The Harvest / La Cosecha: U.S. Child Migrant Farm Workers

There are some things you just can’t deny, and one’s own personal history is definitely at the top of that list.  A few days ago I received an invitation to review marketing materials for a new documentary that will soon be coming to a theater near you, and like a lot of the other invitations I sometimes receive I filed it under the “pending review” folder in my email account.  I’d glanced over the project, a documentary about child migrant farmworkers in the U.S., and highlighted it as a top priority for review since it sounded like something I would be interested in.

What I didn’t know was just how close to home it would actually hit.

Zulema Lopez and her cousin pick pickles

This afternoon, after reading about and watching as much of the film as possible, I found myself sitting in front of my computer unable to fight back tears.  Not only is The Harvest / La Cosecha a story about the hardships of child laborers in the United States, most of them working 12 to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as bizarre as it might sound, it could have also been my story.

We were there in those same fields, living in the shadows of our own parents’ “illegal alien” status, surviving on the same miserable salaries, uncertain about what our tomorrows might bring, and feeling like maybe, just maybe, we’d never find a way out of our own poverty.  Though I should clarify my siblings and I never picked crops as children.  My father was a farm worker who earned less than $150 per week clearing fields, maintaining a few crops and caring for livestock.  My mother helped out by earning $15 a day here and there cleaning people’s houses, a lot of them our teachers from school.  Eventually we made it out and left the Texas Valley behind with all of its hardships, my parents obtained their legal status and got better jobs, and we were able to continue our educations here en los Estados Unidos.

Victor Huapilla and his family of farmworkers.

Still, looking through the pictures of the families featured in the film took me back immediately.  Several of the kids are actually from the same town we lived in for close to 10 years, Edingburg, Texas.  Their family pictures look like ours, their birthday cakes like the ones my mom used to make us from scratch, their parents’ words sound like our own parents’, and they themselves look and sound like we once did, all of those years ago.  They are me!  What I will always be at the end of the day.  A child of immigrant parents who came to this country to provide us a chance at a better life.

It was never guaranteed, and still isn’t today, but somehow, I guess we’ll never know how or why, we got lucky.  We never had to abandon our education to help our family make ends meet and we were able to pursue our parents’ dream for us: raising the bar on what it is our family could achieve.

A child migrant farm worker.

I’m overjoyed by the testimonies of these children, encouraged by the passion of the people responsible for this project – Director U Roberto Romano and executive producers Albie Hecht, Susan MacLaury, Rory O’Connor, actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria, Raul Padilla, and Alonzo Cantu – and overwhelmed with emotion by just how much a part of me this documentary already feels.

So about the actual film: The Harvest / La Cosecha profiles three migrant child farmworkers (Zulema Lopez (12), Perla Sanchez (14), and Victor Huapilla (16), and their families as they work through the 2009-2010 harvest seasons.  Filming for the 80 minute documentary took place in Minnesota, North Dakota, California, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

Depending on the initial public reception from two screenings – one in New York, the other in Los Angeles – The Harvest / La Cosecha would subsequently be distributed across the country, hopefully to a theater near you.  So, if you’re in New York or Los Angeles, please support this film and help bring it to the rest of the country.  Here are the details on the two initial screenings:

Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St # B
New York, NY 10011
Please check with Quad Cinema for tickets and show times

Laemmle’s Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, 90211
Please check with Laemmle Music Hall 3 for tickets and show times

FTC Disclosure: I received materials about this film from the distributor.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

14 thoughts on “The Harvest / La Cosecha: U.S. Child Migrant Farm Workers

  1. “Do you have dreams?…”
    “No…I’m still working on those.”

    Wow. I wish the best to the children in this documentary, and all the other “invisible” children who work instead of go to school.

    Reminds me of a book I read, “Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child” by Elva Trevino Hart – (highly recommend, Juan.)

    I’ll watch this film if it comes to my area. I hope those in NY and LA will support it so it gets wider distribution. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Oh I am in tears, this hits so close to home my mom was a migrant worker until the age of 17. Luckily she and all her siblings were able to continue their education and leave the fields behind. Edinburg, Weslaco my hubby works in these towns and loses touch with many of these chidren as the leave for work. Thank you for featuring and promoting this film. I wish these children the best.

