Monday, August 16, 2010
Agustin Martinez, Juan Rayas and Martin Martinez are all migrant blueberry pickers who come to Maine every year from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Agustin workerd for three years during the bracero contract labor program, which ended in 1964. He came across the border each year at Calexico, where he remembers being given X-rays, and dusted with DDT, supposedly because workers from Mexico were "flea-ridden." He worked picking tomatoes in Sacramento and Oxnard, in California. A thousand people slept in a huge barracks, he remembers. On loudspeakers they'd be called by numbers to the bathroom to wash, to the dining hall to eat, and to go to work. Juan Rayas also remembers working in that program, although he went to Georgia and Arkansas to pick cotton.
The three men live most of the year in a huge labor camp operated by Jasper Wyman, the world's largest blueberry producer, in Deblois. The labor camp in Maine is not so different from the old bracero barracks, Agustin thnks. His hand is injured, and he fears he won't be able to continue working. Workers get paid $2.25 per 23 point box, the same rate growers were paying in 1975, when it had the purchasing power of $8.50 today.
Ike Hubbard makes the rakes used by migrant blueberry pickers, who to come to Maine every year for the harvest. The work is very hard, because workers must bend over to push the rake under the plants all day. Hubbard has worked with community health advocates to develop rakes that are less painful and cause fewer injuries. He makes the rakes in an old-fashioned New England machine shop.
For more articles and images by David bacon, see http://dbacon.igc.org.