Things That Matter

We Are Loving The Respect And Credit These Grads Are Giving Their Farm Working Parents For Their Sacrifices To Give Their Kids The World

Graduation ceremonies are a little slice of life and society. Behind every cap and stole there are stories of heroism and struggle not only involving the graduates but often having to do with their parents. Moms and dads all over the world have done their best to see their children enjoy better opportunities in life. As the value of labor has shifted from privileging manual work and trades to giving more to those who work with information, traditional occupations such as farming have been affected by a decline in wages and by the crushing shadow of big companies (nowadays it is very hard for any farmer to subsist on their own). That is why stories that involve farmer parents seeing their kids graduate from university are so inspiring. If you have worked in the fields as a picker or even if you have done some gardening under the blistering sun you know how much of a toll working in a field can take on your body. If you haven’t, look to a father’s or uncle’s or Abuelo’s hands and focus on the callous surface that endless hours of working with la tierra has done to the skin. Every wrinkle tells a story of survival and proud trabajo

In honor of farmers worldwide, and to celebrate Farm Workers Day, we have chosen some inspirational snippets of life featuring graduates and their farmer parents, who worked with their hands so their offspring’s mind could thrive. There are not enough ways to say gracias, are there? 

This graduate who honors her farmer parents

Credit: Twitter. @UCMerced

Merced Anna Ocegueda is a Latina college senior who graduated from University of California, Merced, earlier this year. This 22-year-old psychology major posted this picture on Twitter. As they say, una imagen dice + que mil palabras. Her parents are still wearing their picking equipment. Her post went viral and soon newspapers started knocking in the door. Ocegueda told The Fresno Bee: “My parents came here for a better future and a better life for their children. “The educational opportunities weren’t great. My parents encouraged me to better my education so I wouldn’t have to work in the fields like them.” 

For Selena Huapilla-Perez graduation she dressed up in her cap and gown and posed in the fruit fields alongside her parents to honor their sacrifice as farmers. ⁣

@SelenaHuapilla

In a post about her gruadtion, Huapilla said “I always tell my parents, my sisters and brother that this belongs more to them than to me.” This year she graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Michigan State University. ⁣

This recent grad went above and beyond to make her dreams come true, thanks to her hard work, and her parent’s struggles.

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Erica Alfaro, a 29-year-old, dedicated her master’s degree with her parents and celebrated with a powerful photoshoot where they work.

This Brazilian queen who thanked her farmer parents during her graduation ceremony

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It is a moment worthy of a few tears. A Brazilian student stops the party, descends the stairs and calls her parents. Everyone claps. They all know that her family is de origen humilde and that they have moved Heaven and Earth for her to be there. You can watch this tender and empowering moment here

Farmer parents sure teach some good ethics and excellent saving skills

Credit: Twitter. @KillerPunchZero

If precarious conditions can teach you anything is that you gotta take care of what you got. Farming is such a serendipitous occupation (a flood or a tornado can wipe out the years harvest and any earnings for the coming months, as many farmers have recently experienced throughout our climate-change-stricken planet), that those que trabajan en el campo know that life is better with no debt. What a great lesson. Hard work, dedication. 

De tal palo tal astilla

Credit: Twitter. @BigDuce79

So who is proud of who? The farmer father who sent his son to college or the son whose father sent him? Well, it is both. Struggle can either bring people closer together or split them apart. We hope it is always the latter. 

Can you spare a minute and read this amazing story?

Credit: Facebook. Humans of Bombay

India is a country where social mobility is almost impossible. Many regions of the Southeast Asian country still live under a caste system that basically translates in zero opportunities for those who are born with nothing or with very little. That is why this story from the amazing storytelling collective Humans of Bombay is so powerful. It is the story of a father who had to migrate to the city from his farming village. There, he leads a simple life but makes sure his son goes to university. The son’s attitude will melt your heart. Does the story sound familiar? We are sure it resonates with many Latino families across the United States. 

