Teresa Vazquez, SOL Intern 2022
Hello! My name is Teresa Vazquez, and I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying English and Political Science. I am beyond grateful to be able to spend my final year as an undergraduate student working with SAF as a Solidaridad intern.
The question of where I come from is particularly interesting as I am the bridge of two cultures within my family. While I was born and raised in the small, rural town of Dobson, North Carolina, my parents are both from the state of Michoacán in Mexico.
I believe there are multiple answers when I consider the question of why I decided to apply to be a Solidaridad intern. First, a more contemporary reason rests on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had within my hometown given that our largest employer is a chicken plant that did not prioritize the health and safety of its workers. As a result, many members of my community were impacted by sickness or death. However, prior to my exposure information centered on describing disparaging labor conditions for farmworkers, I knew what it was like to have a parent work in unpleasant conditions as a result of unjust circumstances.
My dad currently works as a catcher for our local chicken plant. Imagine: the hot air hanging heavy over the catchers’ heads, sweat dripping down my father’s nose, dripping onto the ground covered with chicken feces that the humidity keeps nice and wet as the smell seeps into my dad’s pores. Before he comes home, he changes his clothes and shoes in a public restroom to hide the conditions of his heavy labor from us. Yet, we can imagine what it must look like to have to endure such conditions and can still smell the remnants of the chickens he catches on his hands.
But that is one story. I am excited to learn more about the farmworking community in other parts of North Carolina, particularly workers in other sectors unlike that in which my dad works in to help me recognize the patterns that might span or vary across different regions. Furthermore, I am eager to be exposed to the current priorities of the farmworker community by having interactions with them. I am honored to use this opportunity to help tackle any barriers that stand in the way of equitable treatment for these workers.
However, I am afraid of what I might witness. I hope for stories of triumph and determination, but I know that suffering is an inevitable part of this experience as there are bound to be stories of living and working conditions that are reaching unbearable heights. Yet, I am confident that I can overcome these fears by bringing forth my own skills to advocate for the farmworker community in any way I can. I hope to empathize and uplift communities that remind me of my own back in my small hometown. Together, I hope we collectively inspire hope and justice.