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:|iMiiiiW ii« 1,^^^^ ^ SEASONAL FARMWORKER 



^. iL G L I 









JULY 28, 1969 


Printed for the use of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare 













JULY 28, 1969 


Printed for the use of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare 

36-513 WASHINGTON : 1970 


RALPH YARBOROUGH, Texas, Chairman 


EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts GEORGE MURPHY, California 




ALAN CRANSTON, California 

Robert O. Harris, Staff Director 

John S. Forsythe, General Counsel 

Roy H. Millenson, Minority Staff Director 

Eugene Mittelman, Minority Counsel 

Subcommittee on Migratory Labor 
WALTER F. MONDALE, Minnesota, Chairman 
EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts GEORGE MURPHY, California 



BOREN Chertkov, Counscl 

A. Sidney Johnson, Professional Staff Member 

EcGENE Mittelman, Minority Counsel 


Format of Hearings on Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers 


The Subcommittee on Migratory Labor conducted public hearings 
in Washington, D.C, during the 91st Congress on "Migrant and 
Seasonal Farmworkers Powerlessn^s." These hearings are contained 
in the following parts : 

Subject matter Hearing dates 

Part 1 : Who are the Migrants? June 9 and 10, 1969 

Part 2 : The Migrant Subculture July 28, 1969 

Part 3-A : Efforts to Organize July 15, 1969 

Part 3-B : Efforts to Organize July 16 and 17, 1969 

Part 4 : Farmworker Legal Problems Aug. 7 and 8, 1969 

Part 5 : Border Commuter Labor Problem May 21 and 22, 1969 

Part 6 : Pesticides and the Farmworker Aug. 1, Sept. 29 and 30, 1969 

Part 7 : Manpower and Economic Problems Apr. 14 and 15, 1970 

Additional hearings are tentatively scheduled by the Subcommittee 
during the second session, 91st Congress. 




Monday, July 28, 1969 Page 

Coles, Dr. Robert, research psychiatrist. Harvard University 334 

Galarza, Ernesto, lecturer and author, San Jose, Calif 460 


Coles, Dr. Robert, research ps.ychiatrist. Harvard University 334 

Galarza, Ernesto, lecturer and author, San Jose, Calif 460 


Articles, publications, etc.: 
Excerpts from: 

"Ahtanum: Yakima Farmworkers Camp Summer, 1967", by 

Lynn Patterson and Karen James 501 

"Crewport Farm Labor Camp, Yakima Vallej^, Wash. — Summer 

1967," by Jean and Thomas Langdon 494 

"Loop Camp — Yakima Vallev, Wash., Summer 1967," by Kerrv 

J. Pataki _' "_ 484 

"Rambler's Park — Yakima ^'allev, Wash. — Summer 1967," by 

Steven S. Webster .^ 519 

"The Endless Cycle"— Migrant Life in the Yakima Valle}^— 1967_ 483 
"The Florida Migrant," by John Kleinart, from Phi Delta Kap- 

pan, October 1969 544 

"LTprooted Children: The Early Life of Migrant Farm Workers," 

by Dr. Robert Coles, research psychiatrist, Harvard University, 

Cambridge, Mass 358 




MONDAY, JULY 28, 1969 

U.S. Senate, 
Subcommittee on Migratory Labor 
OF THE Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, 

Washington^ D.C. 

The subcommittee met at 9 :30 a.m., pursuant to notice, in room 1318, 
New Senate Office Building, Senator Walter F. Mondale (chairman 
of the subcommittee) presiding. 
Present : Senators Mondale (presiding) and Hughes. 

Committee staff members present : Boren Chertkov, majority coun- 
sel to the subcommittee; A. Sidney Johnson, professional staff mem- 
ber; and Eugene Mittelman, minority counsel. 

Senator Mondale. The Subcommittee on Migratory Labor will come 
to order. 

This morning our witnesses are Dr. Robert Coles of Harvard Uni- 
V'ersity and Dr. Ernesto Galarza, of California. 

This begins the fourth in a series of hearings on migrant and sea- 
sonal farmworker problems. The underlying theme of our hearings is 

In past hearings we have endeavored to obtain a broad introduction 
to the problem areas by hearing farmworkers themselves tell of their 
own lives, their own problems. Last week, we heard testimony from 
both community and union organizers on the obstacles to their self- 
help efforts to improve their own situation. One obstacle that received 
particular attention was the Defense Department's purchase of table 
grapes and its impact on the grape boycott and efforts of the United 
Farm Workers Organizing Committee to organize. We have also heard 
testimony on the border commuter labor problem and the severe eco- 
nomic depression created by the surplus of desperately poor people 
forced to accept substandard living and working conditions along our 
borders with Mexico. 

Today's hearings will explore what really happens to the men, 
women, and children that are confronted with the severe economic and 
social stress of migratory farmwork related to us in our earlier hear- 
ings. Some authorities have discussed the formation of a migrant 
worker subculture, and other authorities have attempted to analyze 
the problems of a minority culture and its relationships with the 
majority culture. 



This morning' we are privileged to have two expert witnesses to 
discuss these problems. 

Our investigation continues on Friday, August 1, with a discussion 
of the ert'ects of pesticides on farmworkers, and on August 7 ind 8, 
we will study legal ])roblems of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. 

"We are particularly pleased and grateful this morning to have ])er- 
haps the national expert in this field, Dr. Robert Coles, research 
psychiatrist from Harvard University, and author of "Children of 

Dr. Coles, please proceed as you wish. 


Dr. Coles. I would like to read a statement which I am sorry I have 
to read. 

This is about people with whom I have been working now for a 
niunber of years. They live some 50 miles from Cape Kennedy. No 
billions have been spent on them and they are not going any i:)lace, 
including the moon. They are just living where they are, though. They 
do a lot of traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard. They are 
predominantly children. 

I am a physician and a child psychiatrist. For 10 years now I have 
been studying how families under severe social and economic stress 
manage to survive such strains. 

For some 7 of those 10 yeai^, I have been following rather closely 
the lives of ])articular migrant farmworkers. I have interviewed men, 
women, and children in many States; and they have been black, white, 
and Mexican-American. I have observed these families in their cabins, 
and at work. I have followed them as they move north each year, then 
return south, always at work harvesting our crops. 

In 1965, I presented a detailed medical and psychiatric report of 
my findings to the American Psychiatric Association, published short- 
ly thereafter in the American Journal of Psychiatry, September 1965, 
as "The Lives of Migrant Farm "Workers". 

Later, I wrote a paper for the Southern Regional Council called 
The Migrant Worker. 

I have written a number of articles on the subject, and two books 
are soon forthcoming, one specifically dealing with migrant children 
and another with sharecroppers and Appalachian families, as well as 
mierrant families. 

My remarks today will be drawn from what I have seen and studied 
and written in recent years. I hope to describe concrete situations, 
and use the drawings of children as well as taped conversations with 

However, let me first summarize my findings : 

1. Migrant children by the thousands not only live in poverty, go 
hungry, suffer from malnutrition, but, in addition, live incredibly 
uprooted lives — such as no other American children, and few children 
in other countries, ever experience. 

It is one thing to get poor food, never see a doctor, and live in a 
broken-down shack — indeed, at times in enlarged chicken coops with- 
out running water, screens, plumbing or even electricity. It is quite 


another order of human experience when children are moved from one 
place to another, within States and across State lines. These children 
eventually become dazed, listless, numb to anything but immediate 
survival — which is also in jeopardy, because the infant mortality rate 
among such children can be three or four times higher than it is among 
poor nonmigrant people. 

I am saying that constant mobility, constant moving and more mov- 
ing, damages the physical and mental health of children in special 
ways — so that migrants present us with a special and awful problem 
even when compared to other underprivileged groups. 

2. Migrant children and their parents are kept from the rest of us 
and have no place, however dismal, to call their own. They are up- 
rooted, such as even the extremely poor in other countries are not. The 
children go from school to school, or often enough never to go school. 
Child labor is to be found, in spite of what the law says. 

Unlike other of our rural poor, or people in the ghettos, migrants 
get no welfare at all, no protection from a host of laws written pre- 
sumably for all of us — unemployment benefits, disability benefits, col- 
lective bargaining, the minimum wage law. In a sense, they are state- 
less people — stateless among our States, and stateless in the European 
sense of belonging to no one, of falling under no one's protection, of 
being wanted by no one. 

3. Just as there are specific and special psychiatric problems faced 
by migrants — extreme confusion, disorientation, depression and even 
suicide — there are specific and special medical hazards, the worst of 
which are the general absence of medical treatment and the general 
presence of pesticides, which are a constant danger to the health of the 
workers, and also their children, who often enough and sadly enough 
work near machines that deliver poisonous chemicals not only to crops 
but to human beings. 

4. No group of people I have worked with — in the South, in Appa- 
lachia, and in our northern ghettoes — tries harder to work, indeed 
travels all over the country working, working from sunrise to sunset, 
Y days a week, when tlie crops are there to be harvested. 

There is something ironic and special about that, too : in exchange 
for the desire to work, for the terribly hard work of bending and 
stooping to harvest our food, these workers are kept apart like no 
others, denied rights and privileges no others are denied, denied even 
halfway decent wages, asked to live homeless and vagabond lives, 
lives of virtual peonage, the details of which, as with other issues just 
mentioned, I intend to spell out. 

I do not believe the human body and the human mind were made 
to sustain tlie stresses migrants must face — worse stresses, I must say, 
than any I have seen anywhere in the world, and utterly unrecognized 
by most of us. Nor do I believe that a rich and powerful nation like 
ours, in the second half of the 20th century, ought tolerate what was 
an outrage even centuries ago: child labor; forms of peonage; large- 
scale migrancy that resembles the social and political statelessness that 
European and Asian refugees have known ; and, finally, be it empha- 
sized, for ])eople who seek work and do the hardest possible work, a 
kind of primitive living that has to be seen, I fear, to be understood 
for what it does to men, women and most especially children. 


Has not the time come for the Federal Government to bend all its 
considerable power toward the elimination of migrancy as a way of 

Right now, in various ways, the Government encourages migrancy, 
aids it and even subsidizes it. The direction should be reversed, if, that 
is, we have any regard at all for hundreds of thousands of human 
beings among us. 

Now I would like to go on and read from a manuscript. 

Senator Moxdale. Let me thank you for a particularly powerful 
statement. I think this is one of the best statements we have had, and 
short one. 

Dr. Coles. This manuscript is called "Uprooted Children," and it 
is subtitled "The Early Life of Migrant Farmworkers.'' Part of it was 
delivered as a lecture in Pittsburgh to a group of teachers and doc- 
tors mainly, and citizens drawn from Pennsylvania, West Virginia 
and Ohio, meeting at an annual meeting, and I must say it is probably 
one of the most depressing things I have ever written, and I feel 
ashamed as an American citizen and as a human being that I could 
have spent all of this time gathering all of this information, and in the 
year 1969 report it to my Government. 

This report deals with my work, which started in 1963 in Belle 
Glade and Pahokee and Bean City, Fla. 

At that time, I was studying school desegregation in the South and 
problems of activism among the sit-in movement. I guess you could 
call this work social psychiatry. Some of the families that I knew 
in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana had relatives who did not 
want to be unemployed and did not want to go in the cities and apply 
for welfare, and there you sought out work by going to Florida and 
harvesting crops there and then following the harvest season by going 
up North to States like North Carolina, Virginia, and then into New 
Jersey and, finally. New York and Connecticut, and, I might say, my 
home State of Massachusetts, where, right near where I live, migrants 
come and harvest the crops and live in abominable conditions. 

So, I am not here to single out either Florida or any other Southern 
State for particular blame. This is a national problem as well as a 
southern problem. But I spent time in Florida, many months, years, in 
fact, studying particular problems, particular families there, and fol- 
lowing them, I might say, up North and at times living with them and 
working with them in the field. All too often people like me spend 
months of our time, I regret to say, theorizing about people, in incom- 
prehensive language, and this is an effort to bring medicine and psy- 
chiatry into contact with concrete social and economic problems. 

But it is a depressing effort and again I have to apologize for that. 

Let me describe some of what I have seen and end this with some 
drawings that some of the children have done, which I think will il- 
lustrate the difference between these children and our children, be- 
tween these particular children and middle-class children. 

For 9 months, the infant grows and grows in the womb in a way 
rather ironically. The quarters are extremely limited and at the end 
the X-ray shows a small, yet developed, body quite bent over itself. 
Yet so very much has happened that indeed a whole new life has come 
into being. To some hundreds of thousands of American children, that 


stretch of time, those months, represent the longest rest ever to be had 
and the longest stay in any one place. 

From birth on, moves and more moves take place, quick trips and 
drawnoiit journeys. From birth on, for such children it is travel and 
all that goes with travel. That is, forced travel undertaken by migrant 
farmworkers who roam American land in search of crops to harvest 
and enough dollars to stay alive, if not to prosper or to live half right. 

How, in fact, do such children live, the boys and girls who are born 
to the migrant family ? What do they eventually learn and what do 
they teach us, the homeowners and apartment dwellers, the residents 
of villages and houses and cities and States ? 

To begin with, migrant children are not born in hospitals, not de- 
livered by physicians or even carefully trained midwives like those 
who work with them in the Frontier Nursing Service in eastern Ken- 

The migrant mother will work all during the pregnancy, and travel 
is undertaken during that same period of tune and finally the delivery 
is done in the rural cabin or in the fields. Again I say 50 miles from 
Cape Kennedy one finds thousands of children who are receiving no 
medical care, who are living in the most abominable housing condi- 
tions and who are never even delivered in a hospital, never see a doctor, 
and whose infant mortality rate parallels the infant mortality rate 
of African and Asian nations. 

However indifferent one may be to the cause of such people, it is 
hard to accept the fact that in the second half of the 20th century, in 
the United States of America, women bear their children on the side 
of a road or in one-room houses which have rats, and are without run- 
ning water and electricity. They are attended by a friend or neighbor 
or relative who is able to offer affection and sympathy but not medical 
help. Here is how a rather conservative grower both confirms the 
existence of and objects to this state of affairs : 

Sure, some of them have their babies away from hospitals ; I know that. We 
never turn them away from hospitals here or any place. But they have their own 
life, you know, and they don't do things the way we do. It is ignorance and 
superstition. A lot of them don't know where the hospital is and some of them 
just want to go with their mother or an aunt. I have even heard them scream a 
couple of times by the side of my fields and the best you can do is leave them 
alone. One of my men went over and tried to take them to the hospital but they 
screamed even harder and he thought they believed he was going to arrest them. 

It is awful how ignorant people can be. One migrant woman is a 
mother of four children. She attended school for 3 or 4 years and then 
only now and then. She says : 

Yes, sir; I have always had my mother with me, come the time to have the 
child, except for once and then my sister was real good with me ; yes, sir. I had 
them real easy and it is bad for a little while but then something happens and 
the next thing you know the baby is crying. I bled for a week and I have to keep 
washing myself. The first time and second time my mamma tried to take me to 
the hospital. 

She comes from Sylvester, Ga., and she never went to any hospital herself 
to have us but she said I deserved better and she tried. She told me when the 
pains started I had to come with her and we went to the hospital and I got 
scared but I went in and I was shaking real bad. I thou2:ht they would arrest 
us and I would end up having my child, the first one, in a jail. 

When we asked to see a doctor and I said I was hurting, the nurse said who 
was my doctor. And my mother said there wasn't any. Then the nurse said that 


was too bad and did we have deposit for a bed. And it was a lot more than we 
ever see and we said no but we tried to pay any bills we ran up and as fast as 
possible Then she shook her head and said it was too bad, we should hurry on 
up to the other side of the county, to the county hospital and that is where we 
might get m. though she wasn't sure, but her hospital was all private and vou 
couldn t come there except if a doctor brought you in or if there was the phone 
and only then could she call up a doctor and ask if he could come over and take 
the case. 

So that is what happened and we went back and it was good that I had mv 
girl real easy-like. 

The next time we tried another hospital but it was the same thing. After that 
we knew what to expect. You get to know about things after a while. 

She had learned something, learned a lot, actually. Ignorant, barely 
able to write her name, without a diploma of any kind, even one from 
a secondary or elementary school, she yet had figured out how certain 
private hospitals were run, what criteria they demand before a po- 
tential patient becomes an actual patient. She needed no teacher, no 
social scientist to tell her the economic and political facts of life, of 
her life. 

I was gently reprimanded when I asked her if she might not be 
helped by a policeman or fireman. "I couldn't be too serious," she 
said, "because we must know if we ever go to the police or fire people 
or the sheriff, then it is like asking for trouble and a lot, too, because 
they will tell you, if you pick the crops, they will tell you to stay away, 
and if you go ask them for anything, then it won't be but a few sec- 
onds and they will have you locked up." 

She has never been locked up nor does she believe in keeping her 
children locked up, watched over, carefully controlled, and trained to 
do all sorts of things. 

"I let them be," she says. 

In point of fact, she constantly makes choices but has no choice but 
to make a particular choice. For instance, I have watched her and 
other migrant mothers begin to breastfeed their babies as a matter of 
course. For some mothers, I assumed they had to do so. Then I finally 
began to notice how much she enjoyed this with her children. Finally, 
I began to realize she didn't have enough money to buy milk. 

Then I go on to describe the care of these children. To my eye 
and mind, migrant children begin life as migrants; by and large, 
they are given free rein and begin to crawl. They, of course, do not 
live in what we would call houses but in cabins and they do consider- 
able running about. I might say that when they are seven or eight, 
some of them begin working. They are active children. They move 
around a lot. They are not afraid to be with one another, and they 
take care of one another, and they huddle together as poor children 
huddled together in the 19th century. 

Senator Moxdale. Excuse me. Dr. Coles, Senator Hughes has to 
leave for another committee meeting, but has one observation for 
the record. 

Senator Hughes. Dr. Coles, I simply wanted to state for the record 
that what you have described is not only happening in the South, 
it is happening in Iowa. When I was Governor of Iowa, I was called 
to investigate the situation of migrant workers in the northern part 
of my State. 


I found eight mothers in the vicinity of Mason City, Iowa, who 
could not find a doctor who would deliver their babies. They were 
instructed to go to the University Hospital almost 200 miles away 
if they wanted medical attention to deliver their babies — for the 
same reasons you have described, no funds, no money, no ability to 
pay. The situation changed, and one doctor in the town finally gave 
services to the mothers. It changed simply because public attention 
was focused on the matter. 

So many times we do not realize these things are right in our own 
backyard. You mentioned the State of Massachusetts. Iowa is not 
a State known for migrant workers, but our problems are just as 
severe, in the isolated areas where they are working, as they are in 
the places that you have described. 

I simply wanted the record to show that these conditions are 
widespread, not isolated to the eastern coast of America. 

Thank you very much for allowing me to disrupt your testimony. 

Dr. Coles. I might say. Senator, that the same thing goes in 
my hometown of Concord, where we have a fine hospital named 
after Ralph Waldo Emerson, and where the same difficulties have 
taken place between these families and, I regret to say, my profession 
which can be very alert at times but not over these conditions. 

