Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Santa María Madera was born October 22, 1933, in Huejuquilla el Alto, Jalisco, México; he had three sisters and one brother, and his father worked as a merchant; when he was ten years old, he began helping a man in the neighborhood make rock walls; in 1956, when he was twenty-two years old, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of California, planting, cleaning, pruning, dusting, cutting, picking and packing various crops; after his last contract in 1960, he obtained a visa and permanently settled in the United States.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Madera recalls learning about the bracero program and how two hundred men were chosen from his town to enlist in Empalme, Sonora, México; in 1956, when he was twenty-two years old, he and his brother-in-law traveled to Guadalajara, Jalisco, México before finally arriving in Empalme; he describes the requirements and process he underwent, including medical exams; from there he was transported to Mexicali, Baja California, México by train; upon crossing into the United States, he was treated badly and subjected to further assessments and delousing procedures; moreover, he spent the night at a large barracks in Calexico, California before being sent to his worksite; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of California, planting, cleaning, pruning, dusting, cutting, picking and packing various crops; he goes on to detail housing, accommodations, living conditions, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions, remittances, contract lengths and renewals and recreational activities, including trips into town; moreover, he talks about the difficulties he faced with regard to his small size and work duties; in particular, he explains strapping a machine to his back in order to dust crops and not being tall enough to reach certain crops; as a result, the chemicals landed on him despite the goggles and mask he used; he also explains renewing his contracts in Tijuana, Baja California, México; after his last contract in 1960, his boss helped him obtain a visa, which led to him permanently settling in the United States.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
GMR Transcription Service
Interview with Santa María Madera by José Tlaxhuapan, 2008, "Interview no. 1414," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.