A Day In The Fields

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tomato-field.jpgWorking in the tomato fields was probably the most emotional and hardest thing that I’ve done in Mexico this year. It began with the 4:30am alarm going off in the guys room. From the moment we got off the bus I could tell that this was going to be quite the culture shock. I took my first few steps on the dusty, dirty road and looked up to witness a sea of green with the occasional red speckle. There were around 75 Mexican workers ready at 6:00 in the morning to make the money that they needed to support their family, but little did they know they would be joined by some excited and friendly gringos. We were directed towards the area where we were to get our buckets and we couldn’t help but notice all of the glances coming our way. By no means were they stares of anger or frustration that we were working alongside them, but looks of interest and curiosity. Once we got our buckets it was time to go to work. Our job was to carefully pick through the rows of plants (known as homeworks in Mexico) and collect tomatoes that were beginning to ripen. The work was not physically demanding at first, but it soon became a lot harder than one would expect bending over all the time. You could see the agony and suffering on everyone’s faces as they went up and down picking up tomatoes. All of the workers were suffering from the pain and it began to slow them down.I shared a moment with one Mexican worker that was relatively the same age as me. I was cracking my back and I simply looked at him and he sighed showing that he was feeling the same effects as I was. I wish that I could talk to him about what I was feeling and express how sorry I am that he works in the fields all day. It makes me think that just because I was born in Canada I automatically have a higher standard of living. Canadians tend to take what they have for granted and I cannot stress that enough. I am 17 years old and I DO NOT have to work to provide for my family. I DO NOT have to prepare dinners while my parents are out working in the field. I DO NOT live on a low daily budget, making sure that I have enough money for food. These people get paid 120 Pesos a day, which is roughly 10 American Dollars. The minimum wage in Canada per hour is right around what these people make in a day. There is no other way to describe this other than ‘crazy’. How do these people live comfortably at all…the answer is they don’t. They struggle everyday to get by, but they always have a smile on their face and they are always the friendliest people.tomato-field-2.jpgTowards the middle of our morning shift we began to struggle pretty hard, but our spirits were still up. As lunch was coming everyone was just about fried. We began to sit on the buckets while we were filling them, which took double the time per bucket. As lunch came along we piled onto the bus, finally thrilled that we had could rest. Santi came on the bus and asked us “How are you all feeling?” We heard the same response from everyone basically “Tired, sore, exhausted”. We had worked six hours, and even though we were not finishing the full nine hour shift, we were relieved to be going home.Later that day in debriefing we had a long discussion about what we had witnessed in the tomato fields. It was filled with lots of emotion. When you do something like that for 6 hours and realize that these people pick tomatoes for 9 hours a day everyday of the week, it is hard to put that into words. It was especially hard hearing that there were 13 and 14 year old girls in the fields picking tomatoes as well. Everything about this experience is just so difficult to transfer into words and it is easier to keep it just as thoughts, but when you do get it out, you feel much better. Working in the fields has forever changed my life, I have never had an experience like it before.By Liam McDonough

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 17th, 2011