Celeste Ortega-Felix, 2022 SAF intern
El Vínculo Hispano
Over the past year, I have been struggling with hopelessness and the anxiety and fear that comes with not knowing what is going to happen to one’s family, community, and the larger world in the near future. Things seem to be heading towards increased destruction, violence, and struggle for communities across the world. With all this awareness, there has been a pit of dread growing in my stomach over time and it has made me more conscious of how I have been spending my present days. In my first blog for this summer’s ITF experience, I expressed a lot of the anger and frustration that I’ve been carrying. I felt a lack of control over what I can do to help out with all the escalating situations in our country and across the world, to fight for and with the communities who have been exploited, oppressed, and disregarded for too long, my own people included.
Since then, I spent my days working alongside the staff at El Vínculo Hispano in Siler City, NC on various projects aimed towards building community and social, political, and cultural empowerment with the youth, parents, and volunteer members of the organization. I was able to spend time with the other interns and SAF staff in retreats and documentary visits, which each themselves were only a few days long but impacted me deeply in a way that made that pit of dread in my stomach feel lighter.
A particular experience that brought up challenging feelings for myself was my first visit to a hemp field near Dunn, NC with a few other interns. Throughout our meal, activities, and conversations with the few farmworkers there, I learned more about who these men were, their families, their homes, their hopes and wishes, their passions, their anxieties and fears, and their struggles. I learned their ages and how long they’ve been working in fields. I learned that the older farmworkers felt no need to talk about goals or hopes for their future because they envisioned this life until death. I learned that these men loved the earth and agriculture, agua y tierra is all we need, they said. I learned that one common hope these men had was to be able to continue working alongside each other, especially as this camp has declined over the years from 40 farmworkers at one time to only a few now.
Hit with feelings of anger, sadness, and dread from hearing some of their stories, I decided that I would not linger over these feelings as much as I once did and instead foster feelings of fight, resilience, love, and community. It was difficult for me to express to the men in my Spanish that more and more of the public in the past year have been growing aware of worker injustices across the U.S., including farmworkers, and that there is a fight brewing amongst all of us for justice across not only labor forces, but also the undocumented, Black, Brown, and Indigenous Peoples, and working-class communities alike.
I am still a work in progress regarding how I am navigating the world and my life as I grow. However, I can say that the experiences I’ve had this summer with El Vínculo Hispano, SAF, and the communities whom I worked with has helped me realize that focusing on building strength and love in our own close communities and even those afar is how we can best resist the challenges thrown at us by the many oppressive systems all over the globe. We survive by sticking together.