PROGRAM 3: 1950’s - 1980’s

Destination, El Norte: Braceros, Campesinos and the U.F.W.


The Bracero program was a guest worker program which allowed growers to bring workers under contract as field laborers for a specified time. Ignacio Gomez was a Bracero in the 1950’s and talks about how his view of America changed after he got to Salinas, and why he’s seeking money still owed to him. Sabino Lopez, who came to Salinas to pick lettuce, was a UFW leader for years until they parted ways. Luis Valdez and Andy Imutan were both part of the United Farm Workers movement, from different angles. Luis Valdez was a migrant farm worker as a child, moving from one farming town to another, then back to their home in Delano. Later he would become involved with Cesar Chavez’ movement for justice in the fields by creating Teatro Campesino. Andy Imutan, a Filipino labor organizer, was a leader during the early years of the United Farm Workers union. Cesar Chavez talks about how his early experiences as a migrant farm worker shaped his view of the world.

Bracero Notice

Advertisement for Braceros, ca 1950s. Pajaro Valley Historical Association.

UFW Strike, Salinas CA, February 21, 1979

United Farm Workers union strike, February 21, 1979. Photo: Pajaro Valley Historical Association.



"The employers would bring people here and just leave them in the barracks, only give them 15 hours of week of work, and take the money for room and board. For the city of Watsonville, it was a semi-aparthied system." Frank Bardacke

  Armando Ascencio

Armando Ascencio, Former lettuce striker, Salinas, CA

"We had good leaders before, but now we don’t have any in the fields. They have gone down again. Those guys don’t have a contract any more."

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  Clemente Llano

Clemente Llano, Retired farm labor contractor, Isleton, CA

"Most of them, even the ones that immigrated, even legally here, in their own minds, they’re going back to Mexico."

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  Ignacio Gomez

Ignacio Gomez, Former Bracero, Salinas, CA

"When I first came, I came with the illusions any young man has, I came with the dreams, and aspirations, and promises I had made myself and my family. So I was very anxious to start working."

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  Leon Ventura

Leon Ventura, Retired lettuce foreman, inventor, Watsonville, CA

"I remember the day I came as a permanent resident. It was 1958, and the following year I was drafted into the army."

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  Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez, founder, Teatro Campesino, San Juan Bautista, CA

"You are talking about a way of life here. And with that come perspectives and stories. I’ll never forget, because I was second in line out of 10 siblings, my brothers and sisters were cradled in fruit boxes. My mother knew how to drag it along the rows as she picked. That’s a way of life that’s been going on for thousands of years."

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