Things That Matter

Farmworkers Are Putting Their Lives At Risk As They Continue To Work The Fields Despite Raging Wildfires

Natural disasters bring the best in people, but often also the worst. The recent California fires have highlighted the deep inequalities in the state when it comes to socioeconomic status. While the media went head over heels over which celebrity had had to flee their home (pobrecitos!) or which vineyard had been set ablaze (wine, after all, is a luxury rather than a life sustaining product), few have stopped to think about the long lasting effects that the fires have had on the hundreds of workers (some of them undocumented) who keep the region afloat by farming, cleaning and organizing various production processes. 

Well, what you will read now will make your blood boil, as it reveals the deep divide between the haves and the have-nots in the world. 

As the region of Sonoma, California, is still burning residents have fled but farmers are still working away.

Credit: napavalley / Instagram

When fields burn, the air becomes a toxic mix of dust, ashes and harmful gases (imagine smoking 20 cigarettes in less than an hour and you will get an idea of how poisonous this melange can be). Well, residents of the area affected by the Kincade Fire were evacuated when air quality dropped. However, field workers were still expected to toil in the fields.  According to reports, some of these workers were still being bused to and from the fields even as the fires burnt. What people are willing to risk in the name of profit, eh? Just no! As reported by Eater San Francisco, Ariel Kelly, the CEO of community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg, said: “we had about 90 farmworkers in our shelter leave on buses with their employer to go out and pick and then return back to the shelter”. 

The quality of the air was deemed as dangerous! But “they are only field workers”, right? This is totally outrageous! 

Credit: 10kbottles / Instagram

So what does this tell us? That someone, somewhere, decided that the lives of some actual human beings are more valuable than those of others? You bet that’s what happened. We just can’t understand how this thought, which is nothing short of a disgusting act of negligence, can cross someone’s mind. Of course, farmers are mostly migrants who feel, and are, in a vulnerable and marginalized position in which they can’t afford to fight back. Sonoma authorities said: “if somebody wants perfect health, they need to leave our community, because we have smoke here.”

Volunteers came to their aid…

Credit: Sonoma / Instagram

Regardless of the working agreement a company or farm has with a worker, some basic safety needs to be provided. If not legal (because some of these workers live in the dark shadows of an undocumented status that makes them vulnerable), this is at least an ethical mandate. But in the California fires it was volunteers who came to their aid. As reported by Eater San Francisco: “around 300 farm workers sought makeshift shelter in Cloverdale’s Citrus Fairgrounds. Area volunteers rushed to assist the workers and their families, many of whom had fled via car, with little more than the clothes on their backs”. This is such a stark image of negligence. But will someone ever be held accountable?

If they don’t work, they don’t get paid, so they risked their lives to survive (what a contradiction, eh?)

Credit: thelegionofbloomca / Instagram

According to Ariel Kelly from community-based recovery effort Corazón Healdsburg these workers were not even given masks to at least protect themselves from direct contact with the fumes. They are willing to work under these conditions because they get paid per shift and not showing up translates into not being paid, and possibly into not being chosen to work again. Because the extent of the damage caused by the fires remains uncertain, many of these workers want to get what could be the last few pays before a hiatus with no income. 

They are mostly uninsured and live hand to mouth. To top that, they are now unsure about how they will be able to provide for their families.

Credit: machvox/ Instagram

Maegan Ortiz, the executive director of el Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California, told The Guardian, “For a lot of day laborers and household workers, not having a day’s work often means the difference between houselessness or not.  Not having a day’s work is actually a big deal. Not working means not having money for medication for a chronic illness. Not working means not having money for food”. When we read stories like this we can’t help but wonder how on Earth there are still some that think that migrant workers are lazy or that they don’t contribute to the economy, when in fact they are giving everything to make a living. Even if it means risking their health. One thing is for certain. They deserve, and need, more protection. 

California Man Is Using His Culture To Create Hilarious And Super Relevant Mexican Greet Cards

Culture

California Man Is Using His Culture To Create Hilarious And Super Relevant Mexican Greet Cards

paper_tacos / Instagram

Jesus Ruvalcaba was an artist looking for more creative freedom in his life. Even after getting a job as an art director at eBay and Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley, the then 36-year-old felt complacent. It was a stop at a grocery store when he went to buy his mother a birthday card that a light bulb flashed in his head. 

