They Were Farmers Once

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Many Americans wonder why so many undocumented who work in our agricultural system are good at picking the fruits and vegetables that we eat. The answer is that many of these people were once farmers themselves. Many of the undocumented have picked fruits and vegetables and cared for livestock all their lives in their countries of origin. This has been true in Mexico. When I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, many of these people who would become undocumented in America were selling their produce in the local markets. Many of the farms in Jalisco state were among the best in all the country. Yet many of these farmers and the townspeople in Jalisco state would eventually be forced to go to America and send money back to their families. When I went through Little Village, Pilsen and Back of the Yards, I met many people who had come from Jalisco originally.

It was the same sad story. Many of these people once had farms and ranches in Jalisco. But bad weather, poor harvests and corrupt officials who promised them help (which of course never came) eventually forced many of these people to leave their homes and look for work elsewhere in Mexico or try their luck in the United States. Lord knows so many of these people, whose lives were tough to begin with, did not want to leave their homes, their families and start somewhere else. But destitution and possible starvation are not good options either. So many of them went. Many looked for work in Mexico’s agricultural sector as well. Others turned to whatever jobs were available—in both Mexico and America. Many of these former farmers and farm hands hoped that by being elsewhere that life would become better. For some this became true.

Within the past few years a change has been taking place. Since the former Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party was thrown out of power in 2000, a growing number of former farmers and former village residents are now more than ever participating in the political process in Mexico. This time many believe that their votes and community activism will bring more pressure on local, state and federal public officials in Mexico to be more accountable for their actions. This time more Mexican communities and Mexicans living in the United States are going to make sure they vote for the best possible candidate who will keep their word or else be held accountable. It may not always change the political machinery of government, but now there are more people who believe they can change the political process. Many of these people were farmers once, and they want to return to the land.

Comments are closed.