I would like to perhaps focus some of this discussion around the 
drawings of these children because I think this is a good way of 
indicating the differences between these children and our children 
and a way to show what happens to the children when they are 
brought up this way. 

I might add I cannot emphasize often enough the fact that we are 
dealing with the children of workers and not the children of welfare. 
They are not the children of those who are looking for work, but 
those who actually work and spend their lives trying to work. 

"VVliat do these children see I Rather obviously, they see many things 
and even draw and paint many things, but there are, I believe, certain 
themes that come up repeatedly, no doubt because children share 
habits and concerns and cares and doubts. 

Tom, for instance, was a 7-year-old boy when he drew for me a 
rather dreary picture of the fields he already knew as a helper to his 

This 7-year-old boy is a harvester, really, because when he was five 
I saw him walking down those rows of beans, picking. Sometimes he 
would show his age by pointing out achievements, by pointing to any- 
one near at hand how much he had done, how experienced he had 

Children are often like that, a little enthusiastic and a little boast- 
ful. They will learn to take their own abilities for granted, to deal less 
ostentatiously and noisily with themselves and the world. I knew Tom 
between the ages of five when he started working in the field and 
seven when he still worked at harvesting crops. I spent a lot of time 
with him and his family during those years and have made a point 
of seeing him at least seven times this year. 

At this writing, he is 14 and lives with a woman and is a father 
and, like his parents, he is a migrant farmworker. 


Tom always liked to draw pictures and, in fact, knew enough about 
what some people would call the problems of representation in art to 
appreciate his own failings — 

I am no good. I bet some people could do a good picture for you. Each time 
I try but I can't say it looks like I want it to look. It is not like it should be. 
I know you have said it didn't have to be but is it a good picture? 

This is slide number 1 : 

I reassured him with my various reassurances and this is what he did 
draw. The field is a dark, jumbled, sunless field, defined by a black 
fence and the outlines of the dark, faceless men Tom drew in the 
picture. They were not inside those fields because a strip of pines 
intervened, none of which appears on paper, but as he used crayons, 
he could hear all sorts of sounds from the migrants who were eating 
lunches and talking and arguing and in the case of women singing. 

Tom worked on the grass, using a wooden board I carried around, 
talked as he drew, and interrupted his work to eat his lean lunch. 

This is the point. In contrast to all other children I have observed 
and worked with, migrant boys and girls are quite Avilling to interrupt 
their particular tasks. For instance, doing a picture like this. It is not 
that they are agitated or anxious or unable to concentrate. It is not that 
they don't understand. It is just that they are so used to interruptions 
in their lives; they are constantly being carried from one part of the 
world to the other. In any event, we have this drawing and this is a 
draw'ng by a 7-year-old child of a field, and if I were to show you the 
drawings of middle-class children of that age, you would see much 
more substantial bodies, you would see faces with eyes and ears and 
mouths. You wouldn't see the disorganization of the grass and, most 
particularly, the way he draws a line around that grass. 

This is slide number 2 : 

It so happens that that family lives in a camp and works out of the 
camp and are brought in trucks to the fields and outside of that camp 
are trucks, sometimes with four rifles on top of the trucks, which drive 
around. I can only call the camp guarded and the work of these people 
observed not only by those who own the land but by those who patrol 
the area. 

I think this child has already seen himself somewhat hemmed in 
and imprisoned not only by the arrangements in the field but by the 
whole way of life that is his. I also have to say, as I said earlier, that 
the chaos becomes evident in the forms that he gives to human beings 
and the lack of structure in the drawing and the general obliqueness of 
all this, in contrast to what a child of 7 or 8 would do in an elementary 
school in a middle-class neighborhood. 

Does Tom wonder where it will all end, this travel and the new 
places to occupy ? Does he dream for some road that will lead to another 
way of life ? Does continual motion make him grow weary and resent- 
ful in spite of his own words to the contrary ? 

These children, of course, can mobilize optimism in a way that can 
only frighten one, when one knows what faces they have. Does he 
think about other children who live not far from the rows he knows 
so well ? Children he occasionally meets in this school where he attended 
classes for a month, and had to leave? 

I have asked him questions like those but I believe he answers those 
in many ways in drawings he does and often one senses answers in a 
particular drawing such as this one. 

I don't know where that road is going ; this is a picture of a road. No ; I didn't 
have a road I was thinking of when I drew. I just made the road. It probably 
keeps going until it hits the icebergs, I guess. 


I put some little roads in but you shouldn't leave the road you are going on. 
I remember I asked my dad if he knew where the highway ends, the one it takes 
north, and he said it probably ends where you can get as far north as you can 
get but there aren't any crops there, so we will never see the place but it is very 
cold there. I said I would like for us one time to keep going and see icebergs 
and see what it is like there. My daddy said maybe we would but he didn't mean 

A lot of the time I will ask him if we could go down a road further and see 
some places and he said yes, we can but he didn't want to. My mother says we 
had better be careful ; we can't keep asking to go here and there. He said we 
should close our eyes and imagine there is a big fence on each side of the road 
and we can't get off even if we wanted to because of the fence. That is why I 
put the fence in, to keep the car from getting in trouble with the police. 

Senator Mondale. How old was this boy ^ 

Dr. Coles. This child was about 8 years old. And he has got a thick 
fence on the road and there is a truck there and a car behind it and I 
interpret those two offshoot roads as blocked, rather obviously, and 
that IS his view of what it is to travel. 

Senator Moxdale. You can't go oft' tlie road; if you do, the fences 
are there to protect you against getting in trouble with the police? 

Dr. Coles. That is right. These people are met at State lines often 
by the State police and escorted to where they are going. When they 
get there, they are often under surveillance, under the protection of 
those who own the camps where they live for a while. 

I asked him whether that might be an automobile accident. He said — 

No ; I didn't mean that to be a crash. It would be bad if one happens. My 
daddy's brothers, three of them, got killetl in a crash. They were coming back 
from New Jersey and a bus hit a truck and a lot of people got killed. They say 
the bus was old and the brake stopped working but the crew leader had it fixed 
and it was supposed to be safe. My daddy said that they would all of them be 
safe forevermore from going up and down through the States and never being 
paid enough except for some food and a place to sleep. But I hope the car and 
bus in the picture don't crash like they do a lot of times. 

Sometimes I think to myself when we are passing a town, that I would like 
to look through the place and stay there. I mean, live there and not go on to the 
next place. I used to ask why and ask my mother and daddy and uncles why. 
but they all said I should stop with questions and stop trying to get a lot of 
reasons for things. In school once in Florida there was a real nice teacher. She 
said to the class that they should all be nice to me and the rest of us because if 
people like us didn't go around doing the picking, there would be no food for 
everyone to eat. A girl laughed and said that was a big joke because her daddy 
had a big farm and he didn't use any people, just machines. I nearly asked her 
what her father was growing. But I didn't. The teacher said go on and work. 

I thought afterward I would like to follow the girl home and see if she was 
telling the truth. Because the farmer has to pick beans and tomatoes, and ma- 
chines cost a lot. You can't get a second crop. No ; I didn't speak to her and 
didn't follow her, either. I did for a while but I got scared and my friend said 
you had better turn around or you would end up in jail. 

Migrant children see everything as temporary — places come and go 
and people and schools and fields — they can go from one school to 
the next and, of course, there is absolutely no coordination from one 
school to the next, no effort to carry what they have learned and where 
they have learned it to another situation. Places come and go. The 
children don't know what it is, in Tom's words, to stay too long; 
rather, tliey live in a world that lacks holidays and trips to the depart- 
ment stores and libraries. 

Children like Tom, the boy I quoted above, who drew the first draw- 
ing, don't see any mail because their parents lack a home, a place from 
where letters are sent and to which letters come. 


Children like Tom don't know about bookshelves and pictures and 
comfortable chairs and telephones which, of course, are installed into 
residences, and cabinets full of glassware or serving dishes or stacks 
of canned food. 

Children like Tom don't even know about luggage. Born to travel, 
born to live abroad, they have to pick up and leave quickly, travel 
under constant surveillance, and never quite know what the next desti- 
nation will bring in the way of work or living quarters. A suitcase 
doesn't seem like a very important thing to any of us, but migrant 
children have dreamed of having one. 

A girl named Doris said : 

I was small when I saw a store and it had big suitcases and little ones. I 
asked my mother if she could please get one for me, not a big one because I 
know they must cost more money, but a small one. She said why do I want one. 
I said because I could keep all my things together and they would never get lost. 
1 have a few things that are mine, the comb, my rabbit tail my daddy gave me 
before he died, lipstick and fan, and I don't want to lose them and I have already 
lost a lot of things. I had a bracelet and left it some place and I had a scarf and 
it got lost, and my mirror, too. That is why, if I could have a place to put special 
things, then I would have them and if we went all the way across the country 
and back, I would still have them and keep them. 

She still didn't have the suitcase. In fact, Doris didn't have very 
much of anything. So when I asked her to draw whatever she wished, 
she answered as follows : 

I don't know if there is anything I can draw. 

I suggested something from the countryside. She said "No." The 
countryside was the countryside and she had seen quite enough of it 
so there is no need to give those fields and rows my additional perma- 
nence. Rather, she said this : 

I see a lot of the trees and farms. I like to draw a picture I could look at it 
and it would be nice to look at and I could take it with me but I don't know what 
to draw. 

Her judgment on the countryside is fairly clear and emphatic but 
so is her sense of confusion. She knew" what she didn't want to do. But 
she seemed to be asking questions. What do I want to see and carry 
through all of those dismal trips and rides and long journeys? 

Well, in any case, Doris did do two pictures at each sitting for me 
usually, one for herself and another one as similar as possible for me, 
all of which leads me to state another thing about migrant children. 
Unlike the rest of us, girls like Doris and boys like Tom don't want to 
give up drawings they make to people like me. They don't want to give 
up anything because they have no confident sense of possession and 
no sense of retaining anything and therefore anything they do, they 
want for themselves. 

They also have no real sense of being born, in the sense that they 
don't know where they are born and they are not sure where they are 
going to die and they don't call a place a home. If I asked where they 
come from, they don't have an answer in terms of street and town 
and they usually say, "Some place," or sometimes they will say, "We 
move." This child when asked by me to draw anything that came to 
the child's mind 

Senator Mondale. How old was this child ? 

Dr. Coles. This child was 7. She drew a birth certificate. 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-2 

This is slide number 3 : 

Now, I never had a child draw a birth certificate before for me and 
I wonder what prompted that and the child told me this is the one 
thing that the child's mother had that she kept about the child and she 
had shown this child when she was about 4 or 5 years of age — to show 
the child where the child came from and what there was about the 
child that was permanent. 

This is what it means to be a migrant. I would suspect that this is 
the equivalent of the passports of European refugees in the 1930's, 
as some evidence of their identity, as some evidence of where they 
come from or where they belong, and I must say for this to be oc- 
curring in American children is rather surprising. 

Senator Moxdale. In other words, this child told you that she 
wanted to draw something she really would like, and all that she could 
think of was the birth certificate? 

Dr. Coles. She wanted me to see that she comes from some place 
and I have worked in the rural South and Appalachia with very, 
very poor sharecropper children and they may be poor but at least 
they know that they live in a community in the delta or in eastern 
Kentucky or, for that matter, in a ghetto of the north. 

But these children don't know where they come from and they 
don't know where they are going. In that sense, they are dazed and 
confused in a very particular way that is very hard, I think, for rne 
to get across so that they are distinguished not only from other chil- 
dren that we know about, namely, our children, but from even poorer 

Senator Mondale. What would a child of a backwater Appalachian 
hollow draw at that age, where they live in a community even with all 


of the deprivals, that would help show the contrast w4th the migrant 

Dr. Coles. Children of this age in Appalachia would very prob- 
ably draw mountains, or draw their homes. It is very hard to get a 
migrant child to draw a home even when you point out where they 
are living. They are reluctant to draw this because this is not a home 
to them and they say, "I don't know how to draw that." 

When a child tells you that he doesn't know how to draw something, 
he means that he doesn't want to draw it because he can draw. They 
do draw and these are the things that they draw. I could ask my sons 
to draw a birth certificate and they wouldn't even know what I am 
talking about ; they have never seen a birth certificate, nor will they 
ever. For a child to have this on his mind and to seize upon this when 
asked to draw something is a statement in itself. 

An Appalachian child will draw trees he is proud of; he will draw 
the kind of fish he would like to catch and these kinds of things. 

Senator Mondale. So even though the Appalachian child is in 
poverty, there is a strength that comes from the stability, permanent 
location, and a permanent relationship with parents and friends? 

Dr. Coles. That is right. 

Senator Mondale. There is a home and there are things that are 
familiar, and that is terribly important. 

Dr. Coles. That is right. 

This is slide No. 4 : 

This last slide is done by a little girl of 8 or 9. She is always asking 
me questions. By the way, this is one of the most intelligent migrant 
children or children from any group that I worked with. 

Senator Mondale. How old was this child ? 


Dr. Coles. Nine, 

''I love the yo-yo", she told me "because it keeps going: up and down 
and that is what I do." i- fe ^ i- 

Now there is symbolism for you. What did she mean ? 

""We won't stay in one camp too lono;. When the crops are in, you 
have to move." 

As for the pictures she did, she liked to jnit a yo-yo in them for 
fun. Most of all, she liked to make sure the sun was blocked out by 
the cards. The yo-yo is to the left in red. The scene would frequently 
show a door or window or tree or some disorganized shrubbery. In 
one picture, she allowed a door to dominate the paper. I expected her 
to do something with the door, to attach it or use it in some way, but 
she simply let it be and went on to the other things, to the sun and 
its grim face, to the sad and inevitable clouds of hers and to the sand- 
box and yo-yo. 

Senator Mondale. What would the sandbox indicate? A place where 
she could play? 

Dr. Coles. Yes; I will come to that in a minute. 

Finally, there is a tall plant which I thought might be a small 
tree. I asked her about that, the pine trees I saw, 

"No. It is a big tall corn. We pick a lot of corn up North." 

She was getting ready to go north. It was early May and soon they 
would all be on the road. What does that mean to her, not to me or 
her parents or to the teachers, but to her? I have asked her that ques- 
tion in various ways and she has replied through these drawings: 

I hate to go. I found some sand over there and my brother Bill, he and my 
brother Ed, and me like to go and make things there. Soon we will be going. 
I know ; I can tell when it is happening. First we move our things in the car 
and then we go away and I don't know if we will come back here or not. Maybe, 
my mother says, all depending, you know. I try to remember everything so I 
won't leave anything behind. Every time we go, my daddy gets sore at me 
because the last second I will be running out of the car and checking on whether 
I have left any of the things here. I know I have left something. 

Twice I watched her do that. I watched her go into the cabin, look 
around. I watched her watch, look, and stare, and, most of all, touch — 
as if putting hands on walls and doors she could absorb them, keep 
them, make them more a part of her. She is a touching girl and she 

In a minute or two, while the rest of her family frets and adjusts 
themselves one to the other and all to the car, which they more than 
fill up, this little girl of theirs scurries about — inspecting, scanning, 
pushing her body and especially her hands and most especially her 
fingers over a broken-down shack with no running water and no 
electricity which she is about to leave. 

When I saw her look out the window which did not have screens 
and open and close the door several times, which didn't quite open or 
close, I realized at last what all of those windows and doors she drew 
have meant, and sandboxes and corn up north, the com that was wait- 
ing for her, drawing them out from the cabin and making an uproar 
out of their lives. Up and down, to and fro, in and out, here and there 
they would go. Plence the yo-yo and the windows from which one looks 
out to say goodby and the doors which lead in and out, over and over 


By the way, these children are the only children I know tliat^ con- 
sistently will both put the sun in their drawings and then cloud the 
sun out. 

Senator Mondale. What is the reason for that ? 

Dr. Coles. I am getting into psychoanalytical symbolism here but 
I think it means something when children constantly do that and 
when other children don't— I could show you hundreds of drawings 
that I did when I was training to be a child psychiatrist with children. 
The middle-class children would always make the sun shine and make 
a face of the sun, which is Mr. Sun or Mr. Moon. 
And when a child puts a cloud in the sky and blocks out the sun, I 
think he is saying there is on the one hand the sun and, on the other 
hand, the sun is the cause of their traveling and their wandering. 
Also the clouded sky indicates a sense of gloom and cloudiness about 
life in general. 

Senator Mondale. Could it be that with a migrant child, when the 
sun is really out it is hot in the field and he feels uncomfortable? 

Dr. Coles. That would be another good observation. All of those 
things apply — the heat of the sun, the distraction, and the meaning of 
it to their lives because, of course, it is responsible in a way for their 

The other thing I have to emphasize is that this girl is very bright 
and she clearly has a capacity for symbolism. "We hear about culturally 
deprived and disadvantaged children. AVell, this girl, in spite of all of 
this migrant life has a great deal of intelligence that has no place to 
go. The drawing, itself, is not organized and yet she has managed to 
condense a great deal of symbolism in one drawing about her life. 

Let me conclude now with a few remarks about these children. 
Somehow, people like me have to come to terms with them, who these 
children are. I suppose they can be called the wretched of the American 
earth. We ignore them, most of us, almost all of us. It is quite possible 
to drive from State to State and never see them. States like Florida 
and Texas and California which have large numbers of them are 
beautiful States. One can drive right through them and never see 
these people. 

One can drive right through my hometown and never see them. 
One has to go up roads and into fields to see them and then one sees 
a lot. We shun them. We claim ignorance of them. We declare our- 
selves helpless before their problems. We say they deserve what they 
get, that they don't deserve anything better. Some of us say that. We 
say things are complicated and hard to change. And they certainly 
are. We say progress is coming but in the future. We say it is our 
fault, but others have also found life difficult, and managed. 

So we find it is awful but so awful that people live under such cir- 
cumstances are redeemed not later in heaven but right here. I am talk- 
ing about the effort to romanticize these people and turn them into 
beautiful people, which in many ways they are. 

I see my own tendency to notice how hard and tough and shrewd 
and undeceived and open and honest and decent and self-sacrificing 
they are. At many times, I have extolled these children and tried to see 
the beauty and strength in them, because there was nothing else I could 
do except praise them. 


And I often wonder how I could bear up under these strains, or how 
my children could. I am talking: now about what I suppose can loosely 
be called psycholo<rical issues, but I do not mean to ignore the bodily 
problems of these children in addition to the extreme psychological 
stresses that they face, the hunger and malnutrition, the diseases that 
crop up in the first 10 years of their lives, diseases that go undiagnosed 
and untreated, diseases of the skin and muscles and bones and vital 
organs, vitamin deficiency diseases, mineral deficiency, untreated, and 
parasitic diseases. 

In the words of one migrant mother — 

All of the sicknesses that ever was. 

This woman goes on — 

I believe our chilren get them, the sicknesses, and there isn't anything for us to 
do but pray and sometimes I must say that is all I feel I can do. too. Because I 
have never seen a doctor in my life, except once when he delivered my oldest 
girl. The rest, they were just born and I was lucky to have my children with me. 

