The Farmworkers’ Journey

The Farmworkers’ Journey

Ann Aurelia López
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 361
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppzt8
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  • Book Info
    The Farmworkers’ Journey
    Book Description:

    Illuminating the dark side of economic globalization, this book gives a rare insider's view of the migrant farmworkers' binational circuit that stretches from the west central Mexico countryside to central California. Over the course of ten years, Ann Aurelia López conducted a series of intimate interviews with farmworkers and their families along the migrant circuit. She deftly weaves their voices together with up-to-date research to portray a world hidden from most Americans-a world of inescapable poverty that has worsened considerably since NAFTA was implemented in 1994. In fact, today it has become nearly impossible for rural communities in Mexico to continue to farm the land sustainably, leaving few survival options except the perilous border crossing to the United States.The Farmworkers' Journeybrings together for the first time the many facets of this issue into a comprehensive and accessible narrative: how corporate agribusiness operates, how binational institutions and laws promote the subjugation of Mexican farmworkers, how migration affects family life, how genetically modified corn strains pouring into Mexico from the United States are affecting farmers, how migrants face exploitation from employers, and more. A must-read for all Americans,The Farmworkers' Journeytraces the human consequences of our policy decisions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94057-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xx)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. ONE THE FARMWORKERS’ JOURNEY
    (pp. 1-10)

    The small, sleepy village of San Agustín lies in a valley about 25 miles outside the bustling city of Tepatitlán in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The red brick houses and church steeple at the center of town are accentuated by emerald green crops, agave fields, and pastureland surrounding the village. The provincial, Catholic, pastoral town emanates a demeanor of peace, tranquility, and stability.

    The stillness of the pastoral panorama, however, belies the circumstances of families living within San Agustín’s small homes. The historically predictable family rhythm of the campesino rural farming life has been broken by emotional upheaval and...

  7. TWO MEXICO’S HISTORICAL FARMING PRACTICES
    (pp. 11-27)

    Tecomán is an agricultural hub of the west-central Mexican state of Colima. A modern toll road connects Tecomán with coastal Manzanillo, a world-renowned seaside tourist area. The short stretch of road from Manzanillo to Tecomán passes through verdant coastal tropical vegetation that merges with vast monoculture banana plantations situated between Highway 200 and the coast. As the road approaches Tecomán, banana plantations give way to polyculture agroforestry systems of coconut palms and green lemon trees with intermittent coconut/banana or lemon and mango orchards.

    Pueblo Rincón de López is a small pueblo approximately 45 minutes outside Tecomán and is part of...

  8. THREE ASPECTS OF MEXICO’S AGRICULTURAL POLITICAL ECONOMY
    (pp. 28-42)

    Los Sauces de Pérez (“Pérez’s Willows”) is a smallejidovillage near the town of Cuquio, Jalisco, named after the willows that grow along the pristine Río Los Sauces. Jesus Acosta’s family lives in a handmade adobe brick dwelling among the many other adobe brick dwellings of the families living in the village. The Acosta family’sejido parcelais about an hour’s walk from their home in the village.

    The road leading from their home to the 7-hectareejido parcelatraverses some of the most magnificent high-country rural terrain in all of west-central Mexico. Adobe homes share hillsides with beavertail...

  9. FOUR MIGRATION NORTHWARD TO CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    (pp. 43-63)

    Four months after Faviola de la Cruz’s oldest son, Arnuldo, left home, the phone rings in the San Agustín home. Faviola answers the phone, and suddenly her sullen countenance brightens with a broad smile. “He made it,” she shouts to her family members. “Arnuldo is safe! He is in California and has a job in agriculture!” Faviola’s ten other children rush to her side. One after another, each child has a private conversation with their oldest brother. After an hour of enthusiastic conversation, the phone call ends. Though completely relieved that her son is safe for the moment, Faviola looks...

  10. FIVE IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCES
    (pp. 64-87)

    Three men from Jalisco squat behind a ramshackle, abandoned storage shed within yards of a crossing point on the Arizona–Mexico border. For days now they have traveled, mostly on foot, from Jalisco’s high mountains to this remote location in the northern Mexican desert. All three consider themselves lucky to have avoided apprehension thus far. Their rations for the trip have run out, and they are weak, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty from the demanding journey.

    Nonetheless, at this moment they are anxious, with adrenalin pumping through their veins. “What time is it?” asks Juan while elbowing his friend Lorenzo. Lorenzo,...

  11. SIX CALIFORNIA’S CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS
    (pp. 88-106)

    Farmers and their family members who arrive from Mexico to work in the California central coast’s corporate agribusiness as farm laborers become part of a farming system that is historically, politically, economically, and ethnically unique. The federal and state legislation governing the lives of farmworkers is often dualistic and arbitrary in both content and enforcement. One example is the manner in which border policy is enacted and enforced. When the need for undocumented labor in the fields of California’s corporate agribusiness is high, border enforcement declines, regardless of the legislative mandates in effect at the time. Similarly, when the need...

  12. SEVEN FARMWORKERS IN CENTRAL CALIFORNIA’ S CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS
    (pp. 107-125)

    It’s 5:00 A.M. at Elena Esparza’s Watsonville apartment in a low-income housing unit sandwiched between agricultural fields, far removed from the actual city of Watsonville. The alarm sounds, and Elena’s hand emerges from under the warm covers. She gropes for the button on the alarm clock that will switch off the offending noise. While the rest of the family continues their slumber, she takes a few moments to sleepily review the events and expectations of the day. She checks the clock face again: 5:05, time to get up.

