Yesterday, the Mexican Farm Labor Program Agreement was signed by the United States and the Mexican governments. This agreement allows Mexican migrant farm workers to come and work temporarily on farms in the United States. This agreement came from the high number of unemployment in Mexico and from the predictions of California farmers, which predicted, that as a result of World War II, there would be a shortage of farm workers for the fall harvest. Many U.S. farm labor reformers protested this agreement,
believing there would be no farm worker shortage, only a shortage of respectable wages. These farm workers will sign contracts, which would allow them to work on U.S. farms for months at a time, receiving a minimum wage of thirty cents per hour. Upon completion of their contracts, these temporary farm workers will be sent back to Mexico. This temporary labor program, also called the Bracero Program will be implemented only for the duration of the war.
Date of Issue: SEPTEMBER 3, 1959________
March 18, 1948
Dear Jesus ,
How are you my love? I hope everything is working out for you in El Norte, but the kids and I miss you so much. It’s very hard not having you around, but the kids and I know you are doing this to give us a better future, and we admire you so much for that. The kids are so proud of you, they are telling all their friends that their dad works in the United States and will be coming home soon. As you can imagine life here is really hard, without having you here, we are struggling to make ends meet. To feed the children, I have to go to my parent’s house and hope they have some extra food for us, we are really struggling. I have not received any money from you, and the money you left us is running out. I know you’re working really hard over there and I just want to tell you that we love and miss you so much. We can’t wait for you to come back home. I love you!
Love your wife & kids
My Father’s Interview-Jose Ortega
How did you become aware of the Bracero Program?
I became aware of the Bracero Program from my older brothers and friends who had been contracted to work on fields in the United States.
How old were you when you first came to the Unites State under the Bracero Program and what was the whole process like?
I was 18 when I first came to the United States under the Brcaero Program. I even lied about my date of birth to get a job in the U.S. I placed my name on a waiting list in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the Bracero Program. One month later I was advised that I needed to make my way to the City of Empalme, Mexico, so I boarded a bus and left to Empalme. Once at Empalme, I waited there for 3 months waiting for my name to be called. For those three months I stayed in the house of a contractor, where I and 20 others slept outside in the yard, during the hot summer months. Every day I had to check to see if my name would be called that day. It took three months for them to call my name, and when they did, they told us that the contractor who placed us on a list in Guadalajara was arrested because he kept an illegal list. It was as though that list never existed. So I had to go Obregon, Mexico, to work on the field to earn a permission to work in the United States. This permission was a requirement to work in the fields of the U.S. I worked there for 2 weeks and I earned my permission, so I returned to Empalme to wait once again for my name to be called. I stayed there for a month and I was contracted to work in Phoenix, Arizona, to pick cotton. I picked cotton for 45 days, and then I was sent back to Mexico. Then I would go home to spend time with my family and wait for harvest season again. I had to go back to Obregon, Mexico and pick 2,000 lbs of cotton to get another permission to work in the U.S. again. It would take approximately 2 weeks to pick 2, 000 lbs. of cotton.
How were the living conditions under the Brace Program?
Under the Bracero Program, living conditions were good. They provided us with food, shelter and the much needed work. I worked 40 hours a week from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm., for a dollar an hour. The food was good, they provided us with 3 meals a day which would consist of rice, beans, and usually what appeared to be a large piece of pork, but it was mostly pork fat.
How many times did you come to the Unites States under the Bracero Program?
I came to the U.S. in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964 for a total of 5 times. In 1964 the Bracero Program ended.
What fields did you work on the 5 times you came to the U.S.?
In 1959 I worked in Arizona, picking cotton. In 1960 I worked in California, picking lemons. In 1962 I worked in California, picking grapes. In 1963 I worked in California, picking tomatoes. In 1964 I worked in California, picking oranges, lemons and chilies.
What did you do when the Bracero Program ended?
After the Bracero Program ended I got a permission to come to the Unites States as a visitor, to visit my family members. I got a job, but was caught and I was deported back to Mexico. Then I went back to the U.S. and got a job, and worked illegally until 1976, when I was granted permission to be a permanent resident, and in 1996 I became a U.S. citizen.
Bad New Letter September 18, 1963
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this letter to you. I’m sure you heard about the horrible accident that happened yesterday, here in Chualar, California. Just in case you did not hear about it I will tell you. Yesterday, a train crashed with a car that was transporting 58 Braceros. This horrible accident left 32 Braceros dead and 24 seriously injured. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your husband, Juan was one of the Braceros who were killed in the accident. All he wanted to give you and your six kids was a great future, but he unfortunately died in his effort. He loved you and the kids a lot. He talked about you guys all the time. He was counting the days before he got a chance of seeing you and the children again. You have my deepest sympathy, as you know Juan and I were really good friends, but I have peace that he is now with God, and he will be watching over you and the kids from heaven. Once again, I’m so sorry for your loss.
Certificate of Completion
VENTURA COUNTY CITRUS GROWERS COMMITTEE
P.O. Box 191 Santa Paula Calif. This Certifies that Mexican agricultural worker
Contract No. ML 397488 completed
his contract on JAN 2, 1965 with the
By Victor Behar________
The Bracero Program was created by the American and Mexican governments, to provide farm workers during the shortage as a result of WWII. The Braceros left their families behind in the hopes of making good money in the United States and a better future for their families. Although they were provided with food and shelter, some Braceros were treated inhumanely by their bosses. Some lived in Aluminum housing that would reach really high temperatures during the summer. They were forced to work in the field for up to 12 hours a day with a minimum wage of thirty cents per hour. These Braceros came to the United States with the hope of making money and sending it back home, but they would receive so little that there was not any left to send back home. Some had better experience than others, like my father who said for him, things were not as so bad. The Bracero Program was supposed to last for the duration of WWII, but it did not officially end until 1964.
Bracero History Archive | Item." Bracero History Archive | Home. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .
"Bracero Program | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)." Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) | A Digital Gateway to Texas History. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .