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I had expected one thing and came into another one.: Becoming Minnesotan

Francisco and José Trejo with Rusty in Albert Lea, Minnesota, 1955.

Economics, Latino, Travel to U.S., Work

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Essential Question

Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

Words to look for

uproar

Background Information

Many Mexicans and Mexican Americans originally came to the United States as braceros. These migrant farm workers travelled through Texas and into other states to work planting, harvesting, and processing crops. Whole families would travel and work together through the entire season. Agricultural companies recruited Mexicans because they found Mexican labor to be cheap, abundant and reliable. Some employers exploited their workers with low pay, long hours, and reduced benefits. Illegal workers were especially vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous businesses, because they feared involving authorities and employers could have employees they viewed as troublesome deported.

To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

  • Chapter 1

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2:54 Minutes | 2.79Mb

Transcription

Narrator: José Trejo (JT)

JT: At that time, you know, things were in an uproar. My parents felt that maybe we should immigrate someplace else, go to the United States, which we did. We went to Monterrey to the consulate in the city of Monterrey, Mexico. I have a vivid picture of Monterrey and the consulate, because when we walked in, there was a long hallway with white walls, and in the hallway, they had pictures. Above they had a caption that said, “La vida cotidiana en los Estados Unidos,” which is “Everyday life in the United States.” I was looking at it, and they were all white. They wore little shorts and little shirts, and the farmer was on a brand new tractor with green coveralls and a bow tie. The housewife had the apron on and a pearl necklace and high heels, while she was sweeping the floor.

And I kept looking at that and it looked so different than what I had experienced in Mexico. But I thought, man, this must be like paradise the way it looks. I was dumbfounded by how clean everything was and how sweet. Everyone so smiling, and how well dressed they were. Whether they were delivering milk or plowing the fields, they were all very well dressed up. I was fascinated by the woman with her cute little apron and her high heels and her pearl necklace. I thought that was really something. I was eleven years old at the time.

Well, we come to the United States in December of 1953, 23rd of December, 1953, the day before Christmas Eve. That was time we came across. Lo and behold, it wasn’t like that at all. I mean all those pictures I had seen, all this beautiful panorama that they had portrayed to us and all of that, it was just not reality whatsoever. The streets were not paved with gold and farmers did not wear bow ties when they plowed the fields and so on.

So it was quite a shock. I, as a child, had expected one thing and came into another one. We lived in Eagle Pass, Texas, and my dad was able to find jobs in the surrounding areas doing field work, primarily harvesting. But the work was very competitive. There were maybe a hundred people for every ten jobs, and people just fought each other for jobs. Trucks will come over to pick you up on the street corner and people would just pile on the trucks. You’d get taken out to the field and within two or three hours the work was done and that’s all you got for working. Pay was minimal. My dad was getting twenty cents an hour, or twenty-five cents an hour, and you could only work for two or three hours a day. So no matter how hard you tried, the competition was so severe.


Related Glossary Terms

caption

Noun: A title or brief explanation attached to an illustration or cartoon.

consulate

Noun: An office of a government in a foreign city that oversees the distribution of visas and provides assistance to nationals.

dumbfounded

Adjective: Shocked and speechless.

panorama

Noun: A picture or photograph containing a wide view.

uproar

Noun: A state of violent and noisy disturbance.

Citation

Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
nid: 2172