“I looked at all these cards but couldn’t find something that resonated with my Latino culture,” Ruvalcaba said. “I felt that an entire population group was being ignored.”

That night planted the seeds of what would eventually become Paper Tacos, a greeting card business focusing on Mexican culture and traditions. From get well soon messages that read “sana sana colita de rana” ((heal, heal little frog) to birthday cards that read “sapo verde,” Ruvalcaba had tapped into a demographic that wasn’t typically represented in the greeting card business. 

“I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt like this,” he said. “This was more than just about a greeting card but seeing my culture being seen.” 

Ruvalcaba, the son of two Mexican immigrants, got most of his inspiration growing up in the Central Valley fields of California. He worked alongside his parents in the isolated artichoke fields where he learned to draw. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

Ruvalcaba knew he wanted to be an artist at a young age and says growing up he would usually be found carrying around a sketchbook full of drawings. He didn’t grow up with much as his parents were Mexican immigrants who worked tirelessly as fieldworkers in the central California valley in cities like Castroville and later in Salinas. 

“My parents didn’t really know a lick of English so my drawings did a lot of the talking for me,” he says. “We didn’t have much growing up but they would buy me art supplies and always encouraged me to keep drawing.”

Those drawings would pave the way for a career in animation as Ruvalcaba became the first in his family to graduate college obtained a degree in graphic design at California State University Monterey Bay and eventually his Master’s degree. Shortly after, he would find himself in Silicon Valley working for companies like eBay and Hewlett-Packard as an art director. 

Ruvalcaba knew he could still do more with his talents. After attending a Dia de los Muertos art event in 2016, he met another artist selling Spanish prints with Mexican slogans. He was then reminded of that night at the market when he couldn’t find a Spanish greeting card for his mom. 

“It hit me right there and then that if I could come up with greeting cards that have Mexican sayings like “sana sana colita de rana,” I could tap into a market that was never really acknowledged prior.” Ruvalcaba said. 

After receiving encouragement from his girlfriend, Ruvalcaba put his illustration skills and graphic design experience to work as he produced his first set of 15 cards for 300 dollars. In Fall 2017, Paper Tacos became a reality. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

About a year after the idea of Paper Tacos first came up, Ruvalcaba attended the same art festival from the year prior and sold his first greeting card for $5 apiece. The response to the cards was immediate and customers told Ruvalcaba about what it meant to see their culture on a product like this.

“It felt like my idea was validated in a way and seeing everyone respond so positively to Paper Tacos was just the cherry on top,” said Ruvalcaba. “From there it only got even bigger.”

In the following months of 2017, Paper Tacos made its launch and by the end of 2017, he had made $2,000 within just three months of launching his site. In 2018, he had made over $12,000 in sales and today has over 20K followers on Instagram alone. When he started the business, there were only 15 card designs which have now grown to over 100. He’s also branded outside of California and is currently selling his greeting cards at 25 stores throughout the country.

For Ruvalcaba, Paper Tacos hasn’t been just any business move or a little extra income revenue. It’s a tribute to his Mexican background and a reflection of his culture that he feels is being celebrated every time one of his cards is given. 

Credit: Jesus Ruvalcaba / Paper Tacos

When asked about where his inspiration for his greeting cards come from, Ruvalcaba says his parents. Those long days working along with them in the artichoke fields and holidays where all they had was each other. 

“Every card is a reflection of me growing up in a Mexican household and other people have connected with that,” said Ruvalcaba. “When I brainstorm ideas I just look back to my childhood.”

That connection is something special he says. While Ruvalcaba still has a full-time job as a designer in Santa Clara, if things keep going the way they are, Paper Tacos will become his main focus. 

Through Instagram, Ruvalcaba has begun working with more freelancers to keep growing Paper Tacos and get more artists opportunities. His business plan is to expand to other Latino backgrounds to work and reach out to Salvadoran and Nicaraguan artists so that they too can see representation.  

“This business has shown me how powerful this product can be and every time someone tells me the impact that these cards have had on a family member or a friend, it sticks with me,” Ruvalcaba says. “It’s a special thing to know a simple greeting card can do this.”

