Sunday, April 25, 2010

The People of the Central Valley - 2

A Photographic Look at the Diverse Communities of California's Central Valley by David Bacon

Marysville, near the Sacramento River, has been home to immigrants from the Punjab for almost 100 years. During the period in which India was a British colony, Punjabi immigrants returned to India from California to fight for independence, sometimes at the cost of their lives.

Today, Punjabi and Mexican migrants work in the peach orchards around Marysville and Yuba City. Many of the growers are earlier Punjabi immigrants or their descendents. In the harvest crews, Mexicans, both men and women, climb the ladders and pick the fruit. Down below, mostly Punjabi men and women sort the peaches in the bins, using a ring to find and discard fruit that's too small. Raj Mahal, of Punjabi and Mexican descent, is one of the few Punjabi workers who climbs into the trees.

Mexican fruit pickers include Felipe Hernandez and Veronica Beltran. Sorters include Angie Lopez, Monasingh Kuribala and Balvir Bassi. Bassi is a student of the history of Punjabis in the U.S., and of the radical movements for independence in India. He's an admirer of the early Indian socialist agitator Bhagat Singh.

In nearby Yuba City, many Punjabi immigrant families live in Mahal Plaza, a large apartment complex. Their community organizes potlucks and other activities to draw Punjabi immigrants together. Many of Mahal Plaza residents work as farm workers in the surrounding peach orchards.


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