She thinks her children are living in hell, literally, and these women 
liave an incredible religious faith which can only be called surprising 
in view of their other experiences on this earth. She is a fierce l3iblical 
woman when she gets going; I have heard the sermons, many of them 
from her, and I see no reason to refuse her a place in the last summing 
up of my testimony. 

This life- 
Says the mother, and here she is talking now about the subculture — 

it is no good on me and my husband but it is much worse on the children, much 
worse than it can be for any of God's children ; that is what I believe. I ask 
myself a lot of times why a child should be born, but you can't make it that we 
have no children because it is the child that gives you the hope. I say to myself 
that most of my children can't get out of this, but if .iust one, just one and no 
more of my children do, then I would be happy and I would die happy. Some- 
times I dream of my girl or one of my boys, that they have left us and found 
a home and it has a back yard and we all were there eating in the back yard and 
no one could come along and tell us to get out, because we could tell them to get 
out, because it is our land and we own it and no one can shout at us and tell us 
to keep moving, keep moving. That is the life we live ; moving and moving and 

I asked the minister a little while ago, "Why do we have to always move and 
move just to stay alive and not have no money and die?" He said that we are 
seeking God, maybe. That is why we keep moving because God, he traveled, you 
know, all over the Holy Land and he kept on trying to convert people to be good 
to him, you know, but they weren't, and he was rebuked and he was scorned, 
remember those words, and he couldn't stay any place because they were always 
after him, always, and they didn't want him there. 

The minister says if you suffer, you are God's people, and that is what he 
was about. Once the minister preached to us and told us that God was supposed 
to suffer and he did. It shouldn't be. And you know nobody will let us stop and 
live with them except if we go to camp and they take all of your money away. 
Pretty soon they give you a slip of paper after you have worked which says you 
have picked the beans and tomatoes and you have been eating and they took you 
up from Florida where you were and it cost them money to transport them, so 
.vou don't owe them, you don't owe them, except you have to go back to get back 
south and it never seems to stop. Should we be doing it, the crops all over, 
without anything to have even when it is all over? 

In any event, that is what the migrant child learns about life. He 
learns each day brings toil for his parents, backbreaking toil, bending 
and stooping and reaching and carrying. He learns each day means a 


trip to the fields and back to the fields, to a new county or another 
State, another region of the country. 

He learns each day means not aimlessness and purposelessness, but 
compelled and utterly forced travel. He learns quite literally that the 
wages of work is more work rather than what some of us would call 
accumulation of savings and capital. 

He learns wherever he goes he is both wanted and unwanted and, 
in any case, soon there will be another place and another and another. 

I must to some extent repeat and repeat the essence of such mi- 
grancy, the wandering and the extremly unyielding poverty, because 
children learn by repetition, learn by going through something 10 
times or 100 times until finally that is all they know about themselves. 

By the time these children are 10 and 11, they have had their edu- 
cation, they are no longer children. In many cases, they have stopped 
going to schools. They are working or helping out with younger chil- 
dren or playing and getting ready to go out on dates and they love 
and follow in their parents' footsteps. As for their minds, they are, to 
my eye, an increasingly sad group of children. They have their fun, 
and I have always tried to emphasize this in my work, whatever the 
bad times, they have their fun, their outburst of games and teasing, 
and taunting and laughing; but they are for too long stretches of time 
downcast and tired and bored and indifferent to themselves. They feel 
worthless, frowned upon, and spoken ill of, by the world around 
them, even by their own parents. Everything seems to brand them 
and stigmatize them and view them with disfavor and in a million 
ways call them to account. 

The only answer to such a fate is sex when it becomes possible and 
dr^nk when it is available. There is always the old familiar answer, 
travel, work, rest when it can be had, and occasionally during the 
year a moment in church where forgiveness can be asked, where 
promise of salvation can be heard, where a screaming, frantic, fright- 
ened, nervous cry for help can be put into words and songs and really 
given the body's expression — with turns and twists and gr- maces and 
arms raised and trunk bent and legs spread and feet used to stamp 
and kick and move, always that, move. 

Unlike migrant children, other children like to draw landscapes, like 
to drench them in sun, render them anything but bleak. Unlike migrant 
children, other chUdren don't draw roads fenced in and blocked off, 
that don't lead anywhere. Unlike migrant children, other children 
don't worry about birth certificates and doors. 

So, again, it would be different if the little girls just quoted could 
have solid, stable homes. Their drawings would not be like the four I 
have selected or Tke dozens of others very similar. The theme would 
be different because their lives would be different. Their days and 
months and years would have a certain kind of continuity, the kind 
we all don't think about because some things are so very important 
and so central to life's meaning and nature that we really cannot bear 
to think about them. Indeed, if we were thhiking about them, we 
would for some reason have come upon serious difficulties. 

Even many animals define themselves by where they live, the terri- 
tory they possess or cover or forsake in order to find new land, a new 
sense of control and self-sufficiency, a new domain. It is utterly part 


of our nature to want roots, to need roots, to struggle for roots, for 
a sense of belonging, for some place recognized as mine. 

Nations, regions, States, counties, cities, towns — all of them have to 
do with politics and geography and history but they are more than 
tliat. They sometimes reflect man's humanity, his need to stay some- 
place and live there and get to know a lot, actually, to get to know 
other people and what I suppose can be called a particular environment 
and space or neighborhood or world or set of circumstances. 

It is bad enough that thousands of American children go hungry, 
are sick and ignored and spurned every day and constantly and just 
about from birth to death. It is quite another thing, another order, as 
it were, of human degradation that we also have thousands of boys 
and girls who have utterly uprooted lives who wander the American 
earth, who enable us to eat by harvesting our crops and who never 
think of any place as home or of themselves as anything but homeless. 

There are moments, and I believe this is one of them, when even 
doctors justly have to throw up hands in heaviness of heart and dis- 
may and disgust and say in desperation, God save those children 
and, for allowing such a state of affairs to continue, God save us, too. 

That is all I have to say. 

Senator Moxdale. Thank you. Dr. Coles, for that extraordinary 

I often ask myself when I go around and look at migrant camps and 
deprived children, I think as everyone must, after they make such 
visits, how possibly can you make this tangible to someone who doesn't 
live under the same conditions ? 

Statistics seem to bore everybody. Most people are not interested 
enough to go and look and understand for themselves. I think these 
drawings and the work you have done to permit migrant children to 
speak for themselves in a way may help this Nation to more fully 
understand the heart-breaking destruction that we are imposing on 
young children who are our fellow Americans, but who are really not 
a part of this country in any meaningful sense. 

I thank you for that extraordinary statement. 

Your testimony, as I understand it, places heavy emphasis on the 
cost and destruction of migrancy — the sheer factor of movement. I 
think you have compared other deprived children with children who 
are deprived plus on the move, and you have said these latter are the 
most deprived of the deprived by a substantial degree. 

As I understand your testimony, because of this, you would place 
the highest priority on a policy to end migrancy, stop it, get these 
people off the road, do something to give them a chance to make a 
living in a permanent place. Is that one of your key points? 

Dr. Coles. Yes. In fact, I would be willing to say this: I think all 
of the efforts we are making — and they are meager compared to what 
they should be along the lines of migrant health, migrant education, 
and even the inclusion of some migrants under minimum wage laws — 
is not going to finally help these children. The efforts may at times 
provide them with some minimal health services and they certainly 
need them as they are not getting them. It juay help their education, 
to some extent. 


But as long as these children are carried around from one part of 
the country to the next, we are never going to solve the problem of 
the damage done to these children. So, I would unequivocally say that 
we are going in the wrong direction by trying to deliver certain mini- 
mal health and educational services to them, even economic services, 
so long as these children are living this kind of uprooted life, 

I think that what Ave have got to do is stop these families from mov- 
ing the way they do. Now, this has been shown not only by me. Any- 
one who reads "Grapes of Wrath'' will understand that implicit in the 
life of these people is not only poverty but rootlessness and migrancy^ 
itself. _ -^j 

I think the Federal Government should stop supporting migrancy 
as a way of life, for instance, as the Department of Labor does. After 
all, the Department of Labor acts as a negotiator in a sense, and tries 
to arrange for transportation of these people all over the country. Why 
should the Federal Government be doing this ? Why should American 
taxpayers be putting money into something that is so destructive to the 
minds of American children ? 

I think that j^erhaps not only this should be brought out but per- 
haps more people in my profession should come on record and indicate 
that this is a peculiarly destructive process. 

Senator Moxdale. Unfortunately, this has not often been discussed. 
For example, we went through the Job Corps closing hearings in this 
room. The Labor Department made a study saying that programs 
could be implemented by them. The General Accounting Office and an 
arm of the Congress went out and had similar studies performed. Not 
one of these agencies, nor the staff to my knowledge, mentioned or con- 
sidered for a moment the phychological or psychiatric repercussions 
of taking already seriously deprived kids, who thought now for the 
first time in life they were going to have a chance, and abruptly throw- 
ing them back out on the street. 

I am no psychiatrist, but I assume that is the end for those kids. 
They have trusted the U.S. Government for the last time and it is al- 
most impossible to qualify that. And your specialty and the specialty 
of those of you who deal with human psychiatry is one that is rarely 
consulted, if at all, in the basic decisions of this kind. I would bet that 
the Department of Labor or the Department of Agriculture never 
considers such matters. 

Dr. Coles. We have also seen in Appalachian families what it means 
for these people to voluntarily move just once and together. They move 
as families and they stay in areas but they move out of Appalachia 
and go into cities like Chicago and Cleveland to live and make a living. 
But that one move, even though they return home on weekends and 
even though they are together in the Northern cities, is very hard for 

Senator Mondale. We used to bring our children back and forth 
from Minnesota. We found out that the 3 or 4 months after we moved 
were just absolutely hell, while my children tried to adiust to a differ- 
ent school and different friends and reidentify themselves and spend 
time missing their old friends. We just found out we could not do it. 

I don't know of any Con.o-ressman who hasn't had the same experi- 
ence. These are bright, middle-class kids with a strong home. And even 


then it is just like you hit them across the side of the head with a base- 
ball bat. It takes weeks and months to get them back to their feet. 

They tell me, if an educator spots a child who has moved two or 
three times, they will almost be sure that that child is in trouble. 

Am I correct on that ? 

Dr. Coles. That is right. 

Senator Moxdale. These are kids with all the breaks, money, sup- 
port, strong families, and all that you need, and try to add those 
problems of movement to the other depressive disadvantages that are 
common to the lives of any migrants and you have a pattern of human 
destruction, and that is what we are doing, destroying humans. 

It is because of this that you would place heavy emphasis on a 
national policy that ends migrancy? 

Dr. Coles. I see no other way, no other human way, to save what 
can only be considered hundreds of thousands of people, children, par- 
ticularly. The only way, the only medical and psychiatric way for 
these children to grow up in even half-way reasonable fashion so far 
as their mental and physical life, and particularly as far as mental 
health is concerned, it seems to me, would be to end migrancy. 

I must emphasize it is constant movement. It is not just say, be- 
tween Minnesota and Washington or between West Virginia and 
Chicago and back or West Virginia and Cleveland. But it is the con- 
stant chaos of movement which makes it, I think, impossible for these 
children to grow up in any reasonable way. 

Senator Moxdale. Can you in any way describe or make tangible, 
to the extent that it is possible, the kinds of destruction that are visited 
psychologically upon an otherwise adequately able child from this 
kind of migratory environment? What kinds of destruction occur? 

Dr. Coles. We see depressions occur about the age of nine and 10. 
I reported this a few years ago to my fellow psychiatrists. We see 
children with severe depressions, a kind of self-destructiveness that 
knows no bounds. Many of them literally start killing themselves. 
They take to liquor. They take to violence toward either one another 
or themselves. Many of them end up, as anyone who knows Florida 
and is willing to talk about it, many of them end up in cars that go 
into the canals there. They demonstrate a whole range of psychiatric 
symptoms that people like me label severe depression, schizophrenia, 
disintegration of the mind. They do not and cannot take good care of 
themselves and, of course, in addition to this you have the problem 
of poverty so they often cannot take care of themselves even if they 
did want to. But a combination of all these things produces wasted, 
prematurely old and tired and apathetic and downcast people who 
for all practical purposes live lives that are shortened, I would say, by 
half those that manage not to get into this situation. 

When a child is 10 he ceases being a child and when he is 13 or 14, 
he is already on his way downhill with his teeth in trouble, skin in 
trouble, heart and lungs and stomach in trouble, and w^e are getting 
deaths at an early age. 

Any physician, a pediatrician or child psychiatrist can see this in 
child after child. We would have to revise our estimate of childhood 
of these children, because they stop being children around 9 and 10. 
They are grown up. They are working. They are on their own. They 
have already started getting older and they look old, premature aging. 


Senator Mondale. Could this process contribute to a set of percep- 
tions by the child that prevents him from thinking of ways to escape 
the migrant experience ? 

Dr. Coles. They don't know how to escape. 

Senator Mondale. They don't believe that there is any hope of 
escaping, they don't ponder that, do they ? 

Dr. Coles. I must emphasize this word and I use it soberly — peon- 
age. That many of these families are owned for all practical purposes 
by crew leaders and others who transport them around the country, 
sometimes with gims at their sides, and tell them that in exchange 
for this work they owe a certain amount of money to them for the 
transportation costs, for the food that they have given them, and then 
when the time comes for paying them, they tell them that they don't 
have a salary, you haven't worked off so much money you owe me. 
Then move on to the next place. 

It is very hard for these people to conceive of themselves as having 
any rights at all. They don't vote. They don't belong to a community. 
They don't have even the strength that sharecroppers or farm workers 
do in Mississippi, in the sense that they don't have a political constit- 
uency of any kind. 

Senator Mondale. Let's dwell on that for a minute. 

I have interviewed migrants in Florida, where the chairman of the 
county board said, "These aren't our people ; they are Federal people." 
Nearly 50 percent of the population in that county were farmworkers. 
Most oi them are United States citizens, and if they are citizens any- 
where, they are citizens in that county. 

I asked the migrant farmworkers "How come you let a man — the 
County commissioner — like that continue to represent you ?" 

I have yet to get a relevant response to that question from a migrant 
because it is my impression that it never occurs to them that they are 
citizens, that they have any right or any power to influence the politi- 
cal environment in which they live. 

I think that migrants are taught to believe that and if they try to 
assert themselves, they are quickly prevented from doing so. But I see 
no evidence that it ever occurs to them that such things as the political 
climate in which they live can be affected by their action. I don't think 
they vote, and I don't think it occurs to them that they could vote, 
and if they could vote that it would make any difference. 

We have home base counties where migrants live by the thousands 
that are controlled by people, as that one county board member who 
said, "We don't owe any responsiblity.'" Another county official said 
it would be illegal to deliver food to migrants. 

Suppose a chairman of a county board said that about some white 
middle-class citizen? That would be his last term in office. But in 
Florida he said it on national television and the fact that migrants 
could change that is never discussed, and never occurs to them. 

Could you suggest why that would be? 

Dr. Coles. Part of it is that in some cases they don't have a residence 
and they may live more in one county in Florida than in other 
counties in other states but because they are constantly moving and 
even within that county moving, there would have to be a revision 
in our laws that would grant them the right to vote w^here they 


spend the predominant amount of their time, in the county where 
they spend the predominant amount of time. 

^ They are not homeowners nor do they live in apartment houses. 
And even those who do have a base and leave the base and go 
north and come back to a particular apartment, or a particular 
series of cabins; they are afraid. I know they are afraid. Anyone 
who wants to visit some of these camps I think would soon under- 
stand what they are afraid of. They see pickup trucks with guns 
on top of them and these people have no money. They don't own the 
places where they live and, in fact, they are rented out to them on a 
weekly basis. 

Since they are so socially and economically exiled and vulnerable, 
they feel politically not only vulnerable but totally without power 
at all. I don't think that they are ever going to feel any other way 
unless the laws are changed in such a way that they as migrants 
are given certain political rights that other people get as a result 
of their residence. I mean a sharecropper or a tenant farmer in the 
delta, no matter how poor he is, at least has the right to vote and 
the Federal Government has insisted that he has this. 

He has certain other rights by virtue of the fact that he lives in 
this county or that county. I think the United States Government, 
rather than encouraging migrancy in these people, might encourage 
them to stop moving and encourage and insist upon their political 
right to vote unimpeded by any threat. This would require the 
presence of Federal observers to give these people the protection they 
need because they are afraid. 

There are camps in some of our States where these people, and 
many of them have filled out affidavits to this effect, where these 
people are afraid to leave. They are brought into these camps from 
other States at so many dollars a head, like cattle, and they don't 
know that they have any rights at all. 

And, before the presence of guns, who is to ask them to feel any 
other way? 

So, I think what is needed is a national policy and commitment on 
the part of the Government to end once and for all child labor, child 
abuse, peonage, migrancy, and uprootedness, very much like the refu- 
gees that we saw in the 1930's and we see now in Asia, end this as an 
American phenomenon and spend maybe a few billion dollars doing 
this as well as other things. 

Senator Mondale. I would like to direct some questions to the other 
side of this coin. 

We had a witness before the Labor Subcommittee who was testify- 
ing against the right of farmworkers to organize, and finally someone 
asked : "What would you see to be the power in the farm worker to im- 
prove his lot, what remedies does he have from the abominable pay 
and working conditions?" The witness said that the farmworker has 
the right to quit. 

Somebody said : "What does that power mean when 50 to 75 or 100 
miles away there is an inexhaustible supply of desperately poor Mex- 
ican labor which can freely move across the border and often has taker 
the farmworkers place within hours?" And there was no response. 

I have given that example because I then asked the witness, "What is 
your set of recommendations? Don't you have any recommendations 


in 1969 to improve the lot of this dejjerately poor section of the Amer- 
ican popuhition V I said : "Your testimony is the same now as in 1935, 
and don't you have anything to say that can contribute to an improved 
life for these people ?" There was no response. 

This phenomenon exists not just with the migrant. I have seen it with 
the American Indian, the Arapaho, with the Eskimos in Alaska, Appa- 
lachians, migrants in Florida, and even to some extent the same thmg is 
true with the blacks in Bedford-Stuyvesant and others. Wherever you 
find people who are impatient and must depend upon the majority 
power structure to take care of them, regardless of claims we make, 
those people by definition are almost predictably in tough shape. We 
seem to enjoy the guardian- ward relationship even though we don't 
want to do anything in terms of standard principles to take care of the 
ward. We still want that person to come to us and beg and ask for 

If you want to fashion a program in Congress to restructure the 
power structure so that the poor can effectively speak for themselves 
as we demand in our own lives, you get very little support. What is 
there about the psychology of these situations with the migrant, or 
with the Indian, that makes it so difficult for us to see it, and under- 
stand it, and to act on it in a way which gives some respect and dignity 
and power to those who are so desperately deprived ? Why do we find 
that so difficult ? 

Dr. Coles. It is because it is us versus them. They are the way they 
are. We just don't want to see it. The reason we don't want to see it is , 
because it is uncomfortable. For most of us, there is no reason for us | 
to see it. We just eat the food they pick. Why should we bother our- 
selves with people like this ? 

