Economic crises in the Global North and South are forcing activists to think about alternatives. Neoliberal economic policies and austerity measures have been debated and implemented around the globe. Author Anthony Pahnke argues that activists should look to the Global South and Brazil for inspiration.
Brazil’s Long Revolution shows how the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement, or MST) positioned itself to take advantage of challenging economic times to improve its members’ lives. Pahnke analyzes the origins and development of the movement, one of the largest and most innovative social movements currently active. Over the last three decades, the MST has mobilized more than a million Brazilians through grassroots initiatives, addressing political and economic inequalities.
The MST and its allies—together known as the Landless Movement—confront inequality by constructing democratic ways of governing economic, political, and social life in collectivized production cooperatives, movement-run schools, and decentralized agrarian reform encampments and settlements. Their strategies for organizing political, economic, and social life challenge the current neoliberal orthodoxy that privileges individualized, market-oriented practices.
Based on research conducted over five years, Pahnke’s book places the Landless Movement squarely within the tradition of Latin American revolutionary struggles, while at the same time showing the potential for similar forms of radical resistance to develop in the United States and elsewhere in the Global North.
In Coca Yes, Cocaine No Thomas Grisaffi traces the political ascent and transformation of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) from an agricultural union of coca growers into Bolivia's ruling party. When Evo Morales—leader of the MAS—became Bolivia's president in 2006, coca growers celebrated his election and the possibility of scaling up their form of grassroots democracy to the national level. Drawing on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork with coca union leaders, peasant farmers, drug traffickers, and politicians, Grisaffi outlines the tension that Morales faced between the realities of international politics and his constituents, who, even if their coca is grown for ritual or medicinal purposes, are implicated in the cocaine trade and criminalized under the U.S.-led drug war. Grisaffi shows how Morales's failure to meet his constituents' demands demonstrates that the full realization of alternative democratic models at the local or national level is constrained or enabled by global political and economic circumstances.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people living in the coffee-producing region of the Sierra Madre mountains along the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Guatemala paid little attention to national borders. The Mexican Revolution,—particularly during the 1930s reconstruction phase—ruptured economic and social continuity because access to revolutionary reforms depended on claiming Mexican national identity. Impoverished, often indigenous rural workers on both sides of the border used shifting ideas of citizenship and cultural belonging to gain power and protect their economic and social interests.
With this book Catherine Nolan-Ferrell builds on recent theoretical approaches to state formation and transnationalism to explore the ways that governments, elites, and marginalized laborers claimed and contested national borders. By investigating how various groups along the Mexico-Guatemala border negotiated nationality, Constructing Citizenship offers insights into the complex development of transnational communities, the links between identity and citizenship, and the challenges of integrating disparate groups into a cohesive nation. Entwined with a labor history of rural workers, Nolan-Ferrell also shows how labor struggles were a way for poor Mexicans and migrant Guatemalans to assert claims to national political power and social inclusion.
Combining oral histories with documentary research from local, regional, and national archives to provide a complete picture of how rural laborers along Mexico's southern border experienced the years before, during, and after the Mexican Revolution, this book will appeal not only to Mexicanists but also to scholars interested in transnational identity, border studies, social justice, and labor history.
The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union was founded in eastern Arkansas in 1934 to protest the New Deal's enrichment of Southern cotton barons at the expense of suffering sharecroppers, both black and white. Their courageous struggle, in the face of determined and often violent resistance from their landlords, is the subject of this thorough study from Donald H. Grubbs, which was published to critical acclaim in 1971. Cry from the Cotton was the first full-scale look at the STFU and its leaders. It discloses that, although the union operated under noticeable socialist party sponsorship in its infancy, it drew much more upon the native Southern evangelical and populist traditions, much as the civil rights movement would do twenty-five years later. Grubbs convincingly demonstrates that while the STFU failed to gain immediate social justice for its members, it resulted in the formation of the Farm Security Administration, which even today continues to aid the rural poor, and it played a large part in forcing the formation of the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee, whose spotlight on management terrorism helped the CIO toward success. The volume stands as a classic on labor issues and class struggle and still echoes with the haunting plea of the dispossessed for equity.
Daring to Look presents never-before-published photos and captions from Dorothea Lange’s fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939. Lange’s images of squatter camps, benighted farmers, and stark landscapes are stunning, and her captions—which range from simple explanations of settings to historical notes and biographical sketches—add unexpected depth, bringing her subjects and their struggles unforgettably to life, often in their own words.
