Picture Source: Los Angeles Times
Last week, the Los Angeles Times posted a four part series titled "Products of Mexico. " Traveling across nine Mexican states, reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti observed and interviewed workers from various mega-farms.
They found that many farm laborers are trapped until the season harvest ends in rat-infested camps without beds or clean water. Many bathe in irrigation canals outside camps because water often runs out in the camp facilities.
The camp bosses illegally withhold their daily/weekly wages to prevent any of them from escaping. Some try but are caught and are forcefully brought back.
Farm workers become ill due to breathing in and interacting with harsh pesticides used to treat the produce causing them to uncontrollably cough and break out with rashes. The people who are too ill to work are put on a no-pay list and are not fed.
Product prices in the camps grocery stores are so high many of the farm workers end up in deep debt, some just days after arriving. All the products sold in the small grocery stores in the camps are not priced making it troublesome for the workers, 2 eggs can range from $1 to $2. Laborers who cannot read nor do math are unknowingly charged more for products.
With false promises, these farm workers are brought to the mega-farms and remain there for months working 6 days a week and earn up to $8 to $12 a day.
Why do we value the produce more than the human caring for it?
It should be our social responsibility to change how this system has oppressed the farm workers, not only in Mexico, but throughout the world. Our commodity should not come at the expense of someone else's life.
If you buy tomatoes, chili peppers, cucumbers or any product with the "Product of Mexico " sticker than you are a part of this. We must demand for big corporations to enforce or change their policies and help improve the lives the indigenous farm workers.
Los Angeles Times- Product of Mexico
Part 1: Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.
Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico's biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.
Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.
Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.