I must say in the case of migrants, some people are very annoyed i 
about poor people and they claim they are lazy and shiftless, and I 
they are on welfare. It is pretty hard to come out with that line for I 
these migrant people, because they are the hardest working people in 
America. But even that doesn't earn them the kind of regard that 
they will need if these changes are going to be made. ; 

I don't know how one gets through this, this apathy. I don't think 
people are del'berately apathetic. I think they just live and they don't 
know these things. For a while they may be brought up short — when 
they see for themselves. Sometimes on an issue like hmiger they are 
shocked for a while, but there comes a point when most American 
people are wrapped up in their own problems and they feel that they 
have problems enough, and they don't want to be bothered. They just 
tend to shunt these problems aside. I do it myself. 

I am not here to accuse anyone. I am here to say this is a tragic 
state of affairs. 

Senator Mondale. Is there something about impotent people that 
the majority of the power structure finds gratifying or satisfymg? 

Dr. Coles. I would hope not. I have talked with a lot of growers. In 
the book I am working on, I have long interviews with these people. 
They are not any meaner or nastier than any other people. They are 
just like all of us. They are trying to make a livhig. A lot of them are 
puzzled by these things. They say these people are lazy and that they 
tear some things up. I have some interviews with self-made men in 
Florida who came over to this country and who have worked hard and 


are good, strong, stable members of the community, and it is a high- 
risk industry, as they will tell you. If you get to know them long 
enough and talk with them, the defensiveness we all feel, which is a 
part of our shame, emerges. They will tell you that they feel sorry for 
these people. They will tell you that, as we all would, I suppose, if we 
knew what they live like. 

Then they say the only way they will get better is if you educate 
the children. So they are caught in a tragic bind because they know 
no one is going to criticize children. People aren't born evil or born 
with bad genes. So, since they recognize that this wasn't a born trait, 
some of the things they criticize in migrants, it has to do with the way 
they live. 

So they propose to you education, health, measures like that. But 
then they also say that they need labor and if they are caught in a 
bind, naturally they are going to seek out labor. If the labor has to be 
brought from dozens and dozens of miles away, they are going to ask 
that It be brought. 

They want these people brought to them, which in turn encourages 
the migrancy, which in turn leads to the chaotic living, which in turn 
they will recognize as destructive as it is. 

But these growers, you say they talk the way they talked in the 
1930's. I wonder if this Government really moved not only to help 
migrants, but help growers in a way. Whether it could take the tragic 
burden otf the backs of the growers. We have moved in as a result of 
what hapepned in the 1930's to guarantee farmers at least enough to 
prevent certain risks — with price supports and otherwise. 

It seems to me if we spent some of the money, even a part of the 
money we spend in other Federal agricultural programs, to support 
programs that would give workers a subsidized income, and encour- 
age permanent residences for them, build the housing for them, en- 
courage certainly the kind of educational facilities they need, then 
this tragic dilemma erf the grower would no longer be there. They 
would not be at the mercy of this pattern of needing forced migrant 
labor in order to survive and in order to get their crops in. They 
would have the Government helping them to get workers and settle 
those workers in homes. Incidentally, a lot of unemployed people 
could get work. 

So, instead, we have the Government encouraging migrancy and 
we have growers caught in an ethical dilemma by which they under- 
stand deep down underneath that the kind of life these people live is 
destructive and yet they need their labor. You talk with a farmer in 
upstate New York or New Jersey, and he says, "I need these people, 
but I need them fast and right away." 

I am not here to attack growers. They are, like all of us, caught 
in a bind. It seems to me that what we need is a more enlightened 
national policy for children and particularly these kinds of children. 
Senator Moxdale. This is one of the hopes held by those who 
believe in collective bargaining. When I was in Delano, Calif., 
I talked to several members of the union (United Farm Workers Or- 
ganizing Committee) who were working for the wine grape growers. 
For the first time they had job security because they knew next sea- 
son that they had a job. Some of them had never had a house, and 


now they were buying a house. Much of their progress seemed to stem 
from their job security. 

One of the elements, it seems to me, in trying to end migrancy is 
the hope for job security. Another element, and I see this as a central 
cancer, is that so long as that border along Mexico is completely open, 
the chances in our generation of seeing an end to migrancy is sheer 
folly. I don't care what the laws are ; I don't care what the structure of 
minimum supports might be, or for that matter, what the successes of 
organizing labor might be, there are millions of desperately poor un- 
skilled farmworkers in Mexico who want to come into the United 
States, and they have profound problems. And naturally, you find 
severly depressed living and working conditions. 

Wherever you find migrants, almost invariably you find that they 
are escaping the poverty along the Mexican border, and they are now 
elsewhere in the United States and still desperately poor. There are 
many migrants in Florida that came from Texas. 

Dr. Coles. I have watched this in southern Florida over the past 
several years. When I worked in Belle Glade and Pahokee, the popu- 
lation was black, with some whites. Now the Mexican- Americans are 
half of that population. They are moving in from Texas. 

Senator Mondale. Thank you very much. Dr. Coles, for your most 
interesting testimony. Your entire statement will be placed in the 
record at this point. 

(The material supplied by Dr. Coles follows :) 


"Hproo^ert Children: The Early Life of Migrant Farm V/orkers' 

By Ilr. Robert Coles, Research Psychiatrist, 
Howard University, Cant-ridge, Mass. 

For nine months the infant grows and grows in the womb, in 
a way rather ironically: the quarters are extremely limited; at the end 
an x-ray shows the small yet developed body quite bent over on itself and 
cramped; yet so very much has happened, indeed a whole new life has come 
into being. For some hundreds of thousands of American children that 
stretch of time, those months, represent the longest rest ever to be had, 
the longest stay in any one place. From birth on moves and more moves 
take place, quick trips and drawn-out journeys. From birth on for such 
children, it is travel and all that goes with travel -- that is, forced travel, 
undertaken by migrant farm workers, who roam the American land in 
search of crops to harvest and enough dollars to stay alive if not to prosper 
-- or as I have often heard it modestly put, "to live half -right. " 

How in fact do such children live, the boys and girls who are born 
to migrant farmers? What do they gradually and eventually learn -- and 
what do they have to teach us, the home owners and apartment dwellers. 


the residents of villages and towns and cities and states? To begin with, 
many migrant children are not born in hospitals, not delivered by physicians, 
or even carefully trained midwives like those who work with the Frontier 
Nursing Service in eastern Kentucky. Again and again the migrant mother 
will casually describe the work she does in the field all during her 
pregnancy, the travel she undertakes during that same period of time, and 
finally the delivery itself: done in the rural cabin, or yes, done "on the 
road" or even in the fields. However indifferent one may be to the cause 
of such people, it is hard to accept the fact that in the second half of the 
twentieth century, in the United States of America, women bear their 
children on the side of a road, or in a one room house that lacks running 
water and electricity -- in either case, attended by a friend or neighbor 
or relative, who is able to offer affection and sympathy, but not medical 
help. Here is how a rather conservative grower both confirms the existence 
of and objects to a state of affairs: "Sure, some of them have their babies 
away from hospitals. I know that. We'd never turn them away from a 
hospital, here or anyplace. But they have their own life, you know, and 
they don't do things the way we do. It's ignorance; and it's superstition. 
A lot of them, they don't know where the hospital is, and they don't want 
to go there; and some of them, they just want to be with their mother or 
their aunt, or someone, and they'll scream out there. I've even heard them 
a couple of times by the side of my fields, and the best thing you can do is 
leave them alone. Once one of my men went over and tried to take them to 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-3 


the hospital, but they screamed even louder, and he thought they 
believed he was going to arrest them, or something. It's awful, how 
ignorant people can be. " 

Yes, people can be very ignorant. One migrant woman I have 
come to know is a mother of four children. She attended school for three, 
maybe four years, and then only "now and then. " She admits to knowing 
very little about any number of things, though she does claim a certain 
kind of awareness of herself: "Yes sir, I've always had my mother with 
me, come the time to have the child, except for once, and then my sister, 
she was real good with me, yes sir. I has them real easy, and it's bad 
for a little while, but then something happens, and the next thing you know, 
the baby is crying. I bleeds for a week, and I have to keep washing myself, 
but soon you're not doing so bad, no sir, you're not. The first time and 
the second time my momma tried to take me to the hospital, you know. 
She comes from Sylvester, Georgia, yes sir, and she never went to any 
hospital herself, to have us; but s^e said I deserved better, and she tried. 
She just told me when the pains started that I had to come with her, and we 
went to the hospital, and I got scared, but I went in, and I was shaking real 
bad, not because of the baby, but I thought they'd arrest us, and I'd end up 
having the child, my first one, in a jail. 

"When we asked to see a doctor and I said I was hurting, and 
there'd be a baby soon, the way it looked, the nurse said who was my doctor, 


and my momma she said there wasn't any. Then the nurse said that was 
too bad, and did we have a deposit for a bed, and it was a lot, more than 
we ever see, and we said no, but we'd try to pay any bills we ran up, and 
as fast as possible. Then she shook her head, and she said it was too bad, 
but we should hurry on up to the other side of the county, to the county 
hospital, and that was where we might get in, though she wasn't sure, 
but her hospital, it was an all-private one, and you couldn't come there 
except if a doctor brought you in, or if there was the money, and only then 
could she call up a doctor and ask him if he could come over and take the 

"So that's what happened, and we went back, and it was good that 
I had my girl real easy-like, my momma said. The next time we tried 
another hospital, but it was the same thing. So, after that, we knew what 
to expect, yes sir. You get to know about things after a while. " 

She had learned something, learned a lot actually. Ignorant, 
barely able to write her name, never a reader, without a diploma of any 
kind, even one from a secondary or elementary school, she yet had figured 
out how certain private hospitals are run, what "criteria" they demand 
before a potential patient, however much in pain and in serious medical 
difficulty, becomes an actual patient. She needed no teacher, no social 
scientist to tell her the economic and political facts of life, of her life. 
I was gently reprimanded when I asked her whether she might not have 


been helped by a policeman or a fireman, who traditionally (so I 
thought from Tny work as a doctor in northern cities) respond to the pleas 
of women about to deliver babies: "You couldn't be too serious, I don't 
believe, because you must know, you must, that if we ever go near the 
police, or the fire-people, or like that, the sheriff, then it's like asking 
for trouble, and a lot, too, because they'll tell you, if you pick the crops, 
they'll tell you to stay away, and if you go asking them for anything, then 
it won't be but a few seconds, and they'll have you locked up, oh will they. " 

She has never been locked up, nor does she believe in keeping her 
children locked up -- watched over, carefully controlled, trained to do all 
sorts of things. "I lets them be, " she says when asked how she spends her 
day with them. In point of fact, like all mothers, she constantly makes 
choices, or has no choice but to make a particular choice. For instance, 
I have watched her and other migrant mothers begin to breast-feed their 
children as a matter of course. For some months I assumed they naturally 
had to do so, because bottled milk is expensive, and certainly there are no 
physicians around to prescribe this formula and that one, and all the rest 
of the things American mothers of the middle-class come to take for granted. 
Finally 1 began to notice how much she enjoyed suckling her child, and how 
long she went on doing it, and how sad, very sad she became when at a year 
and a half or so the time came to stop (for what reason, even then? I began 
to ask myself). So, I went ahead one day and made an observation: "If you 
had a Ipt of money, and could buy a lot of milk at the store, would you want 
to feed your small babies that way, with the bottle?" 


She knew exactly what I was getting at, knew it in a sure, self- 
confident way that did not have to reduce itself into a barrage of nervous, 
anxious, wordy statements and counter-questions and explanations: "Yes 
sir, I knows what you means. There are times when I find myself wondering 
if I'll ever get a chance to try one of those bottles out. I'd like to, but you 
have to keep going to the store then, for the milk, and then I'd run dry -- 
and what if I started with the bottle and I couldn't buy any more milk, 
because there was no crops, you know, and then I'd be dry, and the baby 
would be suffering real bad, she would. If I had all that money, like you 
say, I'd try it, though. But I don't think I'd want to keep away from my 
baby all the time, like that, and so I don't think I'd try it for so long that 
I'd run dry, no sir, because I like being near to the baby. It's the best 
time you ever has with your child, if you ask me. That's right, it's the 
best time. " 

She holds the child firmly and fondles the child lavishly as she 
feeds him. She makes no effort to cover her breasts, not before me or her 
fellow workers. Many times she has carried her infant to a field, done 
picking, stopped to go to the edge of the field, fed the child, left the child 
to itself or the care of its grandinother or older sister, and returned to 
the tomatoes or beans or cucumbers. Many times, too, she has reminded 
me that picking crops can be boring and repetitive and laborious, and so 
made very much more tolerable by the presence of good, clean, cool water 


to drink, and a good meal at lunch-tinne and best of all, a child to feed 
lying nearby. She knows that the chances are that good water and food 
will not be available, but an infant -- yes, the presence of an infant is 
much more likely: "To tell the truth, I do better in the field, when I 
know my baby is waiting there for me, and soon I'll be able to go see her 
and do what I can for her. It gives you something to look ahead to. " 

She plans then. She plans her days around the crops and around 
the care of her children -- she and her mother do that. Sometimes they 
both pick the crops, and nearby the children play, and indeed upon occasion 
the oldest child, nine years old, helps out not only with the younger children 
but the beans or tomatoes also. Sometimes the mother works on her knees, 
up and down the planted rows, and her mother stays with the children, on 
the edge of the farm or back in the cabin. Sometimes, too, there is no work 
to be had, and "we stays still and lets the children do their running about. " 

To my eye migrant children begin a migrant life very, very early. 
By and large they are allowed rather free reign as soon as they can begin to 
crawl. Even before that they do not usually have cribs, and often enough they 
lack clothes and usually toys of any sort. Put differently, right off the 
migrant child learns that he has no particular possessions of his own, no 
place that is his to use for rest and sleep, no objects that are his to look at 
and touch and move about and come to recognize as familiar. He does not 
find out that the feet get covered with socks, the body with diapers and shirts 
and pants. He does not find out that there is music in tl^e air, from 


mysterious boxes, nor does he wake up to find bears and bunnies at hand 
to touch and fondle. In sum, he does not get a sense of his space, his 
things, or a rhythm that is his. He sleeps with his mother at first, and 
in a few months, with his brothers and sisters. Sometimes he sleeps on 
a bed, sometimes on the floor, sometimes on the back seat of a car, or 
on the floor of a truck, and sometimes on the ground. If the locations vary, 
and the company, so do other things. Unlike middle-class children, the 
migrant child cannot assume that internal pains will soon bring some kind 
of relief, or that external nuisances (and worse) will be quickly done away 
vith after a shout, a cry, a scream. One migrant mother described her 
own feelings of helplessness and eventually indifference in the face of such 
circumstances: "My children, they suffer. I know. They hurts and I can't 
stop it. I just have to pray that they'll stay alive, somehow. They gets the 
colic, and I don't know what to do. One of them, he can't breathe right and 
his chest, it's in trouble. I can hear the noise inside when he takes his 
breaths. The worst thing, if you ask me, is the bites they get. It makes 
them unhappy, real unhappy. They itches and scratches and bleeds, and oh, 
it's the worst. They must want to tear all their skin off, but you can't do 
that. There'd still be mosquitoes and ants and rats and like that around, 
and they'd be after your insides then, if the skin was all gone. That's what 
would happen then. But I say to myself it's life, the way living is, and 
there's not much to do but accept what happens. Do you have a choice but 
to accept? That's what I'd like; to ask you, yes sir. Once, when I was 


little, I seem to recall asking my uncle if there wasn't something you 
could do, but he said no, there wasn't and to hush up. So I did. Now I 
have to tell my kids the same, that you don't go around complaining -- 
you just don't. " 

She doesn't, and a lot of mothers like her don't; and their 
children don't either. The infants don't cry as much as ours do; or 
better, the infants have learned not to cry. They are lovingly breast-fed, 
then put aside, for work or because there is travel to do or chores or 
whatever. The babies lie about and move about and crawl about, likely 
as not nude all day and all night. A piece of cloth may be put under them, 
"to catch their stuff, " but not always, and on the outsides, in the fields, 
usually not. 

As for "their stuff, " as for what we call "toilet training, " 
migrant children on the whole never, never get to see a full-fledged bath- 
room. They never take a bath or a shower. Sometimes they see their 
parents use an outhouse; and sometimes they see them use the fields. The 
children are taught to leave a cabin or car or truck for those outhouses and 
fields, but the learning takes place relatively slowly and casually, at least 
to this observer's eye. What takes place rather nnore quickly has to do with 
the cabin itself and the car: at about the age of two the child learns he nnust 
respect both those places, though not very much else, including the immediate 
territory around the house -- all of which can be understood by anyone who 


has seen the condition of some outhouses migrants are supposed to use, 
or the distance between the cabins migrants inhabit and those outhouses, 
or for that matter, a good serviceable stretch of woods. 

They can be active, darting children, many migrant children; 
and they don't make the nnistake of getting attached to a lot of places and 
possessions. They move around a lot, and they move together, even as 
they sleep together. They are not afraid to touch one another; in fact, 
they seek one another out, reach for one another, even seem lost without 
one another. They don't fight over who owns what, nor do they insist that 
this is theirs and that belongs to someone else. They don't try to shout 
one another down, for the sake of their mother's attention or for any other 
reason. At times I have felt them as one -- three or four or five or six 
children, brothers and sisters who feel very much joined and seem very 
much ready to take almost anything that might (and no doubt will) come 
their way. Some might say the children clutch at one another nervously. 
Some might say they «.i?« huddled together rather as Daumier or Kathe 
KoUowicz showed the poor doing. Some might say they belong to a 
"comnnunity, " get along better than middle-class children, grow up with- 
out much of the "sibling rivalry" that plagues those more comfortable and 
fortunate children. Some might say they "adapt" to their lot, "cope" with 
the severe poverty and disorganization that goes with a migrant life. I 
find it very hard to say any one such thing. At timqs I see migrant 


children very close together alright, but much too quiet, much too with- 
drawn from the world. At times I see children together but terribly- 
alone -- because they are tired and sick, feverish and hungry, in pain 
but resigned to pain. Nor does that kind of observation go unnoticed by 
their mother, those weary, uneducated, unsophisticated women -- who 
have trouble with words and grammar, who are shy for a long time, then 
fearfully talkative, then outspoken beyond, at times, the outsider's 
capacity to do much but listen in confusion and sympathy and anger: 
"It's hard with the children, because I have to work, and so does my 
husband, because when the crops are there, you try to make the money 
you can. So I gets them to be good to one another, and watch out for each 
other. But a lot of the time, they're not feeling good. I know. They've 
just run down, the way you get, you know. They don't feel very good. 
There'll be a pain and something bothering them, and they all look after 
each other, yes they do. But it's hard, especially when they all goes and 
gets sick at the same time, and that happens a lot, I'll admit. 