When Lange was dismissed from the Farm Security Administration at the end of 1939, these photos and field notes were consigned to archives, where they languished, rarely seen. With Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn not only returns them to the public eye, but sets them in the context of Lange’s pioneering life, work, and struggle for critical recognition—firmly placing Lange in her rightful position at the forefront of American photography.
“[A] thoughtful and meticulously researched account of Lange’s career. . . . Spirn, a photographer herself, traces Lange’s path, visiting her locations and subjects in a fascinating series of ‘then and now’ shots.”—Publishers Weekly
“Dorothea Lange has long been regarded as one of the most brilliant photographic witnesses we have ever had to the peoples and landscapes of America, but until now no one has fully appreciated the richness with which she wove images together with words to convey her insights about this nation. We are lucky indeed that Anne Whiston Spirn, herself a gifted photographer and writer, has now recovered Lange’s field notes and woven them into a rich tapestry of texts and images to help us reflect anew on Lange’s extraordinary body of work.”—William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis
The Death of Ramón González has become a benchmark book since its publication in 1990. It has been taught in undergraduate and graduate courses in every social science discipline, sustainable and alternative agriculture, environmental studies, ecology, ethnic studies, public health, and Mexican, Latin American, and environmental history. The book has also been used at the University of California-Santa Cruz as a model of interdisciplinary work and at the University of Iowa as a model of fine journalism, and has inspired numerous other books, theses, films, and investigative journalism pieces.
This revised edition of The Death of Ramón González updates the science and politics of pesticides and agricultural development. In a new afterword, Angus Wright reconsiders the book's central ideas within the context of globalization, trade liberalization, and NAFTA, showing that in many ways what he called "the modern agricultural dilemma" should now be thought of as a "twenty-first century dilemma" that involves far more than agriculture.
The rural labor movement played a surprisingly active role in Brazil’s transition to democracy in the 1980s. While in most Latin American countries rural labor was conspicuously marginal, in Brazil, an expanded, secularized, and centralized movement organized strikes, staged demonstrations for land reform, demanded political liberalization, and criticized the government’s environmental policies.
In this ground-breaking book, Anthony W. Pereira explains this transition as the result of two intertwined processes - the modernization of agricultural production and the expansion of the welfare state into the countryside - and explores the political consequences of these processes, occurring not only in Latin America but in much of the Third World.
Pesticides, a short-term aid for farmers, can often be harmful, undermining the long-term health of agriculture, ecosystems, and people. The United States and other industrialized countries import food from Costa Rica and other regions. To safeguard the public health, importers now regulate the level and types of pesticides used in the exporters’ food production, which creates “regulatory risk” for the export farmers. Although farmers respond to export regulations by trying to avoid illegal pesticide residues, the food produced for their domestic market lacks similar regulation, creating a double standard of pesticide use.
Food Systems in an Unequal World examines the agrochemical-dependent agriculture of Costa Rica and how its uneven regulation in export versus domestic markets affects Costa Rican vegetable farmers. Examining pesticide-dependent vegetable production within two food systems, the author shows that pesticide use is shaped by three main forces: agrarian capitalism, the governance of food systems throughout the commodity chain, and ecological dynamics driving local food production. Those processes produce unequal outcomes that disadvantage less powerful producers who have more limited choices than larger farmers, who usually have access to better growing environments and thereby can reduce pesticide use and production costs.
Despite the rise of alternative food networks, Galt says, persistent problems remain in the conventional food system, including widespread and intensive pesticide use. Facing domestic price squeezes, vegetable farmers in Costa Rica are more likely to supply the national market with produce containing residues of highly toxic pesticides, while using less toxic pesticides on exported vegetables. In seeking solutions, Galt argues for improved governance and research into alternative pest control but emphasizes that the process must be rooted in farmers’ economic well-being.
Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century landowners in the hinterlands of Baltimore, Maryland, cobbled together workforces from a diverse labor population of black and white apprentices, indentured servants, slaves, and hired workers. This book examines the intertwined lives of the poor whites, slaves, and free blacks who lived and worked in this wheat-producing region along the Mason–Dixon Line. Drawing from court records, the diaries, letters, and ledgers of farmers and small planters, and other archival sources, Max Grivno reconstructs how these poorest of southerners eked out their livings and struggled to maintain their families and their freedom in the often unforgiving rural economy.