The son of a Filipino farmer who got a full scholarship at Harvard

Credit: filipino-farmer-son-gets-full-scholarship-from-harvard-university-proves-hard-work-beats-fate-2.jpg. Digital image. The Development Times

The Philippines is one of the most unequal countries in the world, an impoverished nation that up until today has failed to keep up with other Asian economies. As much as 15% of Filipinos work overseas as domestic workers or construction workers. Those who live in the country need to work extra hard just to make ends meet. So the story of Romnick Blanco, the son of a rice and vegetable farmer, is the stuff that dreams are made of. He received a full scholarship to study at Harvard after excelling at his high school in Manila. By the way, he had to cross a river every single day to go to school

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His father was a cocoa farmer and his mother sold coal, he is now a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania

 
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Conditions for farmers in Africa are tough, as multinational corporations pay low wages for prices products such as cocoa.  Shadrack Osei Frimpong is a Ghanian dynamo who excelled at school and made his way to the United States. He is now giving back to his community, establishing a tuition-free girls’ school in his village. What an inspiring young man. Those who succeed despite a tough beginning are often the most generous and amazing human beings. African youth face many challenges, including guerrilla warfare, human trafficking and disease, so it is amazing to see ow someone from a rural area could actually work towards better conditions not only for himself, but for his whole community. 

Last but not least, this Indonesian son of farmers who graduated from Columbia University in New York City

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Robinson Sinurat is the fifth child of a family of seven. His parents did not finish their schooling because of financial struggles, so the odds were stacked against Robinson. He knew that he wanted to study physics, so he borrowed money from a friend to pay for university fees in Indonesia and ate only once a day. After graduating from college he worked in an NGO in the capital city of Jakarta, where he started studying English to apply for graduate school. His academic and professional accomplishments caught the eye of Columbia… and the rest, as they say, is history. You can read all about his improbable journey here.

This hombre hermoso from Thailand whose dirty clothes speak of a tough life

Credit: Facebook. @Chesney O’Donnell

The contrast is striking. This Thai farmer almost looks shy in front of the camera. The moraleja is clear: be very, very thankful for everything that your parents have done for you. 

A Deadly Virus Is Back With A Vengeance And It’s Hitting Our Farmworker Community The Hardest

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A Deadly Virus Is Back With A Vengeance And It’s Hitting Our Farmworker Community The Hardest

Farmworkers face dangerous and even life-threatening conditions each and every day they’re at work. It’s a seriously difficult job to do but so many of our country’s most at-risk people are the ones doing it.

Our nation’s farmworkers face discrimination, refusal of payment, immigration crackdowns, physical injury, and now – according to an NBC report – an outbreak of valley fever.

This outbreak of valley fever has the potential to be deadly for farmworkers.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

A new NBC News report details the story of Victor Gutierrez, who contracted valley fever, a dangerous fungal disease. Victor was suffering from flu-like symptoms – coughing, night sweats, exhaustion, and a strange feeling that he was burning up on the inside. He ignored the symptoms and kept working so that he wouldn’t lose his job but eventually the illness caught up with him and he was struggling to breathe.

The next day, Gutierrez’s lungs filled up with fluid and he felt so sick that he went to a local clinic. This time, they tested him for valley fever, and it came back positive.

He told NBC News: “The nurse called me and told me to rush to the clinic because it was an emergency.” They told him he might only have six months to live.

While Gutierrez managed to beat those odds by taking the antifungal medication fluconazole for more than a year, he has seen valley fever kill many other people he’s known.

The worst of the valley fever outbreak is happening where nearly two-thirds of our nuts and fruits come from – putting a huge amount of workers at risk along with our economy.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

In California, rates of new cases rose 10 percent in just one year. The state budget has $8 million for valley fever research, while about $3 million will go to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center, in the heart of the growing threat.

These figures pale in comparison to the actual costs associated with valley fever. In 2011, California spent approximately $2.2 billion in valley fever-related hospital expenses.

