For the complete text [PDF] of Mike de la Cruz: The Life of a Laboring Man, 1905-1977 (E-Scholarship). Includes complete audio (streaming or download) for the oral history. Note: Due to editing by the narrator, there may be some differences between the audio recording and the transcript. Audio will be found under "Supporting Material."
Mike de la Cruz: The Life of a Laboring Man, 1905-1977, is the story of a Mexican-American field worker, one of a dozen children, with one year of schooling, who left home in Arizona when he was about 13 years old, drifting around the country, getting work here and there, surviving as he could. In 1921 he came to Watsonville, where he worked in the fields for a labor contractor, lived in labor camps, and harvested lettuce and beets. He described himself as a drifter and hobo in the 1920s and 1930s, who could hitch, ride freights, and make do almost anywhere. In between seasons he would leave Watsonville and find work wherever he could. He described his experiences working the crops in Santa Cruz county during the Depression, when he made 12 cents an hour. His narration describes unremitting work in fields and ranches, breaking horses, planting tobacco, coal mining in West Virginia-- any work to survive and keep going. Meri Knaster, a former editor at the Project, interviewed de la Cruz, whose story illuminates a particular American life rarely documented or acknowledged in our history.