Denton Welch (1915–48) died at the age of thirty-three after a brief but brilliant career as a writer and painter. The revealing, poignant, impressionistic voice that buoys his novels was much praised by critics and literati in England and has since inspired creative artists from William S. Burroughs to John Waters. His achievements were all the more remarkable because he suffered from debilitating spinal and pelvic injuries incurred in a bicycle accident at age eighteen.
Though German bombs were ravaging Britain, Welch wrote in his published work about the idyllic landscapes and local people he observed in Kent. There, in 1943, he met and fell in love with Eric Oliver, a handsome, intelligent, but rather insecure "landboy"—an agricultural worker with the wartime Land Army. Oliver would become a companion, comrade, lover, and caretaker during the last six years of Welch's life. All fifty-one letters that Welch wrote to Oliver are collected and annotated here for the first time. They offer a historical record of life amidst the hardship, deprivation, and fear of World War II, and also are a timeless testament of one young man's tender and intimate emotions, his immense courage in adversity, and his continual struggle for love and creative existence.
The Patrons of Husbandry—or the Grange—is the longest-lived US agricultural society and, since its founding shortly after the Civil War, has had immeasurable influence on social change as enacted by ordinary Americans. The Grange sought to relieve the struggles of small farmers by encouraging collaboration. Pathbreaking for its inclusion of women, the Grange is also well known for its association with Gilded Age laws aimed at curbing the monopoly power of railroads.
In Essentials, Unity takes as its focus Grange founder Oliver Kelley and his home organization in Minnesota. Jenny Bourne draws upon numerous historical records to present a lively picture of a fraternal organization devoted to improving the lot of farmers but whose legacies extend far beyond agriculture. From struggles over minimum wage, birth control, and environmental regulation to the conflicts surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and from lunch-counter sit-ins to Occupy Wall Street, the Grange has shaped the very notion of collective action and how it is deployed even today. As this compact book so effectively illustrates, the history of the Patrons of Husbandry exposes the classic tension between the desires for achieving overall economic success and determining how the spoils are split.
Out of the “lemons” handed to Mexican American workers in Corona, California--low pay, segregated schooling, inadequate housing, and racial discrimination--Mexican men and women made “lemonade” by transforming leisure spaces such as baseball games, parades, festivals, and churches into politicized spaces where workers voiced their grievances, debated strategies for advancement, and built solidarity. Using oral history interviews, extensive citrus company records, and his own experiences in Corona, José Alamillo argues that Mexican Americans helped lay the groundwork for civil rights struggles and electoral campaigns in the post-World War II era.
2020 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Book Award Winner
Honorable Mention, Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book, Texas Institute of Letters, 2019
Managed Migrations examines the concurrent development of a border agricultural industry and changing methods of border enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas during the past century.
Needed at one moment, scorned at others, Mexican agricultural workers have moved back and forth across the US–Mexico border for the past century. In South Texas, Anglo growers’ dreams of creating a modern agricultural empire depended on continuous access to Mexican workers. While this access was officially regulated by immigration laws and policy promulgated in Washington, DC, in practice the migration of Mexican labor involved daily, on-the-ground negotiations among growers, workers, and the US Border Patrol. In a very real sense, these groups set the parameters of border enforcement policy.
Managed Migrations examines the relationship between immigration laws and policy and the agricultural labor relations of growers and workers in South Texas and El Paso during the 1940s and 1950s. Cristina Salinas argues that immigration law was mainly enacted not in embassies or the halls of Congress but on the ground, as a result of daily decisions by the Border Patrol that growers and workers negotiated and contested. She describes how the INS devised techniques to facilitate high-volume yearly deportations and shows how the agency used these enforcement practices to manage the seasonal agricultural labor migration across the border. Her pioneering research reveals the great extent to which immigration policy was made at the local level, as well as the agency of Mexican farmworkers who managed to maintain their mobility and kinship networks despite the constraints of grower paternalism and enforcement actions by the Border Patrol.
Did socialist policies leave the economies of Eastern Europe unprepared for current privatization efforts? Under communist rule, were rural villages truly left untouched by capitalism? In this historical ethnography of rural Hungary, Martha Lampland argues not only that the transition to capitalism was well under way by the 1930s, but that socialist policies themselves played a crucial role in the development of capitalism by transforming conceptions of time, money, and labor.