Climate change has been singled out as a possible cause for the outbreaks.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Coccidioidomycosis or cocci (pronounced “coxy”), the fungus that causes valley fever, thrives in dry, undisturbed soil. It becomes airborne when that soil is disturbed – whether it’s by dirt bikes, construction crews, or farmers putting in a new fruit or nut orchard. It can travel on the wind as far as 75 miles away. Years of climate change-fueled drought and a 240 percent increase in dust storms appear to have led to a swift rise in the number of people diagnosed with the illness across the Southwest.

Adding to the threat of valley fever is that 49% of farmworkers are undocumented and unlikely to seek medical care for fear of deportation.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Like 68 percent of the estimated 800,000 farmworkers in California, Gutierrez was born in Mexico. An estimated 49 percent of the state’s farmworkers lack work authorization and most live under the federal poverty line in unincorporated communities with few public services.

Undocumented residents are far less likely to visit a doctor or a hospital, even for urgent medical care. This puts an already at-risk group of people at greater risk of health complications.

Other’s are forced to make a choice between eating or medicine.

Like many farmworkers who contract the illness, Gutierrez found the cost of the antifungal medication needed to treat valley fever totally unaffordable. At the height of the illness, it cost $1,200 for two months of pills because he had to take two to three times as many as one would if they were treating a typical candida infection.

He didn’t have insurance at the time and said his family often had to choose between food and his medication. He still isn’t able to work regularly and his family mainly survives on the money his wife, Maria, makes in the fields.

People took to Twitter to worry about what this meant for the state and its farmworkers.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

With more than 800,000 at-risk farmworkers, people who work in the fields to help deliver foods to plates across the country, this is an urgent problem.

Valley fever could leave large groups of the community unable to work.

While some offered up first-hand experience on their battle with valley fever.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Although valley fever is often mild with no symptoms, it has the potential to be deadly – especially in at-risk groups. Symptoms include fatigue, cough, fever, night sweats and can progress to painful skin lesions and fluid-filled lungs.

Thankfully, vaccines are in the works but they won’t be a silver bullet.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Two vaccines are in the works – at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona – but it’s not clear how close they are to being tested on humans.

Three members of Congress from the Southwest last month introduced a federal bill, the FORWARD Act, in an effort to increase public awareness of the disease while “promoting the development of novel treatments and a vaccine.”

César Chávez Changed The Way Our Country Treats Immigrant Farm Workers But There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Be Done

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César Chávez Changed The Way Our Country Treats Immigrant Farm Workers But There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Be Done

chavezfoundation / Instagram

If you are a Latino living in the United States, you’ve probably heard the name César Chávez. He was one of the first freedom fighters that advocated for the rights of farm workers, many of which had Mexican heritage. César Chávez is an icon of Chicano identity and still a source of inspiration for civil rights advocates and for those who use reason to fight injustice. 

Here are 21 facts about one of the most amazing Latino community leaders of all time.

He was born in Yuma, Arizona.

Credit: 83c2446a0896df0a1f4af01c940ae1d9_XL. Digital image. Moab Valley Multicultural Arts Center

His full birth name is César Estrada Chávez (yes, he took on his mom’s last name) and he was born on March 31, 1927. 

He had five siblings and grew up in an adobe house.

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César Chávez knew what it was to live precariously from a very early age. His family owned a ranch, but they lost the land during the Great Depression. They also lost the family home and so.

His parents moved the family from Arizona to California in search of work like many families.

Credit: 7700813622_249e829e8c_o-1024×768. Digital image. PBS

César Chávez’s parents, Juana Estrada and Librado Chávez were forced to move to California, where they became migrant farm workers. They faced many tribulations picking peas, lettuce, cherries, grapes, and beans. 

César Chávez became a farm worker, and thus his life as an activist began.

When he was a teenager he found the great solidarity that he showed for his whole life. He and is sister volunteered to drive fellow farmers to the doctor when they needed to be looked after. He soon discovered that things are better achieved when community members help each other. 

He dropped out of school in seventh grade.

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Young César Chávez couldn’t go to school while his mother worked the fields, so he left his formal education and became a full-time farmer.

