Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Lorenzo Perla was born in Concheño, which is in the municipality of Ocampo, Chihuahua, México; his father died a few months before he was born, and his mother died when he was only six months old; consequently, he was raised by his oldest sister and her uncle on her husband’s side; Lorenzo worked rather than go to school, and he learned to read and write as an adult; in 1949, he enlisted in the bracero program and completed three contracts; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Michigan, New Mexico and Texas, picking beets, cabbage, cotton, cucumbers and lettuce; in addition, he worked as a cook and drove tractors.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Perla talks about coming to work in the United States during the late 1940s without proper documentation; in 1949, while working in New Mexico, he was taken to El Paso, Texas to obtain documents through the bracero program; he describes the process he underwent in El Paso, including medical exams and delousing procedures, which made him feel like he was looked down upon; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Michigan, New Mexico and Texas, picking beets, cabbage, cotton, cucumbers and lettuce, and he completed three contracts; in addition, he worked as a cook and drove tractors; he also goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, accommodations, provisions, duties, contract lengths and renewals, remittances, correspondence, friendships and recreational activities, including trips into town; moreover, he explains that he was so bad at picking cotton he became a cook; the other braceros paid him to cook for them instead of picking; later, he even learned how to drive a tractor, which helped him obtain longer contracts; oftentimes, on his days off, he picked enough to fill his bag and get a head start on the week; he also relays several other anecdotes about his experiences; furthermore, he talks about meeting his wife, who he later learned was the daughter of a man he had previously worked with as a bracero; he was ultimately able to arrange for legal residency with the help of a family member.
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Interview with Lorenzo Perla by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1368," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Interview in Spanish.