Exploring the effects of social change thrust upon communities against their will, Lampland examines the history of agrarian labor in Hungary from World War I to the early 1980s. She shows that rural workers had long been subject to strict state policies similar to those imposed by collectivization. Since the values of privatization and individualism associated with capitalism characterized rural Hungarian life both prior to and throughout the socialist period, capitalist ideologies of work and morality survived unscathed in the private economic practices of rural society. Lampland also shows how labor practices under socialism prepared the workforce for capitalism. By drawing villagers into factories and collective farms, for example, the socialist state forced farmers to work within tightly controlled time limits and to calculate their efforts in monetary terms. Indeed, this control and commodification of rural labor under socialism was essential to the transformation to capitalism.
In an expansive narrative, noted labor leader Jesus Salas shares an insider’s look at the farm workers movement, from its roots in southern political uprisings to its lasting legacy of activism. During his childhood, Salas and his family joined the migrant workers who traveled from their hometown in Texas to work on farms in Wisconsin, Illinois, and other states. In riveting detail, he describes the brutal working conditions and overcrowded labor camps experienced by the Mexican American workers who fueled the Midwest’s agriculture industry.
Taking inspiration from César Chávez, as a young man Salas and others led a historic march from Wautoma to Madison to demand that lawmakers address rampant violations of Wisconsin’s minimum wage laws and housing codes. These young labor leaders founded Obreros Unidos—Workers United—to continue the fight for fairness and respect, as well as to provide much-needed services to migrant families. This memoir of a movement details how their work went beyond the fields to have lasting impacts on representation in community organizations and access to education, empowering later generations to demand better.
Just looking at the Pacific Northwest’s many verdant forests and fields, it may be hard to imagine the intense work it took to transform the region into the agricultural powerhouse it is today. Much of this labor was provided by Mexican guest workers, Tejano migrants, and undocumented immigrants, who converged on the region beginning in the mid-1940s. Of Forests and Fields tells the story of these workers, who toiled in the fields, canneries, packing sheds, and forests, turning the Pacific Northwest into one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country.
Employing an innovative approach that traces the intersections between Chicana/o labor and environmental history, Mario Sifuentez shows how ethnic Mexican workers responded to white communities that only welcomed them when they were economically useful, then quickly shunned them. He vividly renders the feelings of isolation and desperation that led to the formation of ethnic Mexican labor organizations like the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos Noroeste (PCUN) farm workers union, which fought back against discrimination and exploitation. Of Forests and Fields not only extends the scope of Mexican labor history beyond the Southwest, it offers valuable historical precedents for understanding the struggles of immigrant and migrant laborers in our own era.
Sifuentez supplements his extensive archival research with a unique set of first-hand interviews, offering new perspectives on events covered in the printed historical record. A descendent of ethnic Mexican immigrant laborers in Oregon, Sifuentez also poignantly demonstrates the links between the personal and political, as his research leads him to amazing discoveries about his own family history...
Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and California share the experiences of conquest and annexation to the United States in the nineteenth century and mass organizational struggles by rural workers in the twentieth. Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW offers a comparative examination of those struggles, which were the era's longest and most protracted campaigns by agricultural workers, supported by organized labor, to establish a collective presence and realize the fruits of democracy.
Dionicio Nodín Valdés examines critical links between the earlier conquests and the later organizing campaigns while he corrects a number of popular misconceptions about agriculture, farmworkers, and organized labor. He shows that agricultural workers have engaged in continuous efforts to gain a place in the institutional life of the nation, that unions succeeded before the United Farm Workers and César Chávez, and that the labor movement played a major role in those efforts. He also offers a window into understanding crucial limitations of institutional democracy in the United States, and demonstrates that the widespread lack of participation in the nation's institutions by agricultural workers has not been due to a lack of volition, but rather to employers' continuous efforts to prevent worker empowerment.
Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW demonstrates how employers benefitted not only from power and wealth, but also from imperialism in both its domestic and international manifestations. It also demonstrates how workers at times successfully overcame growers' advantages, although they were ultimately unable to sustain movements and gain a permanent institutional presence in Puerto Rico and California.
From the colonial period through the mid-twentieth century, haciendas dominated the Latin American countryside. In the Ecuadorian Andes, Runa—Quichua-speaking indigenous people—worked on these large agrarian estates as virtual serfs. In Remembering the Hacienda: Religion, Authority, and Social Change in Highland Ecuador, Barry Lyons probes the workings of power on haciendas and explores the hacienda's contemporary legacy.
Lyons lived for three years in a Runa village and conducted in-depth interviews with elderly former hacienda laborers. He combines their wrenching accounts with archival evidence to paint an astonishing portrait of daily life on haciendas. Lyons also develops an innovative analysis of hacienda discipline and authority relations. Remembering the Hacienda explains the role of religion as well as the reshaping of Runa culture and identity under the impact of land reform and liberation theology.
This beautifully written book is a major contribution to the understanding of social control and domination. It will be valuable reading for a broad audience in anthropology, history, Latin American studies, and religious studies.
Founded in eastern Arkansas during the Great Depression, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) has long fascinated historians, who have emphasized its biracial membership and the socialist convictions of its leaders, while attributing its demise to external factors, such as the mechanization of agriculture, the repression of wealthy planters, and the indifference of New Dealers. However, as James Ross notes in this compelling revisionist history, such accounts have largely ignored the perspective of the actual sharecroppers and other tenant farmers who made up the union’s rank and file.
Drawing on a rich trove of letters that STFU members wrote to union leaders, government officials, and others, Ross shows that internal divisions were just as significant—if not more so—as outside causes in the union’s ultimate failure. Most important, the STFU’s fatal flaw was the yawning gap between the worldviews of its leadership and those of its members. Ross describes how, early on, STFU secretary H. L. Mitchell promoted the union as one involving many voices—sometimes in harmony, sometimes in discord—but later pushed a more simplified narrative of a few people doing most of the union’s work. Struck by this significant change, Ross explores what the actual goals of the rank and file were and what union membership meant to them. “While the white leaders may have expressed a commitment to racial justice, white members often did not,” he writes. “While the union’s socialist and communist leaders may have hoped for cooperative land ownership, the members often did not.” Above all, the poor farmers who made up the membership wanted their immediate needs for food and shelter met, and they wanted to own their own land and thus determine their own futures. Moreover, while the leadership often took its inspiration from Marx, the membership’s worldview was shaped by fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christianity.
In portraying such tensions and how they factored into the union’s implosion, Ross not only offers a more nuanced view of the STFU, he also makes a powerful new contribution to our understanding of the Depression-era South.
In Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Peninsula, Benjamin Reilly illuminates a previously unstudied phenomenon: the large-scale employment of people of African ancestry as slaves in agricultural oases within the Arabian Peninsula. The key to understanding this unusual system, Reilly argues, is the prevalence of malaria within Arabian Peninsula oases and drainage basins, which rendered agricultural lands in Arabia extremely unhealthy for people without genetic or acquired resistance to malarial fevers. In this way, Arabian slave agriculture had unexpected similarities to slavery as practiced in the Caribbean and Brazil.
This book synthesizes for the first time a body of historical and ethnographic data about slave-based agriculture in the Arabian Peninsula. Reilly uses an innovative methodology to analyze the limited historical record and a multidisciplinary approach to complicate our understandings of the nature of work in an area that is popularly thought of solely as desert. This work makes significant contributions both to the global literature on slavery and to the environmental history of the Middle East—an area that has thus far received little attention from scholars.
A massive land-seizure movement first erupted in Peru in 1958 and spread across the Andean highlands in 1963–1964. Several hundred peasant communities in the Peruvian Andes occupied neighboring haciendas in an attempt to retake lands they felt had been stolen from them over the years. Hacienda peasants also participated in this movement, forming peasant sindicatos (unions) to improve their labor conditions.
The land-seizure movement brought with it an upsurge in community political mobilization. Throughout the highlands, village leaders banded together in regional federations, often allying themselves with progressive or radical urban groups. Radical activists from labor unions and university student groups joined with indigenous peasant leaders, breaking down the highland peasantry’s traditional isolation from the political system.
Struggle in the Andes is an analysis of the causes and consequences of extensive social and political mobilization among Peru’s peasant population in the 1960s. In addition to describing the growth of the peasant land movement, Howard Handelman investigates the social and economic conditions that contributed to rural unrest. Using data that he collected in forty-one diverse highland communities, Handelman examines the correlates of peasant political activity, concluding that land seizures in the traditional southern sierra had different origins and political implications than did unrest in the more socioeconomically modernized central highlands.
