Translated by Katrina Hassan
Francisco is lucky enough to have work from Monday to Sunday, no matter what weather. This is what he tells his mom back in his native Morazán, El Salvador, every time the talk on the phone. The work is hard, but not too different from his farming days back home, where he grew up plowing the earth with a pair of oxen.
When his friends told him they had decided to migrate to The North he didn’t even think twice and went too.This was thirty years ago. He left the hills and rivers to go and live in a city full of sky scrapers. He worked in a basement cutting and packing celery. After five years of not seeing daylight, he took off to California, where most of his friends and family were. There he found immense fields and practically half of his town working them.
Francisco, an experienced farmer, was surprised with the technology used in the North to work the land. The compost used and the time it takes to grow crops is all industrialized. It doesn’t matter if there is intense summer heat, winter storms or sudden showers, Francisco puts on his rubber boots and hat and becomes one of the worker ants that can be seen in the rows from a distance.
Back home the edges of the fields were marked by rivers or mountains or cliffs. In California the fields are as big as the whole municipality where he grew up. Everything is far. The water bottles they carry for their lunch and the bathroom are all far. This is why a lot of people don’t drink water. Getting to the bathroom can be an adventure and they lose time, which in turn means their salary gets docked.
Francisco tells his mom that he is very lucky because he always has work.
Other jobs like gardening are only seasonal, from spring to fall or the don’t work in the rain. He tells her that field work is the most secure. People have to eat come rain or shine. He doesn’t care if he works twelve or fourteen hours a day seven days a week for minimum wage. He also doesn’t mind not getting paid overtime. He has no labour rights as an undocumented worker.
When he gets bored of a field he goes and works in another one. He has worked picking strawberries, celery, cilantro, cucumber, beets and any other fruit or any other vegetable the grows in California. When he gets tired of California, he goes with the travelling caravans from state to state finding seasonal work.
Every time he calls his mom he tells her all of his agricultural adventures. He will never tell her that he has kidney failure and that he really needs a kidney transplant that will not be happening because he is undocumented.
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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado