Juan of Words

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.

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