Myrna Parra Mantilla
Bracero Oral History Project
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Ismael Díaz de León was born in El Paso, Texas on June 17, 1926. He had five siblings and his father worked on the railroads. His family lived in Aguascalientes, México and it was not until he moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico that he fixed his U.S. citizen status when he was 38 years old and worked in a government entity related to public works in that city.
Summary of Interview
He recalls that before that he came 15 times as a bracero, that he only attended four years of school, and that first worked when he was 13 years old at a barber shop and then as a barber. He remembers that on another job he had in a hotel is where he learned about the Bracero Program since contractors stayed there, so he, friends, and other people he knew got hired. He describes the requirements for getting hired, that he went to the U.S. as a bracero between 1942 and 1944, mentions the contract centers he went to Irapuato and Chihuahua, Mexico, and that he initially went to Washington State to pick apples. Díaz de León gives details about his bracero experience and talks about different bracero contract centers going to specifics like infrastructure, medical exams, paperwork, and how they were sent to El Paso to an area called Río Vista were ranchers hired braceros and took them to different places; how bracero were transported; hiring places in El Paso like Río Vista, the Coliseum, and Fort Bliss; how much time braceros had to wait in these places before being hired; and the items they were allowed to carry with them. He recounts his first experiences as a bracero like the fruits and vegetables he used to pick in the state of Washington and California, and the pay he used to get between $30-$50 dollars a week. He recalls other work experiences in Texas and Michigan, how ranchers and stewards treated braceros, the different kind of work he did and number of hours he worked and his pay, and the extension of the contracts. He remembers about different topics, about the accommodations and food given to braceros; the communication he had with his family while he was in the U.S.; the frequency that he went to visit his family in Mexico; the medical care for braceros; more details about his work experience in the state of Washington, California and Texas; tells what braceros did on their free time; the jobs he enjoyed the most; and how some employers did the arrangements for some agricultural workers to have legal status in the U.S. and how on the places that he worked they offered him that, and the existence of undocumented workers. To conclude, Díaz de León discusses that he got married in Mexico in 1948; his relationship with his wife while he was working in the U.S.; the end of the Bracero Program and the existence of undocumented workers; his contact with other bracero coworkers; how he became U.S. citizen once again; and he recaps about his positive bracero experience.
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Jaime R. Ruiz
Interview with Ismael Diaz de Leon by Myrna Parra Mantilla, 2003, "Interview no. 1657," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.