Saturday, January 26, 2013

Making a Life: Two Stories From Immigrant Workers

The Only Job I Can Do--A Young Mother’s Farm Work Story
By David Bacon, New America Media
December 30, 2012

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.

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. [...]

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Making a Life, but Not a Living in the Fields: Lucrecia Camacho's Story
By David Bacon, Truthout
January 3, 2013

Lucrecia Camacho comes from Oaxaca, and speaks Mixtec, one of the indigenous languages and cultures of Mexico that was hundreds of years old before the arrival of the Spaniards. Today she lives in Oxnard, California. Because of her age and poor health, she no longer toils as a farmworker, but she spent much of her life in Oxnard's strawberry fields, and before that, in the cotton fields of northern Mexico. She told her story to David Bacon.

I was born in a little town called San Francisco Higos, Oaxaca. I've worked all of my life. I started to work in Baja California when I was a little girl. I've worked in the fields all of my life, because I don't know how to read or write. I never had an opportunity to go to school. I didn't even know what my own name was until I needed my birth certificate for the immigration amnesty paperwork after I'd come to the US.

When I was seven, my mother, stepfather and I hitchhiked from Oaxaca to Mexicali, and I lived there for two years. I spent my childhood in Mexicali during the bracero years. I would see the braceros (Mexican guest workers) pass through on their way to Calexico, on the US side. I would beg in the streets of Calexico and they would throw me bread and canned beans on their way back home. I also begged in Tijuana. I'm not ashamed to share that because that is how I grew up. [...]

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