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Sargent, Maria

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Childhood memories, age twelve or thirteen, of the Italian prisoners of war who worked on area farms during World War II.

Interviewee Maria Sargent, female, born in 1931
Date Range 1943-1944
Date & Location August 24, 2000, Muñoz home, El Paso, Tex.
Project Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Region Outside New Mexico
Number of Tapes 1
Transcribed December 12, 2000
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Tape 1, Side A

Maria Sargent remembers hoeing cotton with her father and other local men at the Ivy ranch during World War II when Italian prisoners of war were working on the same farm but in separate cotton fields. Ms. Sargent was about twelve or thirteen years old. She remembers the prisoners as "friendly" people when they would drink water from an outside well they shared with the local workers. The locals and prisoners of war would try to talk to each other. The prisoners' guards, she says, were very close by whenever the Italians were close to the local workers.

About fifteen to thirty prisoners arrived at the Ivy place in a truck, which seemed like a military truck to the consultant. She said the prisoners rode in the back of the truck. They didn't sing in the truck or in the fields, even though the local people sang as they worked.

Her father told her not to talk to the prisoners, Ms. Sargent recalls, and told her that's why they had guards with them: to keep local workers and prisoners from talking to each other.

She was not afraid of the prisoners of war, the consultant says, and said they seemed happy among themselves.

Ms. Sargent said the prisoners were housed at Fort Bliss, El Paso. An American World War II veteran told her years later that prisoners of war were taken from Fort Bliss to the Coliseum, El Paso, to dance. She said the co-worker resented the fact that while Americans in the armed services were "roughing it out" the prisoners of war here were "having fun" at the Coliseum. She did not know if it were Italians or Germans who were taken to the Coliseum.