From a Farm Owner to a Bracero

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Excitement and adrenaline ran through my body as I stood before the wide, white doors that lead into my grandparent’s house in a small farm town called Jose Maria Morelos in Durango, Mexico. It was a beautiful, sunny, December evening; warm enough to just wear a light sweatshirt, not like the December evenings in Minnesota where you need Eskimo attire to go outside. It has been a family tradition to go every winter break, leaving Minnesota behind in an avalanche of snow. Jose Maria Morelos, called La Bajada by the locals, including myself, is a small thriving farm town that has a young spirit when it comes to culture and friendliness. What once boomed with agriculture and farm animals, now stands as a visiting town on vacation days and a ghost town the rest of the year.

My Grandpa left this charming town and his family for the demand in the working tomato fields in California around World War II. Just as my Grandpa provided food, shelter, and protection as the head of the family, his responsibility was to give his family the best he could. This concept is described perfectly by Jacqueline Goodman, a professor of sociology as, “ men come north and leave their families in Mexico, they are fulfilling masculine obligations defined as the breadwinner of the family” (320). My Grandpa, a hardheaded man, with a straightforward mindset decided to leave and come to the United States according to my Grandma. Although she had some doubts and concerns, she finally agreed because after all, she loved him (interview). As I turned the cold, weathered gold knob, I stepped into the main living room, where the spacious room had a thin cloud of dust covering the furniture. Small cobwebs on the corners assured that the place had been abandoned for a few years. The ornaments and portraits still in the same places, served as a remembrance of the past. The icy December air lingered in the room, but as soon as my mom started the wood stove, little by little the warm, smoky air consumed the whole house. The smell of burning wood brought memories of when we used to sit in the kitchen drinking hot chocolate. I’ve been a very curious child since a very young age, and my grandma would always say “just like your mother” when she would surprise me doing something disobedient. My mom or grandma would always catch me sitting in the living room, not watching television but starting at every portrait hanging on the wall, which ranged from my grandma’s wedding, to her children’s weddings, to her grandchildren. It was just like a big photo album hanging on the big cream-colored walls of the living room. It recorded stories through generations and with enough space for many more generations to come. There was one picture that always caught my eye, but I never had the nerve to ask about it. As I scanned the wall with familiarity and appreciating the dusty frames, my eyes met the gaze of someone in a black and white photo; I stood motionless examining it. The black and white picture is my grandpa sitting on a chair with a straw cowboy hat, and by an estimate he looked like he was in his late twenties. His young, handsome face not only looked tired but his eyes seemed distant and lost. I would not be surprised since author Barry Estabrook describes the horrifying working conditions of tomato fieldworkers in his famous book Tomatoland as: Tomato workers, mostly Hispanic migrants, toil without union protection and get neither overtime,

benefits, nor medical insurance. They are denied
basic legal rights that virtually all other laborers
enjoy (xviii).
The harsh conditions that my Grandpa worked under in the tomato fields were intolerable as he labored for many hours under the careless supervision of the field owners. The owners negated many entitlements that other work places made sure they followed. To say the least, they were slaves picking the food we see as we enter the supermarket.

The developing crow’s feet around his eyes added...
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