There Are Days When You Eat, And Others When You Don’t, But You Always Have To Work

By Pedro Alvarez

WINDSOR, CA – Pedro Alvarez is a migrant farm worker in Windsor. His children and grandchildren live in northern California. He speaks Triqui, a language spoken by indigenous people in his hometown of Santa Cruz Rio Venado, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Copyright David Bacon

I came here the first time in 1985 and went to work at in a vineyard. I didn’t know how to do the work at first, but I eventually learned how to prune, plant, tie vines and remove leaves. I also worked the grape harvest. I already had experience working outdoors on many ranches and in the fields in Oaxaca. It was easier working back there, though.

After a couple of years I brought my son Alejandro to the U.S. He began to work with us, but then cut his hand. The contractor said, “He can’t work. He has to go to school.” I didn’t know anything about the school system, but a friend helped me enroll him in high school. Alejandro graduated and went on to attend college in Sacramento. Two of my sons later joined me and then I brought my family to the U.S. in 1999. My wife, daughter and grandchildren all came.

I work in the fields to help my family. I worked a few years at one winery and then changed companies. It was very hard working for the second winery because they pressured us to work extremely fast, and they did not even provide us with water. You had to be strong, but some people couldn’t handle the conditions. The soil was hard; to do some jobs you had to walk with a shovel and a sack of fertilizer. People used to faint during the harvest because the work was so difficult. If you were behind the others by 20 plants, there was no work for you the next day.

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Twenty Years in the Fields

By Miguel

When I first came I went to Oregon and harvested strawberries, cucumbers and blackberries. It was hard because we were paid by the pound when harvesting strawberries and by the bucket when harvesting cucumbers — not by the hour. I earned about $300 a week. If you didn’t work fast, though, you couldn’t earn that.

When I first came alone, I couldn’t rent an apartment. I lived under a tree with five others. We lived next to a ranch, but they didn’t have any available rooms. It rains a lot in Oregon, and there we were under a tree. The blankets got wet, but we managed to go to work the next day.

After I brought my wife, we rented a room. At first my children stayed back at home in Oaxaca. We only had work for three months each year. It wasn’t a good situation, because there was so little work and hardly any money. With three months work we had to support ourselves, plus our kids back in Oaxaca, for the next nine months that followed. We had to save enough money when we were working to pay the rent when we weren’t. Otherwise, where were we to go? There was enough money for food but nothing more. We wanted to buy other things, but there was no money because we had so little work.

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I’ve Worked Many Years in the Fields Here in the United States

By Teresa Mondar

SANTA MARIA, CA – Teresa Mondar is a farm worker from Oaxaca, who began working in the fields of north Mexico when she was eight. Today she is disabled by arthritis and lives in an apartment with her family in a poor neighborhood of Santa Maria, CA.
Copyright David Bacon

I’ve worked many years in the fields here in the United States. Many years. I left Oaxaca when I was four years old. I don’t remember my time there. We moved to Baja California and I began to work there when I was eight years old, picking tomatoes. We came to the United States after that. My memories of that time are very sad because I had to work out of necessity. I started working in the United States at fourteen in California and in Washington State. My mother couldn’t support my younger siblings alone, and I’m the eldest daughter. I couldn’t go to school because my mother had younger children to support.

I started in the fields with strawberries and squash and weeding the fields. My very first job was picking strawberries. The foremen asked how old I was, but I lied about my age because I needed to work. I covered my face while working so they wouldn’t see my true age. We just worked there for the first five years, and then we went to Washington to pick strawberries, cucumbers and blueberries. We’d only go for a short time — two to three months — and then return to California.

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To Find Work, I Came Three Times

By Guadalupe Navarro Hernandez


Guadalupe (right) working in the United States

My name is Guadalupe Navarro Hernandez. I migrated to the United States three times. The first time, I was 12, the second time I was 23, and the last time I did it was not long ago.

I migrated to the United States because I could not find a job here, in Mexico, and

because the little money that my family earned was not enough to support my children or to pay for our most pressing needs. Leaving my family was very painful, but I wanted to be able to provide for them. I wanted the American Dream.

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Son of a Farm Worker Family

By Jonathan Cortez 

My name is Jonathan Cortez. I am 24 years of age and I am from Veracruz, Mexico. I currently live in Fellsmere, Florida. I am the oldest child and I have three younger sisters. I was born on February 2nd, 1989. I attended Sebastian River High and I went to Indian River State College for two years. My current occupations include: DJ, photographer, video and film producer, web developer, computer technician and computer repair specialist.

I came here to the U.S when I was about six years old, and my life as an immigrant has been tough. We came here to this country to have a better life and a better education. My parents spent over 10 years as migrant farm workers, so I never got to finish a year in school because I had to move so much. It was sad moving from state to state, but my parents recognized that it had to be done to support our family.

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Women’s Writing in the Philippines

By Marivir R. Montebon

New York City – My women writer sisters in the Philippines have given birth to a new news website, WomenWritingWomen.org and I share their happiness and triumph. I have been in touch with them scarcely but as what women say they will do, the website is born, on March 7, a day before International Women’s Day! Here is to profound, fun, and quality reading to all people all over the world. Thank you to my friends who think outside the box, Diana G. Mendoza, Pinky Serafica, and Diosa Labiste. Welcome to our brave and safe writing space.

Dear Diosa Labiste, this is a long time coming. I miss reading you.

Diosa Labiste writes on WomenWritingWomen.org:

This social news site emerged out of despair by some writers, feminists, activists and, (as they call themselves), witches rolled into one. Some months ago, a news site where we honed our skills as writers and which we continued to support, through falling revenues, readership and enthusiasm, had closed down. Its demise was inevitable for reasons that we rather keep to our sad selves. It’s safe to say that it reached a cul de sac and the barrier was quite high to hurdle. But as the ink has started drying, we grew restless. We wondered if we could live without writing as women and for women. How do we recreate a community of women writers and connect with new ones. Is a community of writers still relevant in the age of social media when one can easily have a platform for airing one’s views and assemble followers who could click, like, tweet, retweet one’s words? Fake news sites, for example, would buy bots to make their accounts viral.

However a community of women writers is a different space. First, it is a space for teaching and learning. We learned that long ago when we were starting out as writers. We watched how seasoned writers polished our stories, taught us the basics, and tempered our idealism with reality. Second, it is a space of resistance. For example, our editors helped us make sense of the women’s movement in the Philippines and convinced us why writing about women crucially contributes to strengthening the struggle for equality of women and men. We allowed our stories to reveal various forms of sexual and structural discrimination as a function of societal differences like gender and class. Third, it is a space for empowerment. Through our writing, we enacted our politics and registered our protests against injustices and gender oppression that we saw and experienced in our lives.

Having experienced that kindness, it became apparent to some of us, younger writers, that perhaps it is our turn to do the same.

Continue reading here: 

https://womenwritingwomen.org/2017/03/07/we-were-warned-things-were-explained-to-us-nevertheless-we-persisted/ 

Marivir has a blog at www.justcliquit.com

 

 

Just Shy of Full-Time, It’s Virtually Impossible for Me to Visit My Family

By Evelyn Olano
I work for FSS as a wheel chair agent. I am the person that makes sure passengers who need assistance make it to their gates on time for their flights.

I work hard. But I would like to take some time off to visit my family in the Philippines. Unfortunately I only qualify for paid vacation if I work 2,000 hours in a year. But with the 32 hours/week I am given, I can never get there because we lose our hours at the end of every year and have to start again from zero. I don’t know when I will get to see my family without losing pay or even my job because it seems like I could never earn enough time to actually qualify for a vacation.

Reprinted with permission from It’s Our Airport.