Photo essay: Migrants toil to put food on our tables

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SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Guillermina Arzola, a Mixtec immigrant from San Sebastian del Monte in Oaxaca, Mexico, works in a crew of indigenous Mixtec and Zapotec farmworkers from Oaxaca and Guerrero, Mexico, picking strawberries here. The crew foreman is Eugenio Cardenas of the Central Coast Company, and the berries will be marketed by Green Giant. It is the beginning of the strawberry season here in Santa Maria. Workers stand in line to bring the berries they’ve picked to the checker. He inspects them and then punches a ticket that keeps track of the number of boxes each worker has picked. Three Zapotec farmworkers from Santa Maria Sola in Oaxaca walk out of the field, after having asked if there was any work.

Many Mixtec and Zapotec families live in an apartment complex here, and children play in the yard in front. Most are new migrants with very low income, and haven’t yet found much work. In the apartment of Samuel Ramirez, his wife Juana Lopez, and their children Adela and Maria, there is little furniture besides mattresses, a table and a couple of chairs, and a TV. Leobarda Hernandez is the oldest, most respected woman in the Hernandez family next door.

Three Zapotec farmworkers from Santa Maria Sola in Oaxaca walk out of a field, after having asked the foreman of a crew picking strawberries if there was any work for them. Copyright David Bacon

For more articles and images on immigration, see

Just out from Beacon Press: Illegal People—How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants,

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US: Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories