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Voice: She knows who really worked the fields

April 28, 2002

I have read with interest the letters between Mr. Ricker and Rick Mealey concerning who worked the fields of the Imperial Valley.

First, I want to say that my father, Cruz Landeros, his two brothers and other men from the interior of Mexico were here doing some of the work.

My father and his brothers immigrated legally to the USA from Jalisco, Mexico. They were given an I.D. card with the labor laws on it.

My father was here in the Imperial Valley since 1917 or earlier. He worked here in the Valley and up north to Stockton.

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In 1919, he married my mother here in Brawley and continued working the fields.

Since Latino children mostly went to school up to eighth grade in those days, they started helping out in the fields, too.

In those days there was no such thing as "welfare and food stamps" as we know them. Whole families worked together in the fields to survive.

I know my older brother and sisters, first-generation Mexican-Americans, worked the fields along with other first-generation Mexican-Americans here in Brawley.

They bunched carrots, harvested onions, picked tomatoes, lettuce and other corps. They also did thinning and weeding with a short-handle hoe.

We went up "north" when school was out. We lived in Soledad in the Salinas Valley and Ventura County.

Most of the other families went to Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, San Jose, etc.

Brawley's Eastside was mostly gone every summer and would return by autumn or fall.

During World War II the young men were drafted but the women and children helped in the fields.

The people from Oklahoma and Arkansas did not do much field work here. They lived in the government camp and did public works here in the Valley.

Most of them went to Bakersfield, Salinas and other areas to work in the orchards. Read "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck.

After WWII the young men that survived came back and entered other work.

My brother worked at Holly Sugar. My sisters started working in the packing sheds in the 1950s. By 1953 I had joined them after dropping out of high school.

Since the Imperial Valley never had year-round produce, we got jobs with A&P Tea Co. of Salinas and worked eight and a half months there every year until we retired.

I am happy to say our children and grandchildren did not have to work in the fields.

They are scattered all over California and Arizona and work for the Imperial Irrigation District, Department of Motor Vehicles, IBM, Blue Cross and other office jobs.

For that we thank the Lord.

Yes, we can do it!

LYDIA L. JIMENEZ

Brawley

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