Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Roberto Meléndez López was born June 7, 1933, in San José [de] Carbonerillas, in the municipality of Mazapil, Zacatecas, México; he was the ninth born of his fourteen siblings; his parents worked on an ejido, and by the time he was eight years old, he helped them work the land; in 1955, he enlisted in the bracero program; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin picking, irrigating and driving a tractor in the beet, corn, cotton and tomato fields; he obtained roughly ten contracts, and two of his brothers were also braceros.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Meléndez talks about his family and growing up on an ejido where he learned to work the land and care for animals; when the land did not produce enough crops to maintain the family, he decided to enlist in the bracero program; his father was too old to work, and he had to help support the family; in 1955, he went to Monterrey, Nuevo León, México with the necessary paperwork and joined the program; as a bracero, he worked in Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin picking, irrigating and driving a tractor in the beet, corn, cotton and tomato fields; he goes on to detail the various worksites, housing, provisions, payments, remittances, treatment, contract lengths, recreational activities, including trips into town, correspondence and friendships; his first contract took him to Edinburg, Texas, where he ended up working with his brother for over a year; when Roberto asked for a raise, his employer refused and took him and his brother to get a new contract; he picked cotton for the first time while in Texas; when he finished with that crop, he learned how to drive a tractor; as his contract was ending in Minnesota, his employer took him to another ranch to work; while there he was offered one thousand dollars to stay, but he decided to leave; moreover, he recalls that one boss would take the men beer at night to relax; he returned to Mexico in 1958 and married; the following year he fulfilled his last contract; he decided to stay home with his wife and start a family; overall he has positive memories of the program, because it helped him financially.
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Interview with Roberto Meléndez López by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1442," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Interview in Spanish.