"I guess I could be better for them, if I had more to give them, 
more food and like that, and if I could be a better mother to them, I guess 
it is. But I try my best, and there's all we have to do, with the crops to 
work on, and we have to keep on the move, from place to place it is, you 
know, and there's never much left over, I'll say that, neither money nor 
food nor anything else. So you have to say to yourself that the little ones 
will take care of themselves. It's not just you; it's thenn, and they can be 


there, to wait on one another. But I'll admit, I don't believe it's the 
right thing, for them to be waiting on one another so much that -- well, 
there will be sometimes when I tell their father that they're already- 
grown up, the kids, and it's too bad they have to worry so much for each 
other, because that's hard on a girl of seven or eight, worrying after the 
little ones, and each of them, looking after the smaller one. Sometimes 
I think it would be better if we didn't have to keep moving, but it's what 
we've been doing all these years, and it's the only thing we know, and 
it's better than starving to death, I tell myself. So I hope and pray my 
kids won't have to do the same. I tell them that, and I hope they're 
listening ! " 

She tells her children a lot, as a matter of fact. She does 
not spoil them, let them get their way, indulge them, allow them to boss 
her around and get fresh with her and become loud-mouthed and noisy and 
full of themselves. She can be very stern and very insistent with them. 
She doesn't really speak to them very much, explain this and that to them, 
go into details, offer reasons, appeal to all sorts of ideas and ideals and 
convictions. She doesn't coax them or persuade them or argue them down. 
She doesn't beat them up either, or threaten to do so. It is hard to say 
what she does, because words are shunned by her and anyway don't quite 
convey her sad, silent willfulness, a mixture of self-command and self- 
restraint; and it is hard to describe what she does, because whatever 
happens manages to happen swiftly and abruptly and without a lot of 


gestures and movements and steps and counter-steps. There will be a 
word like "here" or "there" or "o.k. " or "now" or "it's time, " and there 
will be an arm raised, a finger pointed, and most of all a look, a fierce 
look or a summoning look or a steady, knowing look -- and the children 
stir and move and do. They come over and eat what there is to eat. They 
get ready to leave for the fields. They get ready to come home. They 
prepare to leave for yet another county, town, cabin, series of fields. 
They may be sad or afraid. They may be annoyed or angry. They may be 
troubled. They may be feeling good, very good -- glad to be leaving or 
arriving. Whatever the mood and occasion, they have learned to take their 
cues from their mother, and one another, and hurry on. I suppose I am 
saying that they tend to be rather obedient -- out of fear, out of hunger, 
out of love, it is hard to separate the reasons out o the reasons-for their 
obedience or the reasons we also learn to be compliant. I hear just that 
from the owners of farms and the foreman who manage them -- that 
migrant children are "a pretty good bunch. " Well, if the people who 
employ migrants by the thousands find them "lazy" or "careless" or 
"shiftless" or "irresponsible" or "ignorant" or "wild" or "animal- like, " 
then how come their children manage so well, even earn a bit of praise 
and respect here and there? "I know what you mean, " the owner of a 
very large farm in central Florida says in initial response to the essence 
of that question. Then he pauses for a minute and struggles with the irony 
and finally seems to have his answer to it, which is a very good half- 
question indeed: "Well, I don't know, you take chi''lren anywhere, and 


they're not what their parents are, are they? " Then he amplifies: 
"Sometimes they're better than their parents and sometimes they're 
worse. You'll find good parents and bad kids and vice-versa. As for 
these migrants, if you ask me, it's the parents who have never amounted 
to much and maybe they try to do better with their kids, though they're 
certainly not very ambitious, those parents, so I don't think they push 
their kids to be successful, the way we might. Maybe it's just they're 
good and strict with their kids, and if that's the way they treat them, then 
the kids learn to behave. Of course, they can't really spoil their kids, 
I'll admit. They don't have much to spoil them with; and what they have, 
they tend to be wasteful about, you know. " 

Life is, as the man said, lean and bare for migrant farm 
workers, and their children find that out rather quickly. Hunger pangs 
don't always become appeased, however loud and long the child cries. 
Pain persists, injuries go unattended. The heat does not get cooled down 
by air conditioners or even fans, and cold air is not warmed by radiators. 
Always there is the next town, the next county, the next state, and at every 
stop those cabins -- almost windowless, unadorned and undecorated, full 
of cracks, nearly empty, there as the merest of shelters, there to be 
left all too soon, something that both parents and children know. 

How does such knowledge come alive, that is, get turned into 
the ways parents treat children, and children act, behave, think, get along. 


grow up? How consciously does a migrant mother transmit her fears 
to her children, or her weariness, or her sense of exhaustion and defeat, 
or her raging disappointment that life somehow cannot be better -- for her 
and for the children who confront her every day with requests, questions, 
demands, or perhaps only their forlorn and all too hushed and restrained 
presence? I have watched these mothers "inter-act" with their children, 
"rear" them, demonstrate this or that "attitude" toward them or "pattern 
of behavior. " Always I have wondered what is really going on, what 
assumptions (not explicitly defined and perhaps not known, but there 
nonetheless) work their way continually into acts, deeds, and yes, in 
migrants, for all their lack of education, words -- some of them sur- 
prisingly and embarrassingly eloquent, to the point that what is revealed 
has to do not only with their assumptions, but mine, too. For instance, 
I had known this migrant farm worker, this mother of seven children, 
this black. Southern lady from Arkansas two years before I finally asked 
her what she hopes for her children as she brings them up. She smiled, 
appeared not at all brought up short or puzzled or annoyed. She did 
hesitate for a few seconds, then began to talk as she glanced at the hot- 
plate in the cabin; "Well, I hope each one of them, my three girls and 
four boys, each one of them has a hot-plate like that one over there, and 
some -t^tKte food to put on it, and I mean everyday. I'd like them to know 
that wherever they go, there'll be food and the hot-plate to cook it. When 
I was their age, there wasn't those hot-plates, and most of the places, 


they didn't have electricity in them, no sir. We'd travel from one place 
to the next, picking, taking in the crops, and there'd be a cabin -- a lot 
of the tinaes they'd make the chicken-coops bigger to hold us -- and the 
bossman, he'd give you your food, and charge you so much for it that you'd 
be lucky if you didn't owe him money after a day's work. There'd be hash 
and hash, and the potatoes, and bread, and I guess that's all, except for 
the soda pop. There'd be nothing to start the day with, but around the 
middle they'd come to give you something and at the end, too. A lot of 
the time we'd get sick from what they'd bring, but you had to keep on 
picking away or they'd stop feeding you altogether, and then you'd starve 
to death, and my daddy, he'd say that it's better to eat bad food than no 
food at all, yes sir. Now no one can deny that, I do believe. 

"But now it's changed for the better, the last ten years, I 
guess, it has. They've put the electricity into some of the cabins -- no, 
not all, but a lot -- and they've stopped giving you the food, in return for 
the deductions. You can get a meal ticket, and keep on eating that way, 
and they'll give you a sandwich and pop for lunch for a dollar or more, 
sometimes two, but there's no obligation, and if you save up the money 
you can get a hot-plate and cook your own, and carry the plate up North 
and back down here and all over the state of Florida, yes sir. And it's 
better for the children, I think, my cooking. It's much, much better. 

"Now, I'd like them to amount to something, my children. 
I don't know what, but something that would help thenn to settle down and 
stop the moving, stop it for good. U's hard, though. They gets used to 


it, and when I tell them they should one day plan to stop, and find work 
someplace, in a city or someplace Ukc that -- well, then, they'll say 
that they like the trips we take to here and there and everywhere, and why 
can't they keep going, like we do. So, I try to tell them that I don't mean 
they should leave me, and I should leave them, but that maybe one day, 
when they're real big, and I'm too old to get down on my knees and pick 
those beans, maybe one day they'll be able to stop, stop and never start 
again -- oh, would that be good for all of us, a home we'd never, never 

"You know, when they're real small, it's hard, because as 
soon as they start talking, they'll want to know why we have to go, and 
why can't we stay, and why, why, why. Then they'd be happy if I didn't 
get them in the car to move on. But later, I'd say by the time they're 
maybe five or six, like that, they've got the bug in them; they've got used 
to moving on, and you can't tell them no, that someday if God is good to us, 
we'll be able to stop and stay stopped for good. You see, I do believe that 
a child can get in the travelling habit, and he'll never stop himself and try 
to get out of it That's what worries me, I'll admit. I'll hear my oldest 
one, he's eleven, talk, and he says he thinks he can pick a lot faster than 
me or anyone else, and he'll one day go farther North than we do, and he'll 
make more money out of it, and I think to myself that there's nothing I can 
do but let him do it, and hope one of us, one of the girls maybe, if she meets 
a good man, will find a home, a real home, and live in it and never leave it. 


"We tried three times, you know. My husband and me, we 
tried to stay there in Arkansas and work on his place, the bossman's, and 
we couldn't, because he said we were to stay if we liked, but he couldn't 
pay us nothing from now on, because of the machinery he'd bought himself. 
Then we tried Little Rock, and there wasn't a job you could find, and people 
said go North, but my sister went to Chicago and died there, a year after 
she came. They said she had bad blood and her lungs were all no good, 
and maybe it was the city that killed her, my Uncle James said. So, we 
decided we'd just stay away from there, the city, and then the man came 
through, from one of the big farms down here, and he said we could make 
money, big money, if we just went along with him and went down to Florida 
and worked on the crops, just the way we always did, and that seemed like 
a good idea, so we did. And with the kids, one after the other, and with 
needing to have someplace to stay and some food and money, we've been 
moving along ever since, and it's been a lot of moving, I'll say that, and 
I wish one day we'd find there was nothing for us to do but stop, except that 
if we did, there might not be much food for that hot-plate, that's what 
worries me, and I'll tell you, it's what my boy will say and my girl -- they 
tell me that if we didn't keep on picking the crops, well then we'd have 
nothing to eat, and that wouldn't be worth it, sitting around and going hungry 
all the time. And I agree with them on that. 

"So, we keep going, yes sir, we do. I try to keep everyone in 
good shape, the best I can. I tell them that it'll be nice, where we're going 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-4 


to, and there will be a lot to see on the road, and there's no telling what 
kind of harvest there will be, but we might make a lot of money if there's 
a real good one. I don't believe I should hold out those promises, though -- 
because they believe you, the kids, I know that now, and it just makes them 
good, happy children, moving along with you, and helping you with the crops. 
They do a lot, and I'd rather they could be working at something else, later, 
like I said before, but I doubt they will. " 

Her children, like others I have seen and like those already 
described, are in a sense little wanderers from the very start. They are 
allowed to roam cabins, roam fields, roam along the side of roads, into 
thickets and bushes and trees. They follow one another around, even as 
their parents follow the crops, follow the sun, follow the roads which lead 
to yet another stop, and another and another. Nor does all that go un- 
noticed, except by the likes of me: "I lets them have the run of the place, 
because we'll soon be gone, and they nnight as well have all the fun they can. 
They want to go with us and help us with the picking, and they do sometinnes, 
and they learn how to pick themselves, and that's what they say they'll be 
doing when they get big and grown up, and one will say I'll cut the most 
celery, and one will say I'll pick more beans than you, and one will say 
tomatoes are for nne, and soon they've got all the crops divided up for them- 
selves, and my husband and me, we say that if the life was better then we 
wouldn't mind, but you know it's a real hard life, going on the road, and 
we don't know what to do, whether to tell thenn, the kids, that it's a bad 


time they have in store for themselves -- and you don't have the heart 
to do that, say that --or tell them to go ahead and plan on the picking, 
the harvesting, and tell them it'll be good, just like you kids think. Except 
that my husband and I, we know it's just not true that it's good. So there it 
is, we're not telling them the truth, that's a fact. " 

She does tell them the truth, of course. She tells them that 
life is hard, unpredictable, uncertain, never to be taken for granted and 
in fact rather dangerous. She tells them whom to fear: policemen, firemen, 
sheriffs, people who wear business shirts, people who are called owners or 
bossmen or foremen or managers. She tells them that no, the rest rooms 
in the gas stations are not to be used; better the fields or the woods. She 
tells them to watch out, watch out for just about anyone who is not a picker, 
a harvester, a farmhand, a migrant worker. She tells them why they can't 
stop here, or go there, or enter this place or try that one's food. She tells 
them why sometimes, when they are driving North with others in other cars, 
the state police meet them at the state line and warn them to move, move 
fast, move without stopping, move on side-roads, move preferably by night. 
She tells them that no, there aren't any second helpings; no, we don't dress 
the way those people do, walking on that sidewalk; no, we can't live in a 
house like that; no, we can't live in any one house, period; no, we can't 
stay, however nice it is here, however much you want to stay, however much 
it would help everyone if we did; and no, there isn't much wc can do, to stop 
the pain, or make things more comfortable or give life a little softness, a 
little excitement, a little humor and richness. 


Still, the children find that excitement or humor, if not 
softness and richness; to the surprise of their parents they make do, 
they improvise, they make the best of a bad lot and do things -- with 
sticks and stones. with cat-tails, with leaves, with a few of the vegetables 
their parents pick, with mud and sand and wild flowers. They build the only 
world they can, not with blocks and wagons and cars and balloons and 
railroad tracks, but with the earth, the earth whose products their 
parents harvest, the earth whose products become, for those particular 
children, toys, weapons, things of a moment's joy. "They have their good 
times, I know that, " says a mother, "and sometimes I say to myself 
that if only it could last forever; but it can't, I know. Soon they'll be 
on their knees like me, and it won't be fun no more, no it won't." 

The "soon" that she mentioned is not figured out in years, 
months or weeks. In fact, migrant children learn to live by the sun and 
the moon, by day and by night, by a rhythm that has little to do with days 
and hours and minutes and seconds. There are no clocks around, nor 
calendars. Today is not this day, of this month, nor do the years get 
mentioned. The child does not hear that it is so-and-so time -- time to 
do one or another thing. Even Sundays seem to come naturally, as if from 
Heaven; and during the height of the harvest season they, too, go unobserved. 
As a matter of fact, the arrival of Sunday, its recognition and its obser- 
vance can be a striking thing to see and hear: 'I never know what day it 
is -- what difference does it make? -- but it gets in my bones that it's 


Sunday. Well, to be honest, we let each other know, and there's the 
minister, he's the one who keeps his eye on the days, and waits until 
the day before Sunday, and then he'll go and let one of us know, that 
tomorrow we should try to stop, even if it's just for a few hours, and 
pray and ask God to smile down on us and make it better for us, later on 
up there, if not down here. Then, you know, we talk to one another, and 
the word passes along, yes it does. I'll be pulling my haul of beans toward 
the end of the row, to store them, and someone will come to me and say, 
tomorrow is Sunday, and the Reverend, he said we should all be there first 
thing in the morning, and if we do, then we can be through in time to go to 
the fields. Now, a lot of the time there's nothing to do in the fields, and 
then it's a different thing, yes it is; because then we can look forward to 
Sunday, and know it's going to be a full day, whether in the Church, or if 
the minister comes here, to this camp, and we meets outside and he talks 
to us and we sing -- and afterwards you feel better. " 

Does she actually forget the days, or not know them, by name 
or number or whatever? No, she "kind of keeps track" and "yes, I know 
if it's around Monday or Tuesday, or if it's getting to be Saturday. " She 
went to school, on and off, for three or four years, and she is proud that 
she knows how to sign her name, though she hasn't done it often, and she 
is ashamed to do it when anyone is watching. Yet, for her children she 
wants a different kind of education, even as she doubts that her desires will 
be fulfilled: "I'd like them all, my five kids, to learn everything there is 


to be learned in the v/orld. I'd like for them to read books and to write 
as much as they can, and to count way up to the big numbers. I'd like for 
them to finish with their schooling. I tell them that the only way they'll 
ever do better than us, their daddy and me, is to get all the learning they 
can. But it's hard, you know, it's very hard, because we have to keep 
going along -- there's always a farm up the road that needs some picking, 
and right away; and if we stay still, we'll soon have none of us, because 
there won't be a thing to eat, and we'll just go down and down until we're 
all bones and no flesh -- that's what my daddy used to tell me might 
happen to us one day, and that's what I have to tell my kids, too. Then, 
they'll ask you why is it that the other kids, they just stay and stay and 
never move, and why is it that we have to move, and I don't hardly know 
what to say, then, so I tells them that they mustn't ask those questions, 
because there's no answer to them, and then the kids, they'll soon be 
laughing, and they'll come over and tell me that they're real glad that we 
keep going up the road, and to the next place, because they get to see every- 
thing in the world, and those other kids -- well, they're just stuck there 
in the same old place. " 

Space, time and movement, to become conceptual, mean very 
special things to a migrant child, and so does food, which can never be 
taken for granted. Many of the children I have studied these past years -- 
in various parts of Florida and all along the eastern seaboard -- view life 


as a constant series of trips, undertaken rather desperately in a 
seemingly endless expanse of time. Those same children are both 
active and fearful, full of initiative and desperately forlorn, driven to 
a wide range of ingenious and resourceful deeds and terribly paralyzed 
by all sorts of things: the weakness and lethargy that go with hunger and 
malnutrition, and the sadness and hopelessness that I suppose can be 
called part of their "pre-school education. " Indeed the ironies mount 
the more time one spends with the children, the more one sees them take 
care of one another, pick crops fast, go fetch water and food at the age of 
two or three and know what size coins or how many dollar bills must be 
brought back honie, talk about the police, listen to a car engine and com- 
ment on its strengths or weaknesses, discuss the advantages and disadvan- 
tages of harvesting various crops, speak about the way property owners 
profit from the high rents they charge for their cabins. At the same time, 
of course, those same children can be observed in different moods, heard 
making .other statements -- about how tired they are, about how foolish it 
is to spend a week in school here and another few days there, and then a 
couple of weeks "up yonder, " about how difficult it is to make sense of 
people and places and customs and attitudes, about life itself, and yes, 
about how human beings on this planet treat one another. One of the 
mothers I came to know best over a period of three years let me know 
exactly what her children thought and said about such matters: "They'll 
ask you something sometimes, and you don't know how to answer them. 


I scratch my head and try to figure out what to say, but I can't. Then 
I'll ask someone, and there's no good answer that anyone has for you. I 
mean, if my child looks right up at me and says he thinks we live a bad 
life, and he thinks just about every other child in the country is doing 
better than he is -- 1 mean, has a better life -- then I don't know what 
to say, except that we're hard-working, and we do what we can, and it's 
true we're not doing too well, that I admit. Then my girl, she's very 
smart; and she'll tell me that sometimes she'll be riding along with us, 
there in the backseat, and she'll see those houses we pass, and the kids 
playing, and she'll feel like crying, because we don't have a house to stay 
in, and we're always going from one place to another, and we don't live so 
good, compared to others. But I try to tell her that God isn't going to let 
everything be like it is, and someday the real poor people, they'll be a lot 
better off, and anyway, there's no point to feeling sorry for yourself, 
because you can't change things, no you can't, and all you can do is say to 
yourself that it's true, that we've got a long, hard row to hoe, and the Lord 
sometimes seems to have other, more important things to do, than look after 
us, but you have to keep going, or else >/ou want to go and die by the side of 
the road, and someday that will happen, too, but there's no point in making 
it happen sooner rather than later -- that's what I think, and that's what I 
tell my girls and my boys, yes sir I do. 

