My parents hired a truck driver to bring us up.: Becoming Minnesotan

José Trejo in school uniform, Mexico, 1948. Minnesota Historical Society.

The Journey

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Essential Question

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

The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

Background Information

Many Mexicans and Mexican Americans originally came to Minnesota 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 in Minnesota, especially sugar beet growers in northwestern Minnesota, began to recruit Mexicans and Mexican-Americans from Texas to work in their fields and factories in the late 1910s and 1920s. These companies found Mexican labor to be cheap, abundant and reliable.

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

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Transcription

Narrator: José Trejo (JT)

Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

JT: From December of 1953 to April of 1954, we lived in Texas. While in Texas, we lived in two cities. One was Eagle Pass, Texas. From there we moved to Crystal City, Texas, where my mom had a cousin. We stayed at his place for a couple of months, and then we kept hearing about this land of milk and honey in the northern reaches of the country. People kept talking about it, “Oh, yeah, you’ve got to go to Minnesota. Minnesota is the land. This is the place to go.” This is what they told us all the time, you know.

LD: What did they say about it?

JT: Well, “There’s a lot of jobs up there, and you can get good work. You can work all summer. There’s other people there. There’s Latino people there,” that is what they were saying, and, “So why don’t you come up?”

And my parents hired a truck driver to bring us up. I think, at that time, it was twenty dollars a head or something like that for the four of us. We were piled up in this big two-ton truck that had the side railings, you know, the slats, slat railings, covered with a canvas top. Okay? They had all their furniture there, because they were coming north, the family was coming north. And there were three men, two drivers and a young boy in the front of the truck, and there was another young woman and the four of us in the back. The only room we had was the size of a twin bed mattress. The rest was all filled with furniture. For the five of us, all we shared was this twin mattress.

LD: Oh my gosh. How long did it take?

JT: Five days.

LD: Wow.

JT: Well, of course, we had no freeways at the time, and the truck broke down a couple of times. It was a difficult, long trip. The thing I can remember the most vividly about this is the rumbling of the truck constantly for day after day, and the flapping of the canvas on the slats on the side, and the crowded conditions. We were sitting five people on a twin bed mattress. It was difficult to sleep; we had to take turns sleeping. But, fortunately, we finally got to Minnesota. That was in April of 1954.

LD: What’s your first memory of Minnesota?

JT: It was cold at that time. We had come from an area that was very hot in Mexico. The average temperature there was 110, 112 degrees in the summer, so coming to a place where it was in the 30s and 40s in April was quite a difference.

LD: Yeah.

JT: The thing that’s interesting about this is that my parents had no idea where Minnesota was. It was someplace up north. And to them, north was San Antonio, Texas. That’s as far as they knew.

LD: Oh, my goodness.

JT: So they thought maybe a couple hours north of San Antonio, that’s Minnesota. But, lo and behold, it was a lot farther than a couple hours north of San Antonio. So when we got here, my mother’s first comment was, “What have we done?” and, “Where are we going? It’s like going to the end of the world.”


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: 2175