An excerpt from a 2011 oral history interview with a father who worked as a bracero in Arizona and his son (in Spanish).
An English translation of this clip from the original oral history in Spanish with Luis Marquez and Jose Marquez. Translator: Audrey Whitebloom.
JM: Jose Marquez (father)
LM: Luis Marquez (son)
Interviewer: I understand that Mr. Jose also started working as a manual laborer.
LM: Dad, do you remember when you used to tell us that you used to work as a bracero and illegally? Do you remember telling us about it?
JM: When I was illegal I was in Texas. I was in ranch that was called the 90, because it was very big...
LM: And what year was that? Do you remember?
JM: No, I don't remember.
LM: It was before we were born, remember?
JM: Yes, all of you were born after I was already there.
LM: So it was around 1956 or 57 in those years when you were an illegal worker and after being an illegal worker you got a contract in a bracero program.
JM: Yes, I got a contract to come to work in California.
LM: Do you remember what that job was?
JM: They used to make a list then they would take you, not everyone, one here and there, to the center of contracts in Guadalajara and they...
LM: The commissario would make the list, he would look for the candidates, he would look for the people...
JM: Yes, but he wouldn't include everyone...
LM: No, not everyone, only certain people...
JM: Once they made the list they would take them to Guadalajara and they would do the contracts there.
LM: How would they send you there when they contracted you...in cars, in airplanes, in donkeys...in trains…?
JM: In trains.
LM: Ah, in trains. So you went from Balded Sonora to the United States…
JM: Yes and from there they would give you the passports.
LM: Who would decide where u were going to work? Who would decide that…?
JM: In Parma and Sonora, a lot of them would go to different places...and some would be sent to Arizona and I imagine they wanted to go because it was very hot over here...
LM: So the bosses would arrive, looking for manual laborers, and braceros from Mexico would arrive. So, would they say, I have some work Texas or I have work in California or I have work in Arizona...
JM: It depended, some wanted twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty people.
LM: So was it voluntary, and you could say, I want to go to California, or I want to go to Texas?
JM: Many wanted to go to Arizona because it is very hot there and that was what they were used to.
LM: What did you used to do in San Jose?
JM: Picked cucumbers and zucchini.
LM: And how did they used to pay you, by hour or by contract?
JM: Per hour.
LM: Do you remember how much they used to pay you?
JM: I used to get paid $1.25 an hour.
LM: And why did you decide to come here, because mom brought you here or what?
JM: Once the contract was over in Sonoma, then we came here.