"Now, they'll come back at me, oh do they, with first one 
question and then another, until I don't know what to say, and 1 tell them 


to stop. Sometimes I have to hit them., yes sir, I'll admit it. They'll 
be asking about why, why, why, and I don't have the answers and I'm 
tired out, and I figure sooner or later they'll have to stop asking and just 
be glad they're alive. Once I told my girl that, and then she said we wasn't 
alive, and we was dead, and I thought she was trying to be funny, but she 
wasn't, and she started crying. Then I told her she was being foolish, and 
of course we're alive, and she said that all we do is move and move, and 
most of the time she's not sure where we're going to be, and if there'll be 
enough to eat. That's true, but you're still alive, I said to her, and so am 
I, and I'm older than you by a long time, and why don't you have faith in 
God, and maybe do good in your learning, in those schools, and then may- 
be you could get yourself a home someday, and stay in it, and you'd be a 
lot better off, I know it, and I wish we all of us could -- I mean, could 
have a home. " 

The mother nnentions schools, not a school, not two or three, 
but "those schools. " She knows that her children have attended school, at 
various times, in Florida, Virginia, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and 
Connecticut. She may not list those states very easily or confidently, but 
she knows they exist, and she knows she visits them, avnong others, every 
year, and she knows that upon occasion her daughter and her sons have 
gone to elementary schools in those states, and stayed in those schools 
maybe a few weeks, maybe only a few days, then moved on --to another 
school, or to no school "for a while, " even though during the period of 


time called "for a while" other children all over the country are at 
school. What happens to her children in "those schools?" What do they 
expect to learn when they arrive? What do they actually learn, and how 
long do they actually stay in school? Rather obviously, migrant children 
spend relatively little tinne in classrooms, in comparison to other 
American children, and learn very little while there. During the two 
years I worked most closely and methodically with migrant families who 
belong to the so-called "eastern stream" I had occasion, in the case of 
ten families, to check on the children's school attendance and found that 
each child put in, on the average, about a week and a half of school, that 
is, eight days, during the month. Often the children had colds, stomach 
aches, asthma, skin infections and anemia, and so had to stay home "to 
rest. " Often the children lacked clothes, and so had to await their "turn" 
to put on the shoes and socks and pants or dresses that were, in fact, 
shared by, say, three or four children. Often the parents had no real 
confidence in the value of education, at least the kind they knew their 
children had to get, in view of the nature of the migrant life, and in view, 
for that matter, of the demands put upon the migrant farmer who lives 
that kind of life. Nor did the children usually feel that what they had 
already learned -- rather a lot if outside the schools -- ought to be for- 
saken in favor of the values and standards and habits encouraged within 
schools often enough attended on the sufferance at best of the teachers 
and the other children. 


Rather obviously migrancy makes regular school attendance, 
even if very much desired by a particular set of parents for their children, 
next-to-impossible. The most ambitious and articulate migrant farmer I 
have ever met, a black man originally from northern Louisiana, describes 
all too precisely the dilemma he must face as a parent, a worker, an 
American citizen: "You don't realize how hard it is, trying to make sure 
your kids get a little learning, just a little. I don't expect my oldest 
boy -- he's named after me -- to go on and finish school, the little schooling 
he'll get, it's no good, because he's been in and out of so many of them, the 
schools, and he gets confused, and it's no good. You'll go from one state 
to the next, and sometimes the school will remember Peter, and they'll 
try to pick right up with him, where he left off, and give him special 
teaching, so he doesn't lose all his time just finding out what's going on, 
and where the other kids are. But, in a lot of schools, they don't seem 
oven to want you, your kids. They'll give you and them those sour looks 
when you come in, and they'll act toward you as if you're dirty -- you know 
what I mean? -- as if, well, as if you're just no good, and that's that. My 
boy, he sees it, just like me, even if he's only nine, he does. I try to tell 
him not to pay attention, but he knows, and he tries to be as quiet and good 
as he can, but I can see him getting upset, only hiding it, and I don't know 
what to say. So I just try to make the best of it, and tell him that no 
matter what, even if it's a little bit here and a little bit there, he's got to 
learn how to read and how to write and how to know what's happening, not 


just to himself, but to everyone in the world, wherever they all are. 
But the boy is right clever, and he says, daddy, you're not talking the 
truth at all, no sir; and it don't make any difference, he says, if you get 
your schooling, because the people who don't want you in school, and don't 
pay you any attention there, and only smile when you tell them you're 
sorry, but you won't be there come next week, because you've got to move 
on with your family -- well, those people will be everywhere, no matter 
where you want to go, and what you want to do, so there's no getting away 
from them and why even try, if you know you're not going to win much. " 

Yet, his son Peter does try, and his failure to get a decent 
education, an even half-way adequate one, tells us, if nothing else, that 
earnestness and persistence, even on the part of a rather bright child, can 
only go so far. Peter has always been the quietest of his parent's children, 
the most anxious to learn things and do things and question things. His 
younger brothers and sisters tend to be more active, less curious, more 
impulsive, less contemplative. From the very start Peter wanted to attend 
school, and worked hard while there. His efforts caught the attention of 
several teachers, one in Florida, and one in Virginia. He has always 
asked why and indeed proposed answers to his own questions -- all of which 
can annoy his parents, and apparently his teachers, too, upon occasion. 
I have spent an unusually long period of time with Peter, not only because 
he and his family have had a lot to teach me, but because sometimes the 


exceptional child (perhaps like the very sick patient) can demonstrate 

rather dramatically what others also go through or experience or endure 

more tamely and less ostentatiously but no less convincingly. 

It so happens that I knew Peter before he went to school, and 

talked with him many times after he had spent a day "in the big room, " 

which is what he often called his classroom when he was six or seven 

years old. To a boy like Peter a school-building, even an old and not 

very attractively furnished one, is a new world -- of large windows and 

solid floors and doors and plastered ceilings and walls with pictures on 

them, and seats that one has, that one is given, that one is supposed to 

own, or virtually own, for day after day, almost as a right of some sort. 

After his first week in the first grade Peter said this: "They told me I 

could sit in that chair and they said the desk, it was for me, and that every 

day I should come to the same place, to the chair she said was mine for as 

long as I'm there, in that school -- that's what they say, the teachers, 

anyway. " 

So, they told him he could not only sit someplace, but he could 
they told hii.i 

have something -- for himself; and that the next day he would continue to 

the suuG -,Yould ^jo for 
have what was formerly (the previous day) had -- and indeed the ne.xt day 

after that, until in fact there were no more days to be spent at the school. 

I believe Peter's remarks indicated he was not quite sure that what he 

heard would actually and reliably take place. I believe Peter wondered 

how he could possible find himself in possession cif something, and keep 


it day after day. Peter and I talked at great length about that school, and 
by bringing together his various re^-narks, made over many weeks, it is 
possible to sense a little of what school meant to him, a little of what that 
abstraction "life" meant(and continually means) to him: "I was pretty 
scared, going in there. I never saw such a big door. I was scared I 
couldn't open it, and then I was scared 1 wouldn't be able to get out, because 
maybe the second time it would be too hard. The teacher, she kept on 
pulling the things up and down over the windows -- yes, a kid told me 
they're 'blinds, ' and they have them to let the sun in and keep the sun out. 
A lot of the time the teacher would try to help us out. She'd want to know 
if anyone had anything to ask, or what we wanted to do next. But she 
seemed to know what she was going to do, and I'd just wait and hope she 
didn't catch me not knowing the answer to one of her questions. She said 
to rrie that I had to pay attention, even if I wasn't going to be there for very 
long, and I said I would, and I've tried to do the best I can, and I've tried 
to be as good as I can. She asked me as I was leaving the other day if I 
would be staying long, and I said I didn't know, and she said I should ask 
my daddy, and he'd know, but when I did, he said he didn't know, and it 
all depended on the crops, and what the crew-man said, because he's the 
one who takes us to the farms. Then I told the teacher that, and she said 
yes, she knew what it was like, but that I should forget I'rn anywhere else 
while I'm in school, and get the most 1 can learned. 


"I try to remember everything she says, the teacher. She's 
real smart, and she dresses good, a different dress everyday, I think. 
She told us we should \fitch how we wear our clothes, and try to wash our- 
selves everyday and use brushes on our teeth and eat all these different 
things on the chart she has. I told my momma, and she said yes, what 
the teacher says is correct, yes it is, but you can't always go along, 
because there's no time, what with work and like that, and if you haven't 
got the shower, you can't take it, and maybe someday it will be different. 
I asked her if we could get some chairs, like in school, and we could 
carry the tTi where we go, and they'd be better than now, because you sit 
on the ''Ic'or where we're staying, and the teacher said a good chair helps 
your b;<ck grow up straight, if you know how to sit in it right. But there's 
not the money, my daddy said, and it's hard enough us^ moving, never mind 
a lot of furniture, he said. When I get big, I'll find a chair that's good -- 
but it can fc 'd up. The teacher said you can fold up a lot of things and just 
carry the. ¥.-lt;h you, so there's no excuse for us not having a lot of things, 
even if we'-o moving a lot, that's what she said, and one of the kids, he 
said his father was a salesman and travelled all over the country -- and 
he said, the kid, that his father had a suitcase full of things you could fold 
up and unfold and they were all very light and you could hold the suitcase 
up with one finger if you wanted, that's how light. My daddy said it wasn't 
the same, the travelling we do, and going around selling a lot of things. 


He said you could make big money that way, but you couldn't do it unless 
you were a big shot in the first place, and with us, it's no use but to do 
what you know to do, and try to get by the best you can, and that's very 
hard, he says. 

"I like going into the school, because it's really, really nice 
in there, and you can be sure no bugs will be biting you, and the sun 
doesn't make you too hot, and they have the water that's really cold and 
it tastes good. They'll give you cookies and milk, and it's a lot of fun 
sitting on your chair and talking with the other kids. One boy wanted to 
know why I was going soon -- I told him the other day, and he thought I 
was trying to fool him, I think -- and I said I didn't know why, but I had 
to go because my daddy picks the crops and we moves along, and we have 
to. The boy, he thought I was trying to be funny, that's what he said first, 
and then the next time he came over and he said that he'd talked with his 
daddy and the daddy said that there was a lot of us, the migrant people, 
and it was true that we're in one city and out, and on to the next, and so 
I had to go, it's true, if that's what my daddy does. Then he said, the boy 
said, that his daddy told him to stay clear of me, because I might be 
carrying a lot of sickness around, and dirt, and like that; but he said, 
his name is Jimmie, he said I was o.k. and he wasn't going to tell his 
father, but we should be friends in the yard during the play-lime, and 
besides he heard his mother say it was too bad everyone didn't have a 
home, and stay there from when he's born until he's all grown up, and 
then it would be better for everyone. 


"I thought I might never see Jimmie again, or the school 
either, when we drove away, but I thought I might get to see another 
school, and my momma said that Jimnnie wasn't the only boy in the world, 
and there'd be plenty like him up North, and they nnight even be better to 
us up there while we're there, though she wasn't too sure. Then I was 
getting ready to say we shouldn't go at all, and my daddy told me to shut 
up, because it's hard enough to keep going without us talking about tlas 
fr^ind and the school and the teacher and hov.- we want to stay; so he saia 
if I said another word I'd soon be sorry, and I didn't. Then I forgot -- we 
were v^ay up there, a long way from Florida, I think, and I said something 
Jimmie said, and they told mc I'd better watch out, so I stopped and just 
looked out the window, and that's when I thought it would be good, like 
Jimmie said his mother said, if one day we stopped and wc never, never 
went up the road again to the next farm, and after that, the next one, until 
you can't remeinber if you're going to leave o?' yoi;'ve just come. 

"That's what my momma will say sometiiiics, that she just 
can't reincmbcr, and she'll ask us, and we're not always a help, because 
we'll just be going along, and not knowing why they want to leave and then 
stop, because it seems they could ji:st stop and never leJive, and maybe 
someone could find them a job wlie;e they'd ncvei' have to leave, and 
maybe then I could slay in the same school and I'd luake a lot of friends 


and I'd keep Ihem ^ d when I was grown-up. Then I'd have the fiiends and 

I wouldii't always be moving, because they'd help me, and that's what it 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-5 


means to be a friend, the teacher said, and Jimmie told me that if I'd 
be staying around, he'd ask his mother if I could come over, and he 
thought that if I came during the day, and his father wasn't home, then 
it would be all right, because his mother says she's in favor of helping 
us out, my people, Jimmie says, and she said if she had the money she'd 
buy houses for all of us, and she said there must be a way we could stay 
in one place, but Jimmie said he told her what I said: if we don't keep 
moving, we don't eat. That's what my daddy says, and I told Jimmie. 
It's alright to go to school, my daddy says, but they won't feed you in 
school, and they won't give you a place to sleep, so first you have to stay 
alive, and then comes school. Jimmie said my daddy was right, but he 
was making a mistake, too -- because his daddy says that if you don't 
finish school, you'll have nothing to do and you'll starve to death, so it's 
best to go to school and learn whatever the teacher says, even if you don't 
like to. " 

Peter has come to know several Jimmies in his short life, and 
he has left several schools reluctantly, sadly, even bitterly. On the other 
hand, he has also been glad to leave many schools. He feels he has been 
ignored or scorned. He feels different from other school children -- and 
has felt that one or another teacher emphasizes those differences, makes 
them explicit, speaks them out, and in a way makes him feel thoroughly 
unwanted. I knew him long enough and followed his family's travels far 


enough to get a fairly quick response from him after his first day in a 
particular school. The experience invariably would either be good or 
bad, or so Peter judged. He would talk about what he saw and felt, and 
in so doing reveal himself to be, I thought, remarkably intuitive and 
perceptive. Yet, he insisted to me on numerous occasions that what he 
noticed other migrant children also notice, and no less rapidly than he. 
"I'm a big talker" he told me after one of our "big talks. " His younger 
brother, Tom, would see the same things, though, when he went to school; 
he might not put what he sees into words, or even be fully aware of what 
he senses happening, but he would know it all, know the hurt and loneliness 
and isolation and sadness, know it all in the bones, in the heart, in the 
back of his mind -- wherever such knowledge is stored by human beings. 
So Peter believed, or so I believe he believed, on the basis of his obser- 
vations and remarks and complaints and questions, all shared with me 
during the two years we conversed -- in Florida and North Carolina and 
Virginia and upstate New York, each of which claims to offer children 
like Peter what every American child presumably is entitled to as a birth- 
right, a free public education: "I always am a little scared when I try a 
new school, yes; but I try to remember that I won't be there long, and if 
it's no good, I'm not stuck there, like the kids who live there. We'll come 
in and they'll tell you you're special, and they'll do what they can to make 
you good, to clean you up, they'll say, and to give you better habits, they'll 
say. I don't like those kinds of teachers and schools that they're in. 


"Yes, I met one today. She wasn't worse than the last one, 
but she wasn't better, either. We could tell. She started in with what 
we had on, and how we could at least clean our shoes, even if they 
weren't good, and all that; and I said in my mind that I wish I was out- 
side, fishing maybe, or doing anything but listening to her. Then I 
recalled my daddy saying it would only be two or three weeks, so I 
didn't get bothered, no. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she 
asked me where I was from, and I told her, and she asked me what I was 
going to school for, and I told her -- that it was because I had to -- and 
she smiled. (1 think it was because I said what she was thinking, and she 
was glad, so she smiled. ) I told myself later that if I'd gone and told her 
that I was there at school because I wanted to be a teacher, like her, or 
even the principal, then she'd have come after me with the ruler or the 
pointer she has in her hand all the time. Well, I figure we'll get a good 
rest there, and the chairs are good, and they give you the milk and 
cookies, and my momma says that's worth the whole day, regardless of 
what they say, but I think she's wrong, real wrong. 

"To me a good school is one where the teacher is friendly, and 
she wants to be on your side, and she'll ask you to tell the other kids some 
of the things you can do, and all you've done -- you know, about the crops, 
and like that. There was one teacher like that, and I think it was up North, 
in New York it was. She said that so long as we were there in the class 
she was going to ask everyone to join us, that's what she said, and we could 


teach the other kids what we know and they could do the same with us. 
She showed the class where we travelled, on the map, and I told my daddy 
that I never before knew how far we went each year, and he said he couldn't 
understand why I didn't know, because I did the travelling all right, with 
him, and so I should know. But when you look on the map, and hear the 
other kids say they've never been that far, and they wish someday they 
could, then you think you've done something good, too -- and they'll tell 
you in the recess that they've only seen where they live and we've been 
all over. I told my daddy what they said, and he said it sure was true, 
that we've been all over, and he hopes the day will come when we'll be in 
one place, but he sure doubts it, and if I wanted I could tell the teacher 
he said so -- but I didn't. I don't think she'd know how to answer daddy, 
except to say she's sorry, and she's already told us that, yes she did, 
right before the whole class. She said we had a hard life, that's what, 
the people who do the picking of the crops, and she wanted us to know that 
she was on our side, and she wanted to help us learn all we could, because 
it would be better for us later, the nnore we knew, and maybe most of us 
would find a job and keep it, and there'd be no more people following the 
crops all over, from place to place, and it would be better for America, 
she said. Then she asked if I agreed, and I didn't say one way or the 
other, and she asked me to just say what I thought, and I did. I said I'd 
been doing enough of travelling, and I'd seen a lot of places, and I wouldn't 
mind stopping for a change, no ma'am, and if we just stayed there, in 


that town, and I could go to school there -- well, that would be alright 
by me, and it would be better than some of the other places we stop, I 
could say that right off, a real lot better. 

