When I was a little girl, I remember my mother taking us to our Grandfathers ranch in what is now called Fountain Valley. He had fields of strawberries and corn and other veggies. I even remember the sugar cane he grew. Our summers were on the ranch picking and mostly eating the strawberries, helping the farm workers box them and bringing water to them, and taking the home made tortillas my Nana made for their lunches. Even then, our Grandfather insisted on showing respect for these workers who, rain, shine or heat always showed up to work. My Grandfather treated his ‘amigos’ as he called them, as his amigos and said without their help he would not be able to feed his family or keep his rancho.
I never really appreciated what and how they were part of our everyday shopping and diet needs. As I grew up, I forget about them. When I began college I met my best friend, Patty Marin. Patty was very invovled with civil rights and walked with Delores Huerta and the other activist, she shared with me how the workers were being abused, forced to work in inhuman conditions, in the heat, no breaks and no available toliets or clean sources for water and for very little pay. Sometimes only making a few dollars for the number of boxes they filled after working all day and evening. It was to hard to believe. The she took me with her.
All this time I had passed the fields with workers bent over pulling and picking and never gave a thought to it. All the times I had walked into a store and picked what grapes I would buy and it never occured to me what and who it took to get them to my neighborhood market. Until Patty shared with me the sickness and the mortality rates attacking these workers. Being exposed to pestisides, fainting from heat exhaustion, even dying. She told me of the children working with the parents or alone, the living conditions the seasonal workers were forced to live, then, again, she showed me, she took me with her. Now all of my mother’s silly stories of having to work in the fields and wearing underware made from the flour sacks, because they did not have enough money to buy real ones, even after working day and night in the fields, weren’t so silly anymore. As I watched the people Patty took me to see, I imagined my mother.
Because of Patty’s courage and determination to correct this, to change this, I joined her efforts. First slowly, boycotting the grapes and anything associated with them. Then by telling my friends and family why I refused to endulge in my most favorite fruits and produce. I told my friendly store owners and asked them to support the efforts. I told everyone who would listen until they did. And so did Patty up to the day she passed away, so very young.
Her convictions to the farm workers and the efforts of people like Cesar E. Chavez and Delores Huerta, who she admired and followed into the fields and streets, was recognized by her friends and the people she awakened like me, with a beautful mural of her, in Chicano Park, in San Diego, were she passed away.
Today, I am and always will be a part of efforts and actions to assure the rights of all workers. When it is possible, I participate in the events that bring this on going battle to the front, were it must be answered to and addressed. I take my grandchildren to see what the farm workers have done and are still doing, making them aware of who is part of building our country, starting from the foods we eat and of the people who make sure we can have it on our tables. My hope is that one day, in the future, my grandchildren will make sure that all the efforts of the AFW continue to grow stronger and keep the legacy of ‘Ya Basta’ alive and is never forgotten.
Television and Film Producer