Driving home an hour or so ago, I was driving thru what we call the ‘islands’ from the Bay to the Ranch. It’s one of the richest agricultural areas nestled between cities in the San Joaquin Delta. Just about all you see are fields, cornfields, tomato fields, onion fields and more.
On my way thru early this morning, all the workers were just getting situated in field after field. I thought to myself, “wow it’s early, they’ll be done for the day around 2 or 3 this afternoon.”
As I passed thru this evening, I was stunned to see workers STILL working. They had those huge work lights going to light their way. Now what really got to me was WHAT they were harvesting.
“Tapiando cebolla”. Topping onions.
It must be said that I have not spent my entire life working the fields. However, I did work a few summers. Topping onions is one of the most unpleasant tasks of them all. This work involves shears and you are to trim off the long green stems of the onion and the stringy thin stems at the top of the onion and proceed to fill up sacks with the ‘topped’ onions.
The goal is to top all the onions in the long rows and put them into the sacks. I still remember looking down the row to see that we had sooooo many sacks left to fill to finish an entire row. Not only was I not the fastest worker, sometimes I’d cut my fingers with the shears…OMG imagine the stinging of the juice from the onions mixed with dirt, aaaaay! Miserable.
My eternal respect for those who harvest the food that we eat daily. It’s harvest season thus they are working hard around the clock. Topping onions is difficult enough in the light of day, but at this hour of the night, albeit it’s much cooler out of the hot sun, it must be even more complicated to work at filling those sacks in the dark.
As I write this entry, I shake my head, these folks are the topic of so much debate, so much racism and so much negativity yet there they are, en chinga, working it to get these crops harvested. And leave it to Latinos to find humor in even the worst work situation: I could actually hear them joking and laughing and the music going strong as they worked. These workers seemed so far removed from the intensity of the immigration debate…doing what they always do…working it.
I can only imagine how much more these folks could produce if people were actually grateful to them for providing food for their tables but, no, these workers and their families have to live in fear for so many things, discrimination, separation of familias, injury, illness…all this in the name of “American Jobs” which, by the way, no “American” wants to do.
My short time working in the fields was enough motivation to work at something else, anything else, but the fields. God bless our Latino brothers and sisters who take it for the team day (and night).