"There'll be times when 1 wish I'd have been born one of the 
other kids, yes sir; that's how I sometimes think, yes. Mostly, it's when 
the teacher is good to you -- then you think you'd like to stay. If the 
teacher is bad, and the kids don't speak to you, then you want to go 
away and never come back, and you're glad that you won't stay there too 
long. Now scnool is good, because it's a good school and they pays 
attention to you; most of the time though, in other schools, you just sit J 

there, and you want to sleep. Suddenly the teacher will ask you what 
you're thinking, and you tell her the truth, that you don't know. Then 
she'll ask you what you want to be, and I don't know what to answer, so 
I say I'd like to work like my daddy at the crops, and maybe one day get 
a job in the city, and stay there. Then they'll tell you to study hard, the 
teachers, but they don't give you much to do, and they'll keep on asking I 

you how the crops are coming, and how long you'll be there, and when 
are you going to be going, and like that. Sometimes I won't go to school. 
I tell my momma that I'm not going and can I help take care of my brothers 
and can I help in the field, or anything, and she'll say yes, mostly, unless 
she thinks the police will be getting after me, for not being in school -- 
but most of the time they don't care, and they'll tell you you're doing good 
to be :aring for your brother and working. Yes sir, they'll drive by and 


wave and they don't seem to mind if you're not in school. Once a 
policeman asked me if I liked school and I said sometimes I did and then 
he said I was wasting my tinne there, because you don't need a lot of 
reading and writing to pick the crops, and if you get too much of schooling, 
he said, you start getting too big for your shoes, and cause a lot of 
trouble, and then you'll end up in jail, pretty fast and never get out if you 
don't watch your step -- never get out. " 

Peter seeks consolation from such a future; and he often finds 
it by looking back to earlier years and occasions. In his own brief life 
as a young child, a young migrant, a young boy of, say, eight or nine or 
ten, he has begun to find that the one possession he has and cannot lose is 
yesterday, the old days, the experiences that have gone but remain -- and 
remain not only in the mind's memories and dreams, but in the lives of 
others, those brothers or sisters who are younger and who present a child 
like Peter with themselves, which means all the things they do that remind 
Peter of what he once did and indeed can continue to do as the older brother 
become a companion of younger children. I found myself concluding and in 
my notes emphasizing all of that, Peter's tendency to go back, to flee the 
present for the sake of the past. After all, I had to repeat to myself again 
and again, Peter finds school useless or worse. He finds his parents tired 
and distracted or worse. He finds himself at loose ends: I am a child, yet 
today I can work, tomorrow I may be told I'm to attend school, the next day 
I'll be on the road again and unsure where I shall soon be, when I shall 


again be still for a while -- sitting on the ground, that is, or in a cabin, 
rather than upon the seat of a car or a bus. In the face of such uncertainties, 
earlier moments and ways and feelings become things (if such is the word) 
to be tenaciously grasped and held. And so, Peter will help pick beans, 
and do a very good job at moving up and down the rows, but soon thereafter 
be playing on his hands and knees with his younger brothers, and sucking 
lollipops with them and lying under a tree and crawling about and laughing 
with them. His mother in her own way takes note of what happens, and 
needs no prodding from any observer to describe the sequence of events: 
"I think stooping for those beans can go to your head. You get dizzy after 
a day of it, and you want to go down on your back and stretch yourself all 
you can and try to feel like yourself again, and not all curled up on yourself. 
If Peter goes along with his daddy and me and does the stooping and picking, 
then he'll be real tired at the end of the day, and it seems he wants to be 
like my little ones -- and I say to myself if it'll help him feel any better, 
after all that work, then Lord he can do what he likes, and if I had it in me 
to keep them all little babies, then I'd do it, because that's when they're 
truly happiest, yes sir. " 

Yet, it turns out that her children and thousands of other migrant 
children are not very happy for very long; actually, many of those children 
have a hard time understanding the many contradictions that plague their 
lives. For one thing, as already indicated, migrant children of two or three 


in some respects are allowed a good deal of active, assertive freedom. 
They are encouraged to care for one another, but also encouraged to fend 
for themselves -- go exploring in the woods or the fields, play games almost 
anywhere and anytime, feel easy and relaxed about ime, about schedules, 
about places where things are done and routines that give order to the doing 
of those things. Again and again I have seen migrant children leave their 
cabins for the day and return any time, when and if they pleased -- to get 
themselves a bottle of pop and make for themselves a meal of "luncheon 
meat" and bread and potato chips, or often enough, potato chips and potato 
salad and coke, period. At the same time, however, those very children 
are also taught obedience and a real and powerful kind of fatalism: one 
can only go here, do that, and most of all, submit to the rigors and demands 
and confusion and sadness of travel -- always the travel, inevitably the 
travel, endlessly the travel, all of which can amount to a rather inert and 
compliant and passive life. By the same token, the child is both told the 
grim facts of his particular life, but also given dozens of stories and 
excuses and explanations and promises whose collective function, quite 
naturally and humanly, is to blunt the awful, painful edges of that very 
life. It can even be said that migrant children obtain and learn to live with 
an almost uncanny mixture of realism and mysticism. It is as if they must 
discover how difficult their years will be, but also acquire certain places of 
psychological and spiritual refuge. Naturally, each family has its own 
particular mixture of sentiment and hard facts to offer and emphasize, 
even as each child makes for himself his very own nature; he becomes 


a blend of the assertive and the quiet, the forceful and the subdued, the 
utterly realistic and the strangely fanciful. What I ann saying, of course, 
goes for all children, but at the same time I must insist that migrant 
children have a very special psycholosi'-? 1 fatp -- and one that is un- 
usually hard for them to endure. 

For example, I mentioned earlier that migrant children tend 
to be close to one another, tend to care very much for one another, tend 
almost to absorb themselves in one another, and certainly -- the first 
observation one like me makes when he comes to know them -- tend to touch 
one another, constantly and reassuringly and unselfconsciously and most of 
the time rather tenderly. At the same time those same children, so literally 
touching to each other, can appear more and more untonched -- indifferent, 
tired, bored, listless, apathetic, and finally, most ironically, isolated 
physically as well as psychologically. Many of them, unlike the boy Peter 
just discussed, abandon themselves to a private world that is very hard 
for any outsiders to comprehend, even a mother or father. School means 
nothing, is often forsaken completely, even the pretense of going. Friends 
are an affair of the moment, to be forsaken and lost amid all the disorder 
and turmoil and instability that goes with one move after another. Sports, 
organized and progressively challenging sports, are unknown. Needless 
to say, the migrant child does not go to restaurants, theatres, movies, 
museums, zoos and concerts; nor do those televevision sets he watches 
work very well; they are old and half-broken to start with, purchased 
second-hand (with a bit of luck) on a never-ending installment basis, and 


in addition, as Peter's mother puts it, "way out in the country you can't 
pick up the pictures, " particularly when there is no antenna, and the set 
has been bouncing around for miles and miles, as indeed have its owners. 

It is hard to convey such experiences, such a world, to those 
who don't see it and feel it and smell it and hear it. It is even harder to 
describe that world as it is met and apprehended and suffered by hundreds 
of thousands of parents and children. I say this not as a preliminary 
exercise in self-congratulation -- what is hard is being done and therefore 
deservets admiration -- but to warn myself and the reader alike, particu- 
larly at this point, against the temptation of psychological categorization, 
the temptation to say that migrant children are this or that, are "active" 
or "passive, " resort to excessive "denial" and too many "rationalizations" 
and "projections" or resort to an almost brutal kind of realism, a kind of 
self-confrontation so devoid of humor and guile and hope and patience as 
to be a caricature of the analysis the rest of us value, be it psychological 
or political or philosophical. Put differently, I am saying that miorant 
children are many things, and do many things with their brief and rela- 
tively sad lives. They can be ingenious and foolish. They can have all 
sorts of illusions, and they can speak about themselves with alnnost un- 
bearable candor and severity and gloom. They can feel disgusted with 
their lot, or they can pay no attention to it, simply endure what has to be; 
or they can romp and laugh and shout, even though th«ir observer knows 


how close to the surface are the tears (and fears) and how over-worked 
even the fun seems at times -- the kind of thing, of course, that can 
happen to all of us. 

In a sense, as I write about these young children I am lost, 

and want to be. I want to emphasize how literally extraordinary, and in 

fact {*S5»«: extraordinarily cruel their lives are: the constant mobility; 

the leave-takings and the fearful arrivals; the demanding work even they, 
let alone their parents, often manage to do; the extreme hardship that 
goes with a meagre (at best) income; the need always to gird oneself for 
the next slur, the next sharp rebuke, the next reminder that one is dif- 
ferent and distinctly unwanted, except, naturally, for the work that has 
to be done in the fields. I also want to emphasize that extrennely hard- 
pressed people can find their own painful, heavy-hearted way, can learn 
to make that way as bearable as possible and can laugh not only because 
they want to cry (that, too) and not only in bitter, ironic resignation (the 
kind melancholy philosophers allow themselves to express with a wan 
smile) but because it has been possible, after all the misery and chaos, 
yes it has been possible to carve a little joy out of the world. I suppose 
I mean that life is peculiarly and unspeakably bad for migrant farmers, 
but that they are, finally -- well, human. That is to say, they make do, 
however sullenly and desperately and wildly and innocently and shrewdly, 
and they teach their children unsystematically but persistently that they, 
too, must survive -- somehow, some way, against whatever odds. 


Peter's mother, over the years has essentially told me 
about that, about the facts of survival, not because I asked her what she 
has in mind v/hen she punishes or praises her children, or tells them one 
or another thing, but because she constantly does things -- for, with, to -- 
her children and in a moment of quiet conversation her deeds, thousands 
of them done over many, many years, sort themselves out and find their 
own pattern, their own sense, their own words -- oh, not perfect or 
eminently logical or completely consistent words, but words that offer 
vision and suggest blindness and offer confidence and suggest anxiety, 
words, in other words, that qualify as the responses of a hard-working 
and God-fearing mother who won't quite surrender but also fears she 
won't quite avoid a terrible and early death: "I worry every day -- it'll, 
be a second sometime in the morning or in the afternoon or most likely 
before I drop off to sleep. I worry that my children will wake up one 
time and find I'm gone. It might be the bus will go crashing, or the car 
or the truck on the way to the farm, or it might be I've just been called 
away from this bad world by God, because He's decided I ought to have 
a long, long rest, yes sir. Then I'll stop and remind myself that I can't 
die, not just yet, because there's the children, and it's hard enough for 
them, yes it is -- too hard, if you ask me. Sometimes I'll ask myself 
why it has to be so hard, and why can't we just live like other people 
you see from the road, near their houses, you know. But who can question 
the Lord, that's what I think. The way I see it, I've got to do the best I 
can for my children, all of them. So, I keep on telling them they've 


got to be good, and take care of each other, and mind me and do what I 
says. And I tell them I don't want them getting smart ideas, and trying 
to be wild and getting into any trouble, because you know -- well, the 
way I sees the world, if you're born on the road, you'll most likely have 
to stay with it, and they're not going to let go of you, the crew -man and 
the sheriff and like that, and if they did, we'd be at a loss, because you 
go into the city, I hear, and it's worse than anything that ever was, that's 
what we hear all the time. 

"I'm trying to make my children into good children, that's 
what. I'm trying to make them believe in God, and listen to Him and obey 
His Commandments. I'm trying to have them pay me attention, and my 
husband, their daddy, pay him attention, and I'd like for all of them to 
know what they can, and grow into good people, yes, and be a credit to 
their daddy and me. I knows it's going to be hard for them, real bad at 
times, it gets. I tell them that, and I tell them not to be too set on things, 
not to expect that life is going to be easy. But I tell them that every man, 
he's entitled to rest and quiet some of the time, and we all can pray and 

hope it'll get better. And I tell them it used to be we never saw any money 

C , 

at all, and they'd send you up in those small trucks, but now thy'll pay you 


some, and we most often have a car -- we lose it, yes sir, when there's 
no work for a few weeks and then we're really in trouble -- and we have 
more clothes now than we ever before had, much more, because most of 


my children, they have their shoes now, and clothes good enough for 
church, most of the time. So you can't just feel sorry about things, 
because if you do, then you'll just be sitting there and not doing anything -- 
and crying, I guess. Sometimes I do; I'll wake up and I'll find my eyes are 
all filled up with tears, and I can't figure out why, no sir. I'll be getting 
up, and I'll have to wipe away my eyes, and try to stop it, so the children 
don't think something is wrong, and then, you know, they'll start in, too. 
(Yes, that has happened a few times, until I tell us all to go about and do 
something , and stop, stop the crying right away.) 

"You can't spend your one and only life wishing you had another 
life instead of the one you've got. I tell myself that, and then the tears 
stop; and if the children are complaining about this or that -- well, I tell 
them that, too. I tell them it's no use complaining, and we've got to go 
on, and hope the day will come when it's better for us, and maybe we'll 
have a place to rest, and never again have to 'go on the season' and move 
and keep on moving and get ourselves so tired that we start the day in with 
the crying. Yes, sir, I believe I cry when I'm just so tired there isn't 
anything else to do but cry. Or else it's because I'll be waking up and I 
know what's facing us, oh I do, and it just will be too much for me to 
think about, so I guess I go and get upset, before I even know it, and then 
I have to pinch myself, the way my own momma used to do, and talk to 
myself the way she would, and say just like her: 'There's no use but to 
go on, and someday we'll have our long, good rest. ' Yes sir, that's 


what she used to say, and that's what I'll be saying on those bad mornings; 
and you know, I'll sometimes hear my girl telling herself the same thing, 
and I'll say to myself that it's good she can do it now, because later on 
she'll find herself feeling low, and then she'll have to have a message to 
tell herself, or else she'll be in real bad trouble, real bad trouble. " 

Mothers like her possess an almost uncanny mixture of will- 
fulness and sadness. Sometimes they seem to do their work almost in 
spite of themselves; yet at other times they seem to take the sad and 
burdensome things of life quite in stride. As they themselves ask, what 
else can they do? The answer, of course, is that complete disintegration 
can always be an alternative -- helped along by cheap wine, and the hot 
sun and the dark, damp corners of those cabins, where one can curl up 
and for all practical purposes die. Migrant mothers know all that, know 
the choices they have, the possibilities that life presents. Migrant mothers 
also know what has to be done -- so that the children, those many, many 
children will at least eat something, will somehow get collected and 
moved and brought safely to the new place, the new quarters, the next stop 
or spot or farm or camp or field, to name a few destinations such mothers 
commonly mention when they talk to me about what keeps them in half-good 
spirits. I will, that is, ask how they feel, and how they and their children 
are getting along, and they will answer me with something like this: "I'm 
not too bad, no sir, I'm not. We keeps going, yes sir, we do. If you don't 
keep going, you're gone, I say. You have to keep moving and so you don't 


have time to stop and get upset about things. There's always another 
spot to get to, and no sooner do you get there -- well, then you have to 
get yourself settled. There'll be yourself to settle and there'll be the kids 
and their daddy, too, and right off the work will be there for you to do, in 
the fields and with the kids, too. So, the way I see it, a mother can't let 
herself be discouraged. She's got to keep herself in good spirits, so her 
children, they'll be doing fine; because if I'm going to get all bothered, 
then sure enough my kids will, and that won't be good for them or me 
neither, I'll tell you. That's why I never lets myself get into a bad spell. " 

Actually, she does indeed get into bad spells, spells of moodi- 
ness and suspicion and petulance and rage, and so do her children from 
time to time, particularly as they grow older and approach the end of 
childhood. By definition life for migrants is a matter of travel, of move- 
ment; and their children soon enough come to know that fact, which means 
they get to feel tentative about people and places and things. Anything 
around is only precariously theirs. Anything soon to come will just as 
soon disappear. Anything left just had to be left. As a matter of fact, 
life itself moves, moves fast and without those occasions or ceremonies 
that give the rest of us a few footholds. The many young migrant children 
I have observed and described to myself as agile, curious, and inventive 
are, by seven or eight, far too composed, restrained, stiff and sullen. 
They know even then exactly where they must go, exactly what they must 
do. They no longer like to wander in the woods, or poke about near 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-6 


swamps. When other children are just beginning to come into their own, 
just beginning to explore and search and take over a little of the earth, 
migrant children begin to lose interest in the world outside them. They 
stop noticing animals or plants or trees or flowers. They don't seem to 
hear the world's noises. To an outside observer they might seem inward, 
morose, drawn and tired. Certainly some of those qualities of mind and 
appearance have to do with the poor food migrant children have had, with 
the accumulation of diseases that day after day cause migrant children 
pain and weakness. Yet, in addition, there is a speed, a real swiftness 
to migrant living that cannot be overlooked, and among migrant children 
particularly the whole business of growing up goes fast, surprisingly 
fast, awfully fast, grimly and decisively fast. At two or three, migrant 
children see their parents hurry, work against time, step on it, get a 
move on. At three or four those same children can often be impulsive, 
boistrous, eager, impatient in fact, and constantly ready -- miraculously 
so, an observer like me feels -- to lose no time, to make short work of 
what is and turn to the next task, the next ride. 

However, at six or eight or ten something else has begun to 
happen; children formerly willing to make haste and take on things 
energetically, if not enthusiastically, now seem harried as they hurry, 
breathless and abrupt as they press on. I do not think I am becoming 
dramatic when I say that for a few (first) feverish years migrant children 


are hard-pressed but still (and obviously) quick, animated -- tenacious 
of life is perhaps a way to say it. Between five and ten, though, those 
same children experience an ebb of life, even a loss of life. They move 
along alright; they pick themselves up again and again, as indeed they 
were brought up to do, as their parents continue to do, as they will soon 
(all too soon) be doing with their own children. They get where they're 
going, and to a casual eye they seem active enough, strenuous workers 
in the field, on their toes when asked something, called to do something. 
Still, their mothers know different; their mothers know that a change is 
taking place, has taken place, has to take place; their mothers know that 
life is short and brutish, that one is lucky to live and have the privilege of 
becoming a parent, that on the road the days merge terribly, that it is a 
matter of rolling on, always rolling on. So they do that, the mothers, go 
headlong into the days and nights, obey the commands of the seasons and 
pursue the crops; and meanwhile, somewhere inside themselves, they 
make their observations and their analyses, they take note of what happens 
to theinselves and their children: "My little ones, they'll be spry and 
smart, yes they will be; but when they're older -- I guess you'd say 
school-age, but they're not all the time in school, I'll have to admit -- 
then they're different, that's what I'd say. They'll be drowsy, or they 
won't be running around much. They'll take their time and they'll slouch, 
you knov.-. They'll loaf around and do only what they think they've got to 
do. I guess - well, actually, I suppose they're just getting grown, that's 


what it is . My boy, he's the one just nine this season, he used to be up 
and doing things before I even knew what he was aiming to do; but now he'll 
let no one push him, except if he's afraid, and even then, he'll be pulling 
back all he can, just doing enough to get by. The crew-leader, he said 
the boy will be 'another lazy picker' and I stood up and spoke back. I 
said we gets them in, the beans, don't we and what more can he want, for 
all he pays us? I'll ask you? I guess he wants our blood. That's what I 
think it is he wants, and if he sees my children trying to keep some of 
their blood to themselves, then he gets spiteful about them and calls them 
all his names like that; and there isn't anything you can do but listen and 
try to go on and forget. " 

She tries to go on and forget. So do her children, the older 
they get. Once wide awake, even enterprising, they slowly become 
dilatory, leaden, slow, laggard and lumpish. Necessarily on the move 
a lot, thev vet appear motionless. Put to work in the fields, they seem 
curiously unoccupied. The work gets done (and by them) yet they do not 
seem to work. I suppose I am saying that older migrant children begin 
to labor, to do what they must do if they are not to be without a little 
money, a little food; but at the same time the work is not done in a dili- 
gent, painstaking and spirited way. It is done, all that hard, demanding 
work; the crops get taken in. What one fails to see, however, is a sense 
of real purpose and conviction in the older children who, like their parents, 
have learned ttiat their fate is of no real concern to others. The point is 
survival: mere survival at best; survival against great odds; survival 


that never is assured and that quite apparently exacts its costs. If I 
had to sum up those costs in a few words I would probably say: care is 
lost; the child stops caring, hardens himself or herself to the coming 
battle, as it is gradually but definitely comprehended, and tries to hold 
on, persist, make it through the next trip, the next day, the next row of 

So, all year round, all day long, hour after hour, migrants 
stoop or reach for vegetables and fruit, which they pull and pick and cut 
and at the same time those migrants settle into one place or prepare the 
move to another; and at the same time those migrants try to be parents, 
try stubbornly to do what has to be done -- feed the children and get them 
to listen and respond and do this rather than that (and now rather than 
later). I have described the determination that goes into such a life -- of 
travel and fear and impoverishment and uncertainty. I have described the 
first and desperate intimacy many migrant children experience with their 
mothers. I have described the migrant child's developing sense of his 
particular world -- its occasional pleasures, its severe restrictions, its 
constant flux, its essential sameness. To do so I have drawn upon what 
can actually be considered the best, the most intact, of the people I have 
seen and heard. After all, when parents and children together live the 
kind of life most migrants do, it seems a little miraculous that they even 
half-way escape the misery and wretchedness -- that is, manage to con- 
tinue and remain and last, last over the generations, last long enough to 
work and be observed by me or anyone else. 


