Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers

Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers: Emerging from the Long Shadow of Farm Labor

Barbara Wells
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 220
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjbr2
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  • Book Info
    Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers
    Book Description:

    InDaughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers, Barbara Wells examines the work and family lives of Mexican American women in a community near the U.S.-Mexican border in California's Imperial County. Decades earlier, their Mexican parents and grandparents had made the momentous decision to migrate to the United States as farmworkers. This book explores how that decision has worked out for these second- and third-generation Mexican Americans.

    Wells provides stories of the struggles, triumphs, and everyday experiences of these women. She analyzes their narratives on a broad canvas that includes the social structures that create the barriers, constraints, and opportunities that have shaped their lives. The women have constructed far more settled lives than the immigrant generation that followed the crops, but many struggle to provide adequately for their families.

    These women aspire to achieve the middle-class lives of the American Dream. But upward mobility is an elusive goal. The realities of life in a rural, agricultural border community strictly limit social mobility for these descendants of immigrant farm laborers. Reliance on family networks is a vital strategy for meeting the economic challenges they encounter. Wells illustrates clearly the ways in which the "long shadow" of farm work continues to permeate the lives and prospects of these women and their families.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6286-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    Rosa Navarra is a thirty-eight-year-old mother of two who grew up in a farmworker household. Rosa has reason to celebrate. She has achieved her long-term goals of completing an associate’s degree and getting a good job in border security. She hopes her sons will find an easier path than hers to financial stability.

    Farm labor framed the first twenty-five years of Rosa’s life. She remembers helping her parents in the fields as a young child. Her first job was in farm labor and she continued in that work until she was in her mid-twenties. She resolved early on to get...

  5. CHAPTER 1 THE STRUCTURE OF AGRICULTURE AND THE ORGANIZATION OF FARM LABOR
    (pp. 19-28)

    The work and family experience of the Imperial County women cannot be understood without taking into account their farmworker origins. An essential thread woven into the interviews was the centrality of farm work to the women’s lives. Family immigration stories were framed in terms of farm labor. Two-thirds of the women grew up in farmworker households. Their ideas about good jobs and bad jobs are referenced to farm work. Their aspirations for their children are to avoid farm work at all costs. Farm work is central to their family and personal narratives, but their antipathy to it is palpable. It...

  6. CHAPTER 2 FARMWORKER ORIGINS
    (pp. 29-45)

    A farmworker past is a deeply held aspect of the identity of the women who participated in this research. For most, the past is very much present in their lives. This chapter considers the family stories and prior experiences that have shaped the sense of who these women are and where they came from, as well as their perspectives on farm work. As adult women, the personal and family lives they have created have to some extent been constructed in the context of farm work. Although they were born in the United States, the women were aware of their families’...

  7. CHAPTER 3 LIFE IN A BORDER COMMUNITY
    (pp. 46-66)

    The questions I asked about work and family frequently brought my research participants to talk about the border. The economic struggles experienced by most presented real challenges to supporting their families adequately. Many attributed the difficulty of finding stable jobs at decent wages to the community’s location at the border. They also believed that major indicators of community well-being such as education, health care, and public safety were related to proximity to the border. This chapter explores the impact of the border on the individuals and families living in the Imperial Valley. It also captures for readers unaccustomed to the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 NEGOTIATING WORK AND FAMILY
    (pp. 67-93)

    Negotiating work and family is a central concern for most women with children in U.S. society. Women are increasingly mothers and workers. How do the mothers in this study experience their work and family roles and responsibilities? Having explored the personal context—farmworker origins—and the community context—life in a border community—I now turn to this question of how these second- and third-generation Mexican American women manage their work and family lives. The limitations of the local labor market surely shape their work–family interface. Because Imperial County has high unemployment and too few stable, full-time jobs, the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 THE LEGACY OF FARM LABOR
    (pp. 94-111)

    The Imperial County farmworkers’ daughters and granddaughters want to leave farm work behind. For them, the essence of upward mobility is exiting farm labor and all that it means. But they live in a place where upward mobility is difficult. While they ultimately want more than merely moving into nonfarm employment, for most, this is the first hurdle. This chapter considers the extent to which the legacy of farm labor continues to shape the adult lives of these women.

    In tracing the significance of farm labor in the lives of the Imperial County women, I have already examined their farmworker...

  10. CHAPTER 6 SURVIVING NOW AND BUILDING A BETTER LIFE FOR LATER
    (pp. 112-137)

    This chapter considers the microlevel strategies used by the families represented in this research as they respond to macrolevel constraints and strive to achieve personal and family goals. The chapter has two major concerns. The first is to examine how these daughters and granddaughters of farmworkers (and their partners, if present) manage to provide the basic necessities of life for their families in a context in which it is difficult to do so. The second is to analyze what women say about upward mobility and the obstacles they encounter to achieving it. These subjects connect to two larger public issues:...

  11. CHAPTER 7 WHY DO THEY STAY?
    (pp. 138-152)

    The conventional wisdom is that farm labor provides Mexican immigrants their entree into the United States, but that the children of immigrants quickly see that the way forward for them is to leave rural areas and migrate to cities where employment opportunities are better. The fact that Mexican Americans are predominantly an urban population reflects, in part, the movement of the children of immigrant farmworkers to urban places. The Imperial County women defy convention by continuing to live in the agricultural area that provided employment to their (or their partners’) immigrant parents or grandparents.

    This chapter considers the question of...

  12. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 153-164)

    The women I interviewed sometimes wondered why in the world I had chosen to come to do research in Brawley, California, and what could possibly explain my interest in interviewing them. Brawley was personally significant to them because they had grown up there or they had family in the area, but they did not believe it to be an intrinsically interesting place. They did not believe their lives to be particularly noteworthy.

    But by another way of thinking, their lives provide a valuable angle of vision into the experience of Mexican-origin people in the United States. Their perspectives and experiences...

  13. METHODOLOGICAL APPENDIX
    (pp. 165-168)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 169-180)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 181-192)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 193-204)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-206)