Family History Project Essay: From Oaxaca to California
I always wondered how my family came to California, but never got the opportunity to research their journey until now. From simply interviewing my father and grandfather, I learned about the challenges my family faced when they traveled to California. It was a story that made me realize how fortunate I am today to have the opportunity of acquiring an education and the chance to write this essay. My family’s migration began with my grandfather migrating to California in 1949 under the Bracero program. He was a native from the Mixteca region of Tecomaxtlahuaca, Oaxaca and at the age of twenty-seven he decided his best chance at having a financial stability would be to come to California as a temporary contract laborer. In most cases like Ronald Takaki explains, “ most of the immigrants were from the agricultural labor class, and were predominantly young between the ages of fifteen and forty-four” (295). The journey coming to United States, as a Bracero worker was an arduous excursion because the migrant workers would be transported in small groups to California, where they went through rigorous examinations without no pay and after a week either selected to be shipped to work in the fields or sent back home. During the1940’s the Bracero Program allowed the importation of provisional agricultural contract workers from Mexico to the United States under a series of laws commissioned in 1942.
Although, it was a short-term migration to United States most workers decided to stay and live in California after their contracts were over because of better job opportunities they encountered like Takaki describes, “farm work was seasonal and migratory, with laborers following the crops” (298). This was one of the main reasons why my grandfather decided he would stay in California and later on bring his family to live with him. During the time my grandfather was working as a temporary contract laborer in the strawberry fields in Alpine, California he became good friends with the Japanese workers there, who worked in higher paying positions as overseers. This allowed him to be able to move up the working ladder through association because soon after that he stopped picking strawberries in the fields and began working in the stables with the ranch owners. His job consisted of managing the horse stables and the transportation of the animals from one estate to another. However, because of the higher difficulty in his job he was able to get paid more money, learn how to drive, build a relationship with the owners, have better living conditions, and later offered the opportunity of permanent residency. At this time my grandfather recalls he was making an hourly wage rather than being paid what he used to for a container of strawberries in a span of two to three hours.
Even with him having such great luck at being able to acquire a job that would pay him more money he made just enough to send back home to...