I’ve been volunteering with Friends of Seasonal and Service Workers, and Western Farm Workers Association, for a few weeks now because after going to Agua Prieta, I’m interested in what happens to the people I met on the border after they cross it and come to the United States.
Today, I went out and participated in outreach at three different campos in Hillsboro and Cornelius, Oregon: Sergio 1 & 2 (owned by Oregon Berry Farms), and Heikus Farms. I knew vaguely that the conditions would be bad, but nothing really prepared me for the actual circumstances and conditions that these people live in. Most of the people that we spoke with were originally from Oaxaca, and travel from California for the harvest and move up to the Oregon region. Apparently Fresno, which is an area with lots of farms, has suffered from a drought this season, and work has been exceptionally slow.
This was the story across the board, at Sergio 1 and Heikus, too, although the living arrangements were marginally different at each place.
At Sergio 2, multiple families lived in “apartments” or in rooms like the one above in a “barn.” They share kitchen and common space, bathrooms, and laundry facilities.
At Sergio 1, multiple families share “cabins,” which are three or four connected rooms/apartments with a shared kitchen and common area. Families also live in single-wides crammed beneath a barn-type roof. They share laundry facilities and bathrooms.
I feel it relatively safe to say that Heikus had the worst living conditions, with several rows of truly dilapidated…wrecked…falling apart single-wides that seven or more unrelated people (it seemed to be mostly single men) lived in during the harvest.
Western Farm Workers Association works with these people who live in such conditions and earn meager wages to organize and help themselves. Today, we gave out countless bags of clothing, pinto beans, chocolate, and socks. During member canvassing, we take requests for said clothing and food, along with medical and legal requests.
It’s very haunting looking at my photos now. It was sad and eerie speaking with the people on the camps today. What really hit home, though, was when I met a delicate 22-year-old making tortillas in one of the small Sergio 1 kitchens and telling us her story.
Times like these make me realize that there is so much suffering and injustice in the world. The way we treat people doing essential jobs is saddening, and I am so grateful that FULL TIME and UNPAID volunteers, like some of the people who were out today, are working to organize and bring justice to these unrecognized workers.
To participate in this National Labor Federation organization (if you’re in the Portland area) through necessary donation or much-needed volunteering, please call 503-681-9399.