Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Francisco Sáenz was born October 4, 1931, on a ranch in Manuel Doblado, Guanajuato, México; his mother’s name was Leonor, and his father’s name was Simón; they both worked on their family owned ranch; Francisco was the fourth born of his nine siblings; in 1951, he married, and he started a family soon after; a few years later, in 1956, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California cleaning, pruning, fumigating, picking and packing various crops; he eventually immigrated to the United States, and he slowly began bringing his wife and ten children.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Sáenz talks about growing up on a ranch with his family, and he shares several stories about his life in México; in 1951, he married, and he started a family soon after; a few years later, in 1956, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he went through the contracting center in Empalme, Sonora, México and recounts the entire process, including the various requirements and long waiting times; from there he traveled by train to the border in Mexicali, Baja California, México, where he was stripped, examined and deloused, which he describes as very aggressive; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of California cleaning, pruning, fumigating, picking and packing various crops; he goes on to detail the different worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, amenities, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, contract lengths and renewals, payments, deductions, remittances and recreational activities, including trips into town; one of his favorite places to shop was JC Penney; after the crops were fumigated it was especially difficult to pick, because the smell was so bad; he also remembers that a friend from his hometown was killed in an accident after being trampled by heavy machinery; his remains were sent home, and his family was paid a compensatory fee; in addition, he offers other anecdotes about his time as a bracero; he eventually immigrated to the United States, and he slowly began bringing his wife and ten children; overall, he had positive experiences working with the program, and he learned a great deal.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Francisco Sáenz by Alejandra Díaz, 2008, "Interview no. 1375," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.