READ: Patty Delgado Is Changing The World Of Latino Fashion With Her Own Store Hija De Tu Madre

A Mother Was Hospitalized After Her Daughter’s Bullies Attacked Her

Things That Matter

A Mother Was Hospitalized After Her Daughter’s Bullies Attacked Her

GoFundMe

A Latina mother was hospitalized after her two of her daughter’s bullies beat her up outside James Logan High School in Northern California. Maria “Lupita” Guadalupe Jimenez and her husband, Eder Rojas, are choosing to transfer their 16-year-old daughter to another school after their entire family was targeted by a group of bullies outside James Logan High School. On Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, Jimenez arrived with her husband, 16-year-old daughter and 3-month-old daughter for a scheduled appointment to meet with the school’s principal about her daughter’s bullies. Two girls ganged up on the family as they were getting out of the car. Rojas did everything he could to protect his daughter, so the girls began beating on his wife. Even after they knocked her unconscious, they continued to kick her in the head. Jimenez was recovering from a C-section just a few months prior and had to be hospitalized for two days. She underwent surgery to repair three fractures in her nose.

Police were called to the scene and one girl has been arrested. As Jimenez’s family plans to hire a lawyer, her friends are raising money for her medical expenses like true Americans: through a GoFundMe.

“I thought we were safe on campus,” Maria Jimenez told a local news station.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Jimenez and Eder Rojas knew that their daughter was being bullied, but they never imagined that her bullies would go on to physically assault them both. They decided that they wanted to go inside and speak with the principal as they were dropping their daughter off at school. Their daughter had spoken with the principal several times over the last year but her concerns weren’t taken seriously. It got to the point where she was afraid to go to school and wanted to just stop altogether. That’s when Jimenez and Rojas decided to step in and inadvertently prove just how dangerous these “bullies” were.

Jimenez recalls how one of the teen girls brought her to the ground by her hair and started dragging her. “The girl was very furious, they grabbed me by the hair and dragged me,” she told ABC7 NewsI just wanted to talk to the principal, you’d never imagine a kid would hit an adult, I thought we were safe on campus,” Jimenez added. 

Jimenez was released from the hospital two days later with orders to return for surgery.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Jimenez’s nose is fractured in three places and had to undergo surgery in order for her nose to heal properly. Jimenez reportedly saw the girls approaching ready to hit her daughter but she told them, “No te metas,” or “don’t mess.” That’s when she dragged her to the ground by the hair and hit her so hard she became too dizzy to even stand up again. 

Rojas wouldn’t allow them to hurt her daughter anymore. “They want to hit my daughter but I cover a lot that they didn’t they couldn’t get there so they grabbed my wife,” Rojas told KRON4. “She has the bones broken right here, she has the eyes all red a bump here.” The family may have not been outnumbered but they weren’t prepared to fight a group of aggressive teenagers. “I feel really angry, sad at the same time,” Rojas added about the whole situation.

One of the teens has since been arrested on charges of battery with serious bodily injury.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

Union City Police arrived at the high school at 8:44 a.m. along with paramedics. Because the suspects are minors, their names will not be released to protect their privacy. Police say that the suspect has been released under adult supervision and was assigned a court date. “The case continues under investigation and the names of the people involved will not be released at this time. We don’t believe there are more suspects related to the case, ” Lt. Steve Méndez said in a statement.

Thus far, the school has only responded by sending a mass email to parents to publicly state: “We are investigating and following up on this incident working directly with the Union City Police Department, and taking disciplinary actions. We believe this incident to be between the two Logan students and does not appear to involve any other Logan students.”

A friend of the family has raised nearly $10,000 to help the family with medical costs.

CREDIT: MARTHA ANAYA / GOFUNDME

The physical assault all happened while their 3-month-old baby was inside the car. Because Jimenez was recovering from cesarean surgery, her medical needs were more pressing. In less than a week, a friend of Jimenez has raised $9,154 dollars through GoFundMe to help the family pay another long list of medical expenses, just months after the hospital expenses associated with having a C-section.

READ: This Texas Teen Silenced Bullies With His Shirt, And This Is How People Responded