Teresa Vazquez, SOL Intern 2022
A sandwich has a couple of key ingredients. Two slices of bread will hold several ingredients that when combined will create a satiating sandwich. Mayonnaise may coat the slices of bread, providing a savory coating to final ingredients. Then, any kind of deli meat, maybe turkey or ham. Next, if cheese is at hand, a slice or two of American or pepper jack. On top of the cheese, a nice slice of a freshly cut tomato, fleshy and filled with juice. Last but not least, a nice handful of lettuce, iceberg or romaine.
The places that store and package stacks upon stacks of cheese packages, of tomato boxes, or of saran wrapped lettuce heads are all places where farmworkers are found. But before packaging, the hands of farmworkers pick thousands of tomatoes and lettuce heads throughout the United States. Many more also work in dairy farms that produce the milk needed to create cheese products. Did you know?
Part of my work experience as a Solidaridad intern is learning about the different ways in which farmworkers have been impacted throughout history, particularly emphasizing on the legacy of the farmworker movement that has made its mark towards providing farmworkers with the rights, protections, and respect that they deserve.
However, another aspect of the farmworker movement that I have personally considered is the importance of increasing the visibility of farmworkers to the general public. There have been a wide variety of movements that have transpired throughout the years, but one of the most important acts towards advocating for the farmworker community can come from the general public recognizing the critical role that farmworkers play in guaranteeing that stores are stocked with produce and that our communities can access a wide variety of food choices.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the idea of “essential workers” making its way into the vocabulary of the general public, one of the least visible groups were farmworkers despite their role in maintaining food supply. Farmworkers suffered from the effects of the virus due to being unable to work from home; accordingly, from personal experience, many farmworker families were some of the first to become sick. But food needed to be put onto our table and onto the table of others.
As a result, part of my experience with this internship is continuing to strive for the visualization of the hardships that farmworkers and their families face, while also striving to showcase the lives of farmworkers outside of their labor. In other words, it is part of my own personal goal to tell the stories of farmworkers, both good or bad, while also advocating for their rights, protections, and respect within the workplace on a policy and advocacy level.