Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
José Medina Torres was born May 10, 1923, in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, México; he was the youngest of his siblings; his parents were campesinos, and they owned the land they worked; he was formally educated through the third grade, and by the time he was ten years old, he began working the land and caring for animals; when he was seventeen years old, his father passed away; later, in 1955, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arkansas, California and Texas, picking, sorting, packing and loading various crops.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Medina talks about his father and what his life was like growing up; he knew about the bracero program because, his brother-in-law and several men from town joined in the midforties; José decided to enlist in 1955, and he went to the contracting center in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, with a group of thirty other men; he briefly describes waiting in lines at the center while getting processed; in addition, he went though centers in Empalme, Sonora, México, and Distrito Federal, México; he also mentions that in Empalme, he paid a coyote four hundred pesos for a contract; as a bracero, he labored in the fields of Arkansas, California and Texas, picking, sorting, packing and loading various crops; he also details the various worksites, camp sizes, housing, accommodations, provisions, duties, routines, treatment, payments, deductions and correspondence; while in Pecos, Texas, he learned how to pick cotton and cook for the first time; moreover, he was not paid very well and had a number of deductions from each check; in Arkansas, he picked cotton in the fields together with African-American men and women; some of them even spoke Spanish; in San Joaquin, California, he and other braceros were taken to an Evangelical church every Sunday for worship, regardless of their religion; he also explains that some of their bosses were Mexican contractors, which were infamous for their horrible treatment of workers; he goes on to talk about his life in México after the program ended, including his children and grandchildren.
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Interview with José Medina Torres by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1441," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Interview in Spanish.