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Posts Tagged ‘farmworkers’

According to the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS), there are approximately 165,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers and their children living  in California — with a significant percentage coming from the state of Oaxaca.  Writer and photographer David Bacon has been photographing and interviewing indigenous Mexican migrants working in California’s agricultural fields for many years.  The following Truthout article is from his photo-documentary project, Living Under the Trees, sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Young, at Work in the Fields

by David Bacon

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

Most young farm-workers in California are migrants from Mexico, especially the south of the country, where many people share an indigenous culture and language. Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It’s hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it’s a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself. With the money I earn I’m going to help my mother and save the rest. I’ll be attending college in the fall at Arizona Western College—my first year. I want to have a good job, a career. I’m not thinking of working in the fields. Not at all. I look at how hard my grandfather has worked. I don’t want to do field work for the rest of my life because it’s so hard and the pay is so low.

Lopez describes the reality for farmworkers in California in a way that gives tangible meaning to the facts and numbers describing farmworker life. There are about 120,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California. Counting the 45,000 children living with them, that is a total of 165,000 people. They are the most recent migrants from Mexico. They speak twenty-three languages, come from thirteen different Mexican states, and have rich cultures of language, music, dance, and food that bind their communities together.

<snip>  Click HERE to read full article.

This project is therefore a reality check. The idea is to give indigenous migrant communities a vehicle they can use to find support for dealing with the social problems they face, such as housing, low wages, and discrimination. This documentary work is not neutral. Its purpose is to help provide a means for people to organize and win support in a world that, at best, treats them as invisible, and at worst demonizes them. I used to be a union organizer, and this work is very similar. Social documentation not only has to have an engagement with reality, but should try to change it.

Click HERE to read full article.

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Sunny, warm, and dry, Oaxaca’s sidewalks, mercados, restaurants, and zócalo are filled with “snowbirds” (the human variety) escaping the bone-chilling and wet wintry weather of el norte.  Alas, almost immediately after the previously mentioned “big move” next week, I’m heading in the opposite direction — to the bleak gray north for several weeks to visit family and friends in California (it’s not all bikini beaches and blue sky) and then east to celebrate my first grandchild’s first birthday — the best and maybe only reason to visit upstate New York in the dead of winter!  And, if previous return trips to el norte are a predictor, I’ll be missing the warmth and color of Oaxaca almost from the minute I step off the plane.

The “snowbirds” and I have the luxury of coming and going.  Some people do not.  One of my favorite journalists interviews a young Oaxaqueña trying to support her young daughter by working the fields in Madera, California.  As the title suggests, it is a poignant story…

The Only Job I Can Do–A Young Mother’s Farm Work Story

Editor’s Note: Lorena Hernandez is a young farm worker and single mother from Oaxaca, Mexico. Today she lives in Madera, Calif., with her daughter and aunt. She told her story to David Bacon.

hernandez_blueberries.jpg
Lorena Hernandez picking blueberries   [photo by David Bacon]

MADERA, Calif.–To go pick blueberries I have to get up at four in the morning. First I make my lunch to take with me, and then I get dressed for work. For lunch I eat whatever there is in the house, mostly bean tacos. Then the ritero, the person who gives me a ride to work, picks me up at 20 minutes to five.

I work as long as my body can take it, usually until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the ritero gives me a ride home, and I get there by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. By then I’m really tired.

Costs of Rides, Childcare on Little Pay

I pay $8 each way to get to work and back home. Right now they’re paying $6 for each bucket of blueberries you pick, so I have to fill almost three buckets just to cover my daily ride. The contractor I work for, Elias Hernandez, hooks us up with the riteros. He’s the contractor for 50 of us farm workers picking blueberries, and I met him when a friend of my aunt gave me his number.

<snip>

No Vision of My Future

I don’t have friends, just acquaintances from work. They don’t have responsibilities like I do, so they go out on the weekend. They share their stories with me because since I have a daughter, I don’t go out. I just stay at home.

I wash my daughter’s clothes on the weekends because during the week I’m so tired. There isn’t time to clean the house during the week either. That’s what we do on the weekends.

I don’t have a vision of my own future. I don’t really think about it. I know I want to work every day. I don’t think I’ll ever return to school because of my age. My job will be working in the fields. I’m at peace with my current situation. I would love to go back to school, but it’s too late for me. Perhaps one day.

Please read full story HERE.

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David Bacon, one of the most perceptive labor and immigrant rights writer/photographers, interviews Rufino Dominguez, director of the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants (in English).  Let’s hope this isn’t another program that is all talk, no action.

Oaxaca’s New Government Calls for Migrant Rights

OAXACA, MEXICO The Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, and its director Rufino Dominguez, called for a new era of respect for the rights of migrants, in commorating [sic] the International Day of the Migrant in the Palacio del Gobierno, Oaxaca’s state capitol building. Representing the newly-elected state government, Dominguez paid tribute to the contributions of the braceros, the first of Oaxaca’s migrant workers to travel to the United States. from 1942 to 1964, and to the women who cared for the families they left behind.

Around the balconies of the palacio’s courtyard hung photographs showing the lives of current migrants from Oaxaca, working as farm laborers in California. Migrant rights activists, artisans and public officials spoke about the important role migration continues to play in Oaxaca’s economic, social, political and family life. The state, in southern Mexico, is the source of one of the largest waves of migration from Mexico to the U.S.

Dominguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, which organizes indigenous migrants in both Mexico and the U.S., was appointed director of the IOAM by Oaxaca’s new governor, Gabino Cue Monteagudo. Cue defeated the PRI, the party that governed Oaxaca for the previous 80 years. In an interview with David Bacon, Dominguez described the different road the new government is taking to ensure social justice for Oaxacan migrants today:

We can’t tell the U.S. government, or the governments of California and other states, to respect the rights of our people who are living there, if we ourselves are not respecting the rights of migrants here in Oaxaca. Many migrants passing through Oaxaca from Central America and other places suffer systematic violations of their human rights.

Have we just paid attention to migrants in the U.S. because they send dollars home? Sometimes the problems of migrants within Mexico are even greater than those we have in the U.S.  [Read full article]

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