This is the truth

originally uploaded by dmkphotography.
One of the abandoned "barn" rooms at Sergio 2.

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.

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Danielle

Exuberant photographer, artist, writer, designer, wannabe chef, and Crossfitter.

3 thoughts on “This is the truth”

  1. Hi,

    Yes, these are deplorable conditions and yes, it is admirable to be a 24/7 un-paid volunteer doing something to alleviate the poverty and suffering.

    National Labor Federation represents a lot more than your eyes have seen. (I know from personal experience with the organization – years of it).

    Google National Labor Federation – read the Wikkipedia description, note the controversy, and explore some of the other web sites which have testimonials (dozens of them) from ex-full time organizers.

    Thanks.

    1. Ted, as an applied anthropologist, I am more interested in determining needs and helping the people who live on these camps than being associated with NATLFED. I am well aware of controversies, and do not necessarily agree with every minute detail–especially politically–but I am personally more comfortable affiliating with them than with a religiously led organization. My interests lie in research and outreach. After working along the US-Mexico border, it is interesting to see how people end up after they have crossed into the United States. Thanks for your input! I agree that people should be well-informed when they commit to an organization.

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