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America’s Farmworkers Face Poverty, Neglect, and Now Deportation


America’s Farmworkers Face Poverty, Neglect, and Now Deportation

Jim Hightower

Up to 70 percent of the people who put food on America's tables may be undocumented.

Migrant workers harvest lettuce at Lakeside Organic Gardens in Watsonville, CA (USDA photo by Bob Nichols.)


Mexico’s farmworkers, yes.

But, how can “America’s” farmworkers face deportation?


Mexican farmworkers are America’s farmworkers, and have been for the past 75+ years. Without them, you would find very few fruits and vegetables at your supermarket. If you don’t realize this, try watching “Harvest of Shame” by Edward R. Murrow. Listen to Woody Guthrie’s song “Deportee”.


Thank you Nighthawk. Does anyone realize the skill it takes to “pick”, to not damage the fruit or veggie? We go to the store and they all look so fresh and crisp and clean, ready for the meal with the family. It takes a gentle touch, a skilled touch, to do it day in and day out. As a personal note, my uncle Martin Hoffman wrote the music to “Deportee”. The only one of Woody’s songs with a coauthor.


Thank you Ditton. I did not know that Martin Hoffman wrote the music. You must be very proud of that fact, as I would be. You might enjoy the book by Tim Z. Hernandez, All They Will Call You. It was published almost a year ago, and contains a series of short biographies of most of the passengers, including family photographs. Hernandez had to travel for years to find and interview many of the relatives and their descendants, as well as those friends still living, often in very remote rural parts of Mexico. The purpose of his research was to give each of them an identity, and show them as real people, good people. The fact that they were just referred to as “deportees”, as though their names did not matter, so outraged Woody that he quickly scribbled the poem that became the song lyrics, on a single piece of paper. A photo of the original, in Woody’s handwriting, is in the book.


My uncle was living in CA, read the poem and Pete Seeger wrote down the music because my uncle couldn’t write music. Pete took it to Woody and Woody said we’ll keep it. I try not to be prideful because of my Buddhism by it is dear to my heart to know it has a profound effect on so many lives. I haven’t read the book, I don’t read so well anymore but it is a testament to the strength of the poem/song that they are not forgotten.

https://gilbertweaversatchell.org/my-music-video/ on this page is a photo of my uncle and I in 1955, my first guitar lesson.


Beside the migrant farm workers/families who work their lives away, there are also poor American farm families struggling against many obstacles - wage and debt/interest slavery…both groups (among others) forced to serve the 1% and vulture capitalism…all while the uber wealthy live lives of obscene ease and power, all evading their responsibility to give-back (via fair taxation) to the nation and people who make their “success” possible.


That’s a meaningful and wonderful post on both counts, Emphyrio, with your statement plus the report on the alarming suicide rate for America’s farmers, along with the talented Joan Baez’ poignant version of ‘Deportees’. Obituaries in our Dubuque newspaper occasionally mention the passing of someone in his 40s, 50s or 60s, “at home,” and suicide is at times surmised. The local paper addressed the matter in a front-page story months ago, but the despair continues for some.


This is close as anyone has gotten to the way my Uncle Mart sang it, angry, hurt, bitter sweet. Michael Pickett gets it right.