    Elena nudges her husband Emanuel in an attempt to wake him. He...

  13. EIGHT AN IMPOVERISHED, ENDANGERED, AND OVERWORKED PEOPLE IN THE LAND OF PLENTY
    (pp. 126-145)

    At 3:30, Elena Esparza carries the cases of blackberries she’s picked for the day to the edge of the field where theponchadora(case counter) waits while tired workers begin to line up. Since it’s late April and still the beginning of the season, the harvest is light. Elena has picked only ten cases all day. At $2.15 per case, she can count on $21.50 for the cases plus $24.80 for eight hours of work at $3.10 per hour(horas ycajas)—that’s $46.30 grossed for a day’s work. She’s hoping to earn at least $8,000 during the seven-month season. About...

  14. NINE FARMWORKER HOUSEHOLD SURVIVAL IN CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    (pp. 146-165)

    Farmworkers originating in the west-central Mexico campesino culture immigrate to the United States with a strong work ethic and the intention to work hard (Castro 1986). Indeed, in interviews in both central California and Mexico men spoke of hard work and supporting a family as if they were perceived as dimensions of fulfilling male and female gender responsibilities (Alonso 1992; Salgado de Snyder 1993). To be deprived of an opportunity to work hard is intolerable. Many insist that one of their primary motivations for immigrating to the United States is to take advantage of the many opportunities available to work...

  15. TEN MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE FARM
    (pp. 166-188)

    Cocula, Jalisco, is the mariachi capital of the world. Mariachi bands from all over the globe converge on the small rural town during the summer months to play their lively songs and compete for the title of best mariachi band in the world. The town is surrounded by sugar cane fields, an important crop in this region, and visitors can purchase a wide and colorful variety of tasty Mexican candy manufactured locally from the cane.

    The road leading from Cocula passes through La Sauceda, an average-size village. Along the side of the road near the village, the traveler observes several...

  16. ELEVEN TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND THE U.S. LEGACY IN WEST-CENTRAL MEXICO
    (pp. 189-214)

    As cultural disintegration and death slip through the Mexican countryside, disrupting one farm and family after another, transnational corporations are enjoying an economic boom (Wright 1990,185; and see websites of, e.g., Dow, Monsanto, and Syngenta). Spurred by NAFTA, their profits are soaring. While the United States spends billions of taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully attempting to stem the tidal flow of illegal drugs from Mexico (Johnson 2001; Wagner and Flannery 2000), predominantly U.S-originating transnational corporations are exporting and aggressively promoting deadly environmental, health, and culture-destroying drugs, chemicals, and agricultural products to Mexico with impunity. As purveyors of addiction and even genetic and...

  17. TWELVE ENDANGERED MEXICAN FARMERS
    (pp. 215-239)

    As the sun rises over the houses and verdant fields of the El Guacoejido,near Uruapan, Michoacán, industrious resident farmers are already working in their fields. Most don backpack pesticide applicators,bombas,and are spraying their fields to rid them of the ever-competitive weeds, insects, and birds.

    Luis Fernandez smiles broadly at his wife and children as they walk with him to the front door of their home. Before he leaves, he and his wife Ermelinda take a moment to enumerate the tasks of the day prior to the arrival of their relatives from a neighboring village. Ermelinda reminds...

  18. THIRTEEN INSTITUTIONAL OPPRESSION IN THE WEST-CENTRAL MEXICO COUNTRYSIDE
    (pp. 240-256)

    From the time of one’s birth into the west-central Mexico farming culture, the Catholic Church, male heads of the family, government leaders, and educators provide and encourage basic training in docility, compliance, and subservience. Uneducated rural inhabitants, who only very rarely have opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, easily and readily absorb and generally accept subjugation to those institutions and persons viewed as higher authorities. The internalized subjugation is later projected onto others, including corporate representatives and their products.

    When corporations aggressively promote their destructive products with symbolism, including bright new signs juxtaposed upon the harsh realities of crumbling, dingy...

  19. FOURTEEN TOWARD AN ENLIGHTENED PERCEPTION OF CALIFORNIA’ S MEXICAN AGRICULTURAL IMMIGRANTS
    (pp. 257-271)

    From the farms of west-central Mexico to California’s corporate agribusiness there exists a dense, interlocking, co-reinforcing framework of social, political, and economic institutions and practices that extends binationally. The gridlocked framework unremittingly mars, disenfranchises, and oppresses small farmers and their families in Mexico and farmworkers in California all along the migrant circuit. Human rights violations are the norm at every juncture of the binational circuit (see appendix B).

    This framework that enshrouds the lives of campesinos and California farmworkers is so pervasive and penetrating that escape is nearly impossible. Some farmworkers do, however, escape and then join the ranks of...

  20. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 272-278)

    In spite of the dismal circumstances the binational farmworker community finds itself in, there is an emerging awareness about its plight internationally, in Mexico and in the United States. In spring 2006, the extent of the migrant population became visible to mainstream America for the first time when more than three million people took to the streets of major cities all over the country to protest peacefully against punitive legislation and to push for legalized status. The emergence and organization of Mexican civil society in the United States continues. In Mexico, some of the farmers themselves are becoming informed about...

  21. APPENDIX A: AGROCHEMICAL INVENTORIES AND CLASSIFICATIONS
    (pp. 279-284)
  22. APPENDIX B: THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 285-292)
  23. REFERENCES
    (pp. 293-324)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 325-337)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)