  3. This documentary is definitely not one to be missed. Tracy, thanks for the book recommendation! That comment really got me too… such an honest and sad reality.

    Vianney, for those of us that know Edingburg it’s especially touching because we know the people there are so warm and friendly and would do anything to help their neighbors. When we were dirt poor and had absolutely nothing to call our own, the people of Edingburg, Texas and Mccook are the ones that helped my family survive and not lose faith. It breaks my heart to hear these testimonies, but I do think they are ones that we must hear and share!

    Rodrigo, not right now, but I’ve asked distributors to let me know as soon as they have more release dates so I can let you know. Thanks for stopping by and watching this intro to the film.

  4. My Mom worked the fields in “Edinburgo”, as she calls it… I never had to but my Best Friends growing up did. I love that this story is being told. It reminds me of home {South Texas}. I am goig to share it and I hope that it is a success!

  5. Juan, this is simply amazing! This is so honest and truthful and an experience that we might here about in Mexico or another under-acknowledge country, but people often fail to realize just how bad the situation is in the U.S. I’m so glad that they got in touch with you and that you’re working to build awareness. This is such an amazing story and so is yours. You’re such a compassionate person and I’m so glad that you’re able to share this story and your experiences with us. <3

  6. My heartbreaks because these stories sound too familiar. It brings me back to stories my grandfather told me of when he was a field worker.

  7. i knew that it was hard in the hispanic culture and due to poverty the children start at a very young age. The role of the father is to work in the fields and the mother be a house wife and take care of the small children. but as we see the children dont start their education to become somebody or to have a better life. they work and forget that they are children who deserve a better life style and that they want to be children not slaves or adults. why cant we stop this my heart hurts to see little angels working and working. we have to remember that their is harm and mean people who not only go and work in the fields but that are what we call sick minds. we dont know what the children are expose too or what to expect.

  8. All wonderful points and perspectives. I’m so glad people are paying attention to this documentary and the subject matter it is bringing to light, child migrant farm workers and what their experience is in life and this country. You’ll be glad to know there is also an educational component to this film that will be going into the classrooms to make children aware. Really a wonderful cause!

  9. My uncles were migrant farm works. One of my uncles had his first son when he was at D-Day in WWII. After moving to LA, that son became the 2nd to the highest graduate at UCLA in engineering. My cousin, Al(vino), also was hired as a top engineer for the LA Metro Goldline. He lectured all over the US about engineering. That’s what children of migrant works can accomplish.

  10. Powerful trailer! I hope to see this as it makes its way around theaters.

    This is the type of work my friends and I did as kids in the late 60s/early 70s in western AZ. From age 10 forward, summers were spent in onion fields, cotton fields and melon fields. There were many migrant families that came through the the area seasonally, but we were fortunate that our parents worked on the farms and we lived in the trailer parks owned by companies such as Bruce Church and the Garin Company. There was/is little opportunity in areas like this, especially given economics. All kids have to pitch in and work to help out.

    There are some powerful (many sad) memories that came up watching this, especially with the fact that little has changed. One thing that gets lost on much of America as they complain about the migrants that pick their food is the fact that these people are NOT asking for public assistance. They do NOT ask for welfare and handouts. However, there is a strong sense of community.

    Thanks for writing this, Juan. I’m passing it on to others who grew up with/around me who have long since left this labor.

  11. Thank you all for the wonderful comments on this post. It really is touching to see how many of you are excited and can relate to this documentary. I’m having a critics version of the full documentary mailed to me so I’ll definitely let you know how the full film is, but in the meantime I wanted to share part of an email I received from the movie producers about this post:

    “Juan, thank you for your beautiful blog about THE HARVEST and for taking the time to help us publicize its release dates in NY and LA. It’s so important to us to get word out about the film and posts like yours make all the difference. The children we followed are awe-inspiring and we sincerely hope that genuine social change will result from people viewing the film and visiting the website and following its call to action.” – Susan MacLaury, executive director, Shine Global, Inc.

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