The data suggest a model of peasant mobilization that calls into question prevailing scholarly hypotheses on the relationships between modernization, peasant political mobilization, and radicalization. Handelman discusses the land-reform program and the accompanying rural mobilization that was being implemented by Peru’s reformist military regime. Using his model of peasant mobilization, he speculates on the possible effects of the government’s contemporary programs on future peasant political behavior.
While the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico may conjure up images of vacation getaways and cocktails by the sea, these easy stereotypes hide a story filled with sweat and toil. The story of sugarcane and rum production in the Caribbean has been told many times. But few know the bittersweet story of sugar and rum in the jungles of the Yucatán Peninsula during the nineteenth century. This is much more than a history of coveted commodities. The unique story that unfolds in John R. Gust and Jennifer P. Mathews’s new history Sugarcane and Rum is told through the lens of Maya laborers who worked under brutal conditions on small haciendas to harvest sugarcane and produce rum.
Gust and Mathews weave together ethnographic interviews and historical archives with archaeological evidence to bring the daily lives of Maya workers into focus. They lived in a cycle of debt, forced to buy all of their supplies from the company store and take loans from the hacienda owners. And yet they had a certain autonomy because the owners were so dependent on their labor at harvest time. We also see how the rise of cantinas and distilled alcohol in the nineteenth century affected traditional Maya culture and that the economies of Cancún and the Mérida area are predicated on the rum-influenced local social systems of the past. Sugarcane and Rum brings this bittersweet story to the present and explains how rum continues to impact the Yucatán and the people who have lived there for millennia.
"The time of freedom" was the name that plantation workers—campesinos—gave to Guatemala’s national revolution of 1944–1954. Cindy Forster reveals the critical role played by the poor in organizing and sustaining this period of reform.
Through court records, labor and agrarian ministry archives, and oral histories, Forster demonstrates how labor conflict on the plantations prepared the ground for national reforms that are usually credited to urban politicians. She focuses on two plantation zones that generated exceptional momentum: the coffee belt in the highlands around San Marcos and the United Fruit Company’s banana groves near Tiquisate. Although these regions were unlike in size and complexity, language and race, popular culture and work patterns, both erupted with demands for workers’ rights and economic justice shortly after the fall of Castañeda in 1944.
A welcome balance to the standard "top-down" histories of the revolution, Forster’s sophisticated analysis demonstrates how campesinos changed the course of the urban revolution. By establishing the context of grassroots mobilization, she substantially alters the conventional view of the entire revolution, and particularly the reforms enacted under President Albenz.
In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Loftis examines the artists who put a human face on the farmworkers’ plight in California during the Great Depression, focusing on writer John Steinbeck, photographer Dorothea Lange, sociologist and author Paul Taylor, and journalist Carey McWilliams. Loftis probes the interplay between journalism and art in the 1930s, when both academics and artists felt an urgent need to be relevant in the face of enormous misery. The power of their work grew out of their personal involvement in both the labor struggles and the hardships endured by workers and their families. Steinbeck, Lange, and the other artists and intellectuals in their circles created the public images of their times. Works such as The Grapes of Wrath or Lange’s Migrant Mother actually helped mold public opinion and form government policies. Even today these works remain icons in our shared perception of that era. Loftis helps us understand why this art still seems the truest representation of those desperate times, three-quarters of a century later.
Working Poor investigates the lives and working conditions of migrant farmworkers in seven regions of the United States. The community studies in this volume include descriptions and analyses of the low-income neighborhoods of Immokalee, Florida; Parlier, California; Weslaco, Texas; and Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, where growers and farm contractors put immigrants to work in fruit and vegetable harvests. The authors link farmworker communities that have winter growing seasons with summer labor supply demand regions in the northern United States, in particular south-western Michigan, New Jersey, and the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland and Delaware.
The authors investigate ethnic succession in the farm labor market and the ways individual farmworkers, farmworker families, and networks organize these migrations and attach themselves to farming operations by a variety of social relations. Framing the portraits of crowded households, the histories of networks, and the ethnic vignettes are three chapters placing the community studies into historical and theoretical perspectives. This broad framework underscores the importance of housing, transportation, networks, labor contracts, and ethnic relations in the organization of low-wage labor markets.