12/02/2021

In Nation’s Breadbasket, Latinos Stuck in Poverty

On a warm spring day, farmworker Cristina Melendez was bedridden and unable to make her way back into the asparagus fields of central California for the kind of backbreaking work she’s done since childhood.

The 36-year-old mother of seven was desperate. Her bank account had been at zero for months, the refrigerator was nearly empty, and she didn’t have enough to cover the rent. Lacking health insurance, Melendez couldn’t see a doctor or afford medication, so her illness dragged on — and another day came and went without work or pay.

A native of Mexico who was smuggled into the United States as a child, Melendez had once dreamed big: to be a bilingual secretary, to own a house and a car, to become a U.S. citizen. Agriculture, she hoped, would be the springboard to a better life — for her and her U.S.-born children, the next generation of a family whose past and future are deeply rooted in the fertile earth of America’s breadbasket.

View Article