He worked on farms until he joined the United States Navy in 1942.

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The experience was quite negative. César Chávez had hoped to translate the skills he learned in the military to his civil life. He served for two years only during World War II.

1952: an activist and pop culture star was born.

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César Chávez worked en el campo non-stop until 1952 when he became an organizer for the Community Service Organization, a group that looked after Latino rights. In this role he met Fred Ross, an experienced community organizer and the rest, as they say, is history. He urged voters to work and protested industry malpractices.

He founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta.

Credit: cesar-chavez-and-dolores-huerta-mural-utah-gary-whitton. Digital image. Fine Art America

Just 10 years after starting his activist efforts, César Chávez founded the NFWA with fellow Mexican-American activist Dolores Huerta. This dynamic duo revolutionized farmers’ conditions in the United States and started an era of non-violent protest against powerful corporations and government wrongdoings.

With Dolores Huerta by his side, he led a historic strike in the grape industry.

Credit: Cesar-Chavez-Mural-in-South-Austin. Digital image. Austin Texas

The year was 1965 and the conditions were ripe for a great leap in the workers’ rights movement. With Huerta, César Chávez organized a consumer boycott against Californian grapes until labor conditions were improved for grape pickers. The strike made the national headlines and even Robert F. Kennedy supported the movement.

In 1966 the lucha expanded to Texas and farm owners were terrified.

Credit: cesar-chavez-portrait-mural. Digital image. Downtown Fresno Partnership

César Chávez is mostly known for his activism in California, but his legacy has impacted the whole country. In 1966 similar movements started in Texas and the Midwest, where César Chávez’s legacy led to the formation of unions such as Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Ohio.

César Chávez and United Farm Workers organized the largest strike in U.S. history with results.

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Known as the Salad Bowl Strike, it happened in the early 1970s and consisted in a series of strikes and boycotts demanding higher wages for grape and lettuce workers. In order to support the strike, César Chávez fasted as a form of non-violent demonstration.

He was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi.

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After that, César Chávez used fasting as a form of protest. He fasted, for example, when Arizona prohibited boycotts and strikes by farm workers. He was inspired by Catholic doctrine and by the non-violent forms of resistance made popular by Gandhi when resisting British rule in India.

He was a family man.

Credit: Chavez_Monument_Cesar_Chavez_Poster.jpg. Digital image. Social and Public Arts Resource Center

When he returned from his service in the military he married his high school novia, Helen Fabela. They moved to San Jose and had eight children.

He was a vegan.

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Long before the vegan movement gathered full force, he was a vegan, both because he fought for animal rights and because he had some health issues.

He was proud to be a Roman Catholic.

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It is not common for leftist activists to follow a religion, but César Chávez was a devout Catholic. He felt that the doctrine echoed his own sense of social justice, similar to what some Liberation Theology priests in Latin America have advocated for.

He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions.

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Even though he didn’t get the accolade, the American Friends Service Committee put forward his nomination three times. The prize would have been la cereza en el pastel, but to be honest, his legacy doesn’t really need it.

He has been a part of the California Hall of Fame since 2006.

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Thirteen years after his death then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the First Lady Maria Shriver hicieron los honores.

He was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Then-president Bill Clinton presented the coveted award on September 8, 1994. César Chávez’s partner in crime, Dolores Huerta, got hers from Barack Obama. 

César Chávez Day is a state holiday in California.

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Mark your calendars: March 31. It is not a federal holiday, but Barack Obama urged Americans to “observe this day with appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.”

There are numerous schools, libraries, and parks named after him.

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Most of them are in California but don’t be surprised if you find one in your hometown.

He died on April 23, 1993, pero la lucha sigue!

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He died of natural causes at the house of his friend and fellow farm worker Dofia Maria Hau. He is buried at the National Chavez Center in Kern County, California, the epicenter of his now legendary struggle to reach fair conditions for the many heroes working the land.

READ: Rep. Gohmert Has Filed A Resolution To Change Cesar Chavez Day To ‘National Border Control Day’