Juana and Alicia
Farmworker and Student
I came from Mexico in 2004. I work in the fields and my husband does gardening work.
I harvest tomato plants. March through May you plant the crop. From May till about July is when you clean the tomatoes. From July till about October is when you pick the harvest. We work during that season and then from October till March, I’m here with my children. I have to take care of them too because they also encounter issues and problems so I want to spend as much time as possible with them.
I am not worried about ICE. Before when we worked in the fields they wouldn’t let us get out of a certain area of the field because ICE was a corner away. Now, we don’t see them as often. I think the farmers are keeping them away. It’s because there’s not many workers anymore and the fieldwork is the least paid and it is very difficult to do that work.
The minimum wage is 11 an hour. It’s ten hours a day. If you go over ten hours, the farmers don’t pay you for that. In the agricultural world, you can work ten hours a day and they have to pay you the same hourly rate. But if you work more than 60 hours a week or work on Sunday, then they have to pay overtime. So, they make us work 40 to 60 hours for minimum wage so that they don’t have to pay us overtime. Once immigrants get documents they don’t want to earn the minimum wage. They want to get a better job and so they leave the fields.
I do worry about the chemicals and the pesticides. Sometimes it harms us because they use a lot of it to make the tomatoes grow fast. We are planting in one row and in the next row there is the machine that is already putting fertilizer next to us.
I pay my taxes with little benefit. A citizen or a person who has legal status will get $1,000, like the child income credit. But if you are undocumented, they cut that by half so you end up paying more taxes in that regard.
Many times, I want to go back to Mexico. I feel alone. I’ve lost loved ones and I’m here by myself. My mother has been hospitalized several times and I have not been able to see her. I feel desperate, hopeless sometimes. Then as the years went by, I started to find that family here. We have a supportive community.
We come together every year and we’ve been doing it for years now and we’re helping each other all the time. When you are working in the fields, if one of you gets behind, the other ones come and help you to get as close as you can to the rest.
I’ve been supporting, working volunteering with Promotoras, the community organizers, for about 10, 11 years now. I’m also volunteering at the church. We are doing the food baskets for Thanksgiving. We also support the St. Vincent de Paul Society and organize the donated gifts for families. We’re doing fundraising too and so I support in organizing that as well. I also support families, people that know me ask me for rides; can you take me to the doctor, can you take me here? And so, I do favors to other people like that.
People tell me why do you work in the fields? I say because I love it. It fulfills me to be in that land. In the fields, I’m able to see everything that is given by nature, by God, the gathering, and the fellowship within people all of it in one place. When we eat, it seems like we’re in a picnic. You are next to the mountains, under a tree, sharing food with one another. We share our happiness, we share our sorrows. We strengthen each other there. We also come from different countries and different cultures, sometimes Mexico, sometimes Guatemalans. We’re from different places too. And that’s what I love about the fields.
I really would like is for my children to have a good life. A life in which they’re safe. Education is important, but at the same time, there’s so much stuff in the environment that attract them and pull them away.
Yes. I’ve told my children be eagles, not butterflies. Don’t be too flashy. Eagles fly by themselves, they see where they want to go and they get there. If my children want an education, I tell them to get that education, but I want them to be confident. Because I cannot force my children to go and study something that they’re not going to enjoy if they’re not going to do it with love.
I dream of going to college when I’m done with high school. I still need to figure out what I want as a career, but right now I’m deciding between a veterinarian and an artist. I hope to get some scholarships.
My parents work really, really hard. I’m just grateful that they’re working because they provide for our needs, like food and clothes. I don’t like where they work because they leave really early and then we don’t get to see them much and that makes me sad. I also take care of my younger siblings.