Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Alonso Ayala was born on October 2, 1936, in Cansahcab, Yucatán, México; his parents worked in agriculture as part of an ejido, and he had seven siblings; he received very little formal education; during the midfifties, when he was roughly nineteen years old, he enlisted in the bracero program; after returning from his first contract, he married; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of California, Montana and Texas, picking beets, cantaloupe, cotton, lettuce and strawberries.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Ayala talks about his family and what life was like growing up; for a time, he worked on a finca, where he earned eight pesos for an eight to ten hour day, which was not enough to survive; he compares such work to slavery; after completing his military service when he was roughly nineteen years old, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; he went through contracting centers in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, and Monterrey, Nuevo León, México; as a bracero, he worked in the fields of California, Montana and Texas, picking beets, cantaloupe, cotton, lettuce and strawberries; he goes on to detail housing, provisions, treatment, payment, remittances, correspondence and recreational activities, including trips into town; he explains that after returning from his first contract, he met and married his wife; while he was gone, she and their children stayed with his mother; while working in Salinas, California, he and other men were given passes that allowed them to go to the border to purchase goods; moreover, California was his favorite place to work, because there was a larger Mexican community; they were even able to see Mexican movies; he also recalls thinking that the further away from the border he worked, the longer his contract would be, because travel from that far away was that much more difficult; in addition, he recounts an incident in which he used the wrong envelopes to send a letter to his wife; consequently, she never received the letter and was upset that he had not written; he also mentions that a number of men spoke to each other using the Mayan language; although he did save money by working as a bracero, he also suffered greatly.
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Interview with Alonso Ayala by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1427," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Interview in Spanish.