There is, though, the misery; and it cannot be denied its 
importance, because not only bodies, but minds suffer out of hunger and 
untreated illness; and that kind of psychological suffering also needs to be 
documented. Nor can an observer like me allow his shame and guilt and 
horror and outrage and sympathy and pity and compassion to turn ex- 
hausted, careworn, worried, suffering people into brave and honorable 
and courageous fighters, into heroes of sorts, who, though badly down on 
their luck, nevertheless manage to win out --at least spiritually and 
psychologically. I fear that rather another kind of applause is in order, 
the kind that celebrates the struggle that a doomed man nevertheless at 
least tries to make. I fear that migrant parents and even migrant children 
do indeed become what some of their harshest and least forgiving critics 
call them: listless, apathetic, hard to understand, disorderly, subject 
to outbursts of self-injury and destructive violence toward others, and on 
and on. I fear that it is no small thing, a disaster almost beyond repair, 
when children grow up, literally, adrift the land, when they learn as a 
birthright the disorder and early sorrow that goes with virtual peonage, 
with an unsettled, vagabond life. In other words, I fear I am talking about 
millions of psychological catastrophes, the nature of which has also been 
spelled out to me by migrant parents and migrant children. The father of 
six of those children -- both a hard worker and a beaten and sad man -- can 
talk and talk about his failures and his over-riding sense of defeat, about 
his sense of ruin at the hands of a relentless and compelling fate whose 


judgement upon him and those near him and like him simply cannot be 

stayed: "There will be a time, you know, when I'll ask myself what I 

ever did -- maybe in some other life -- to deserve this kind of deal. You 

know what I mean? I mean I feel there must be someone who's decided 

you should live like this, for something wrong that's been done. I don't 

know. I can't say it any other way. All I know is that it's no life, trying 

to pick beans on fifty farms all over the country, and trying to make sure 

your kids don't die, one after the other. Sometimes we'll be driving along 

and I say to myself that there's one thing I can do to end all of this for 

good, and it would save not only me but the children a lot of hardship, a 

lot. But you can't do that; I can't, at least. So, instead I go and lose my 

mind. You've seen me, yes you have; and I know I'm going to do it. I 

start with the wine, when I'm working, just so the hours will go faster, 

and I won't mind bending over -- the pain to my back -- and I won't mind 

the heat. There'll be days when I work right through, and there'll be days 

when I stop in the middle of the day, because I don't want to get sick. But 

there will be other days when I hear myself saying that I've got to let go, 

I've just got to. I've got to get so drunk that I'm dead, dead in my mind, 

and then if I live after it, that's fine, and I never wake up, that's fine, too. 

It's not for me to decide, you see. We can't decide on anything, being on 

the road, and owing everything to the crew-leaders and people like that. 

The only thing we can decide, my daddy used to tell me, is whether we'll 

stay alive or whether we won't. He said no matter what, we should keep 


going; but he got killed when the bus that was taking him and .i lot of others 
got stalled right on a railroad track and it was crushed into little pieces by 
the train. I'll think of him, you know, when I get full of wine. I'll think of 
him telling me that you can't figure out what's the reason the world is like 
it is; you can only try to keep from dying, and it may take you your entire 
life to do that -- and I guess he didn't expect that suddenly he'd be gone, 
after all the work he put in, just to stay alive. " 

His wife has some observations to make about him and the 
effort he makes to stay alive: "My husband, he's a good man a lot of the 
time. He never talks about the children, not even to me, but he loves 
them, I know he does. Once he told me that it hurts him every time one 
of our children is born, because he knows what's ahead for them. You 
know something? Each time, with each child, he's gone and got worse 
drunk than any other time. I don't know why, just that it's happened. He 
almost killed me and all the children the last time. He had a knife and he 
said he might use it. Then he took us all in the car; he made us get in, 
and he said if I didn't go along with him, he'd kill me, and if I did, there 
was a chance I'd live, and the children, too. So, I did, and he drove with 
his foot pressing on the gas all the way down. I could hear him trying to 
go faster, pushing on the pedal and trying to force it, and thank God the 
floor of the car wouldn't let him have his way. Well, he cursed us all, 
but most of all himself. He was after himself. He was chasing himself. 
He kept on saying that he had to catch himself and he had to get a hold on 


himself, and if he didn't, then he might as well die. In between, he'd tell 
us we were all going to die, and the sooner the better, because the only 
way for us to have peace, to have rest, was to die. There was no other 
way, he kept on shouting that to us. 

"Then I must have lost my mind, like he had lost his. I 
started crying, and I can remember screaming to God please to turn my 
husband and me and the children away from Him, because it wasn't time 
yet, no it wasn't, for us to see Him. Then I crawled down, I reached 
down, I don't remember how I did, and pulled his foot away from the gas, 
and he didn't try to put it back, no he didn't; and the car went on and on, 
and then it began to slow down, and then it stopped, and then before he had 
a change of mind, I got out and I got all of us out, all except him, and we 
didn't leave him, though. (Where could we go? I didn't know where we 
were, and it dark. ) We spread ourselves down nearby to the car, 
and we tried to rest. I looked up at the sky and I couldn't forget it for the 
rest of my life, what I saw then and what I thought, no sir, I couldn't. When 
I die I knov. I'll be thinking like that and I'll be seeing like that: there was 
the sky, and it was dark, but the rnoon was there, almost round, and it 
hung low, real low, and it was colored funny, orange I guess; and all the 
stars were there, all over, everywhere it seemed. I'd never looked long 
enough to see so many stars, even though we do a lot of travelling, and 
we 're up through the night, and you might have thought I'd have noticed 
them, all the stars, before. But moving across the country, you forget 


about the sky, I guess. (I told my boy that, a few days later I did, that 
we shouldn't forget the sky, because we're going along underneath it a lot 
of the time, and he said that maybe we forget it because it's like a roof to 
us, and that if you're under a roof, you never look at it. ) 

"While I was staring up there at the sky, I thought I heard some- 
thing, a noise. It was the wind, I know, but to me it was God, it was God 
as well as the wind, and He was there, speaking right into both my ears, 
telling me to stay where I was, with the children, and near my husband, 
and He was looking over us, yes, and He'd see that the day would come 
when we'd have a homer"a home that was ours, and that we'd never leave, 


and that we'd have '<6t for as long as God Himself is with us, and that's for- 
ever, you know. Maybe it would be up in one of those stars, one of the 
bright ones, one of the bright stars, maybe the home would be there, I 
thought -- and then I saw one, a real bright star, and I said that's it, 
that's maybe where we would all go, but not until it's the right time, not 
a second before, and I was glad then that we stayed around, and didn't all 
die, and I'm still glad. 

"Oh, not all the time, I'm not all the time glad, I'll admit 
that. I was glad then, when my husband woke up, and he said he was 
sorry and he v as glad, and he'd try to be good and not lose himself on 
account of wine. I was glad later, too. Most of the time I'm glad, 
actually. It's just sometimes I don't feel glad. I don't feel glad at all. 
Like my husband, I sometimes feel myself going to pieces; yes sir, 


that's how it feels, like you're going to pieces. Once I was real bad -- 
real, real bad -- and I thought I'd die because I was in such a bad way. 
I recall I' d have the same dreann every sing le night, even every time I 
put my head down, it seemed. It got so that I was scared to sleep, real 
scared. I'd try sitting up and resting, but not closing my eyes. After a 
while they'd close, though, and then it would come again, and the next 
thing I'd know I'd be waking up and shouting and crying and screaming, 
and sometimes I'd be standing up and even I'd be running around wherever 
we were staying, and my husband would be shaking at me, or my children, 
they'd by crying and telling me no, no, no it wasn't so and don't be scared, 
momma, and it'll be all right, they'd say. But I never believed them when 
I first woke up, it would take me an hour or so, I'd guess, to shake myself 
free of that dream, and I'd never really forget it, even when I'd be working. 
I'd be pulling the beans and putting them in the haniper, and I'd feel myself 
shaking, and there'd be someone nearby and she'd say, 'Martha, you took 
too much of that wine last night;' and I'd say no, I didn't touch a single drop, 
not last night or any other night for a long, long time. I wouldn't tell nobody, 
except my husband, but it was this dream I was having, and thank God now 
it's left me, but I can still see it, if I want to. 

"There was a road, that's how the dream started, and it was 
all smoothed out and kept clean, and if you looked down on it you'd see 
yourself, like it was a mirror or something placed on the top of the road. 
I'd be standing there, and all of a sudden I'd see one car after the other 


coming, and inside the car would be one of my little ones, then there'd 
be the next child, and the next one, and each one had a car all to himself, 
and they'd be going down the road, almost as though they were going to go 
racing one another or something. But all of a sudden they'd explode, the 
cars would, one and then another, and soon they'd all be gone, and I 
couldn't find the sight of my children, and I'd still be standing there, 
where I was all the time, and I'd be shaking, whether in the dream or when 
I was waking up, I don't know. More than anything else, what hurt me was 
that the last thing that happened in the dream was that I'd see myself, 
standing on the road. I'd be looking down, and I could see <ny new child -- 
yes, there'd be one I'd be carrying, and I'd be near the time to have the 
baby, and I'd be big and I'd be seeing myself, like in a mirror, like I said. 
But I'd have no other of my children left. They'd all be gone; and my 
husband, he'd be gone; and there'd be me, and my baby, not born yet, 
and that would be all. No, there'd be no cars, either. They'd all have 
gone and exploded, I guess. " 

How is such a dream to be analysed or interpreted or made to 
explain something about her, about her wishes and fears and worries, about 
those things the rest of us would call her "psychological problems?" Why 
did the dream plague her then, seize control of her mind for those few 
weeks, then leave her, never to return? For all the world that separates 
her from me, for all her naivete (as it is put by people like me when we 
talk about certain other people) and my sophistication (as it is also put by 
people like me when we talk about ourselves) we could pursue the meaning 


of her dream without too much self-consciousness, and with a minimum; 
of theoretical contrivance, density or speculation. For several years, 
on and off, I had been telling her that I wanted to know how her children 
felt, how their spirits held up (or didn't) and she knew -- right from the 
start, really -- what I meant. In fact, once she told me what I meant: 
"I know. You want to see if they're scared, or if they're not. You want 
to see if they feel good, or if they feel lousy, real lousy -- the way I 
guess their mother does a lot of the time!" So, the dream did not puzzle 
her all that much, only frighten her a lot, make her tremble, because at 
night she couldn't; -^scape what by day sne knew, could not help knowing -- 
at every "level" of her mind, in her unconscious and in her sub-conscious 
and in her preconscious and in the thoroughly conscious part of her mind 
and yes, in her bones and her heart: "I'm always thinking, when I get 
ready to have another baby, that I wish I could be a better mother to them, 
and give them a better life to be born into than the one they're going to get 
on account of being my children, and not some other mother's. It's the 
worst of being a mother, knowing you can't offer your babies much, knowing 
there isn't much to offer them -- there's really nothing, to be honest, but 
the little milk you have and the love you can give them, to start them off 
with. I know it's going to be bad for them when they grow up, and some- 
times I wonder why God sends us here, all of us, if He knows how bad it's 
to be. 


"There'll be a moment when I'll look at my children, and I'll 
wonder if they hold it against me for bringing them into this world, to 
live like we do, and not the others, with the money you know, and with 
the places where they can stay and not be always moving. The only rest 
we'll get, I'm afraid, the only rest we'll get is in the grave. Once, a long 
time ago, I said so, to my oldest boy, and he'll now and then repeat it to 
the younger ones. I want to tell him to stop, but I know he's right, and 
they don't get too upset with what he says, even if it's bad, like that. I 
think they sometimes don't really mind dying. God knows, they talk about 
it enough. Maybe it's what they hear from the minister. He's always 
telling us that everyone has to die, and that if you suffer here on earth you 
live longer in Heaven; and one of my girls, she said if that was the way, 
then maybe it was all right to be sick, but when you get to die, then is the 
time you're going to feel better, and not before then, no matter what you 
try to do. " 

Her children see no doctors^ for their various illnesses, and 
they don't actually "try to do" (as she put it) very much at all for them- 
selves when they fall sick. They wait. They hope. Sometimes they say 
their prayers. Their mother also v.aits and hopes and prays, and apparently 
worries, too -- and dreams and forgets her dreams and once, for a number 
of days, couldn't quite forget them, the terrible, terrible dreams that re- 
flect in detail and in symbol the hard, hard life migrants live themselves, 


and see their children also as a matter of course begin to pursue. "I 
wouldn't mind it for myself, " says the mother whose dream stayed with 
her so long, "but it's not good for the children, being 'on the road, ' and 
when we're moving along I'll catch myself thinking I did wrong to bring 
all of them into the world -- yes sir, I did wrong. But you can't think 
like that for too long, no sir, you can't; and I do believe the children, if 
they had their choice between not being born at all and being born and 
living with us.-- well, they'd choose to be themselves, to be with us, even 
if it's not easy for them and us, even so. " 

Sometimes when a mother like the one just quoted made an 
assertion Uke that to me, affirmed herself in spite of everything, said 
that there was after all a point to it all, a point to life, to life pure (and 
swift and unlucky) if not so simple, I felt in her the same questions I could 
not avoid asking myself. What d£ they think, those migrant children -- 
about "life" and its hardships, about the reasons they must constantly 
travel, about the special future that more than likely faces them, in con- 
trast to other American children? Does a migrant child of, say, seven or 
eight blame his parents for the pain he continues to experience, day after 
day, and for the hunger? Does that child see his later life as very much 
Uke his father's or are there other alternatives and possibilities that occur 
to him as he goes about the business of getting bigger and working more 
and more in the fields? "What do you think? " I have heard from the 
mother who was once dream-possessed and from other mothers like her; 
and there does come a time when people like me ought to stop throwing 


questions like that back at the people who ask them (as if we have some 
royal privilege that grants us the right to do so) and spell out what exactly 
(if anything) we do think. 

In my particular work, fortunately, the children -- yes, 
migrant children, too -- have been quite willing to let me know what they 
see and think, what they believe about a number of matters. Like all 
children, they don't necessarily get into extended conversations; they 
don't say a lot, go into wordy descriptions of their moods and fantasies 
and desires and feelings. They do, however, throw out hints; they use 
their faces and their hands; they make gestures and grimaces; they speak 
out, with a phrase here and a series of sentences there. Moreover, it 
has been my experience that they will also use crayons and paints to great 
advantage, so that given enough time and trust the observer (become viewer) 
can see on paper, in outline and in colors and shapes, all sorts of suggestive, 
provocative, and instructive things. When the migrant child then is asked 
a question or two, about this or that he has portrayed, pictured, given form 
and made light or dark -- well, I believe there is a 'ot to be heard in those 
moments, moments in a sense after the deed of creation has been finished, 
moments when thoughts and (more assertively) opinions can emerge from 
something concrete, something done, even something achieved, in this 
case achieved by children not always used to that kind of effort. 

So, the children have drawn pictures, dozens and dozens of 
pictures; particular migrant children whom I came to know for two, maybe 


three, sometimes four years, and whom, at times, I asked to use paper 
and pencils and crayons and paints in whatever way desired or for this or 
that special purpose. I might, for instance, want to see a favorite "spot" 
drawn, a place the child especially liked, a house he might like or a camp 
he didn't like at all. I might want to know about all those schools, about 
how they looked and how they seemed from the inside and how they can be 
compared, one to the other, the good and the bad, the pleasant and the 
very unpleasant. I might be interested in the crops, in which ones are 
good and bad to harvest, and how they look, the beans or the tomatoes or 
the celery or the cucumbers, when they are there, ready and waiting. I 
might ask about the essence of migratory life, about the way the road appears 
to the child, about what there is to be seen and noticed and sought out and 
avoided and enjoyed and shunned on those roads, about what remains in 
a given boy's mind or girl's mind, when all the memories are sorted out, 
and one of them is left -- to be chosen, to be drawn, and then reluctantly 
or shyly or cautiously or openly or even insistently handed to me as "it, " 
as the thing done that was suggested or requested or hinted at or mentioned 
as a possible subject, one of many, but still one pointed out by me, and 
therefore to be done as a favor or in fear, or resisted out of the same 
fear (or anger) or absolutely refused, also out of fear or else confusion 
and often enough resentment. 

What do they see, then -- see in their mind's eye, see casually 
or intensely, see and through pictures enable other to see? Rather 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-7 


obviously, many things are seen, and even drawn or painted; but there 
are, I believe, certain themes that do come up repeatedly, no doubt be- 
cause migrant children share a nuinber of habits and concerns and cares 
and doubts. Tom, for instance, was a seven year old boy when he drew 
for me a rather formless and chaotic and dreary picture (Figure 1) of 
the fields he already knew as a helper to his parents, a harvester really, 
because when he was five I saw him race along those rows of beans -- 
picking, picking, picking. Once in a while he would show his age by 
shouting out his achievements, by pointing to anyone near at hand how 
much he had just done, how experienced he had become. Children we 
all know are often like that, a little enthusiastic and a little boastful. 
They will learn, we tell ourselves, they v.ill learn to take their own 
abilities for granted, to deal less ostentatiously and noisily with them- 
selves and the world. I knew Tom between the ages of five, when he 
started working in the fields, and seven, when he still worked at har- 
vesting crops. I spent a lot of time with him and his family during 
those two years, and since then have made a point of seeing him at 
least several times each year. (At this writing, he is no longer a child; 
he is fourteen and he lives with a woman and he is a father and like his 
parents he is a migrant farm worker -- but that will have to be told 
elsewhere, when I describe the lives of grown-up, yes at fourteen g rown- 
up mig rants^ 


Tom always like^jto draw pictures, and in fact knew enough about 
what some people would call "the problems of representation" to appreciate 
his own failings: "I'm no good. I'll bet some kids can really do a good 
picture for you. Each time I try, but when it's done I can't say it looks 
the way I'd like it to look. It's not like it should be -- real, I mean. I 
know you said it doesn't have to be, but is it a good picture if you have to 
tell someone what you've tried to draw?" Of course I reassured him that 
time, and many other times -- previously and later on. I gave him my 
prepared speech, full of encouragement and friendliness and reassurance 
and praise, all of which, I have to add, I very much meant -- because he 
did try hard, and his vnind had a lot going on "inside" or "deep down, " all 
of which he very much wanted to put on paper and afterwards talk about. 

The fields, the dark, jumbled, confusing, sunless fields -- 
guarded, be it noted, by a black fence and the outlines of some dark face- 
less men -- Tom drew in the picture