the program were positive, and he is proud to have been a bracero.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Jesús Gallegos by José Alberto Garza, 2008, "Interview no. 1344," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.