Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Julio Valentín May May was born June 1, 1936, in Cansahcab, Yucatán, México; his parents worked in agriculture on an ejido; he was the second born of his eleven siblings; as a boy, he learned to work the land with his father, and consequently he received very little formal education; one of his older brothers enlisted in the bracero program; during the sixties, Julio followed in his brother’s footsteps and enrolled in the program; as a bracero, he worked in Blythe and Sacramento, California, cleaning, pruning and picking cotton, tomatoes and watermelons.
Summary of Interview
Mr. May talks about growing up in a poor town and working to maintain an ejido; one of his older brothers enlisted in the bracero program and encouraged him to do the same; during the early sixties, Julio could not find work, and he had a wife and daughter to support; ultimately, he decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps and enrolled in the program; the names of eligible workers were printed in the newspaper, which he explains is how he knew when to go to the contracting center; he describes going to Empalme, Sonora, México, and the difficulties he faced, including having nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep; moreover, he also mentions writing a letter to his wife asking her to pawn whatever she had to get him some money; when he was gone, she and their daughter stayed with his in-laws; while in Empalme, he endured extremely poor treatment, including being stripped and deloused; as a bracero, he worked in Blythe and Sacramento, California, cleaning, pruning and picking cotton, tomatoes and watermelons; he goes on to chronicle his duties, routines, provisions, payment, remittances, treatment, correspondence, working relationships and recreational activities; in addition, he alludes to an instance in which he taught fellow braceros to speak the Mayan language in exchange for pieces of watermelon; he also taught some of the foremen Maya; Julio was able to save enough money from working with the program to buy a home; he goes on to describe life in Mexico, including his involvement in the Bracero PROA organization.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
GMR Transcription Services
Interview with Julio Valentín May May by Mireya Loza, 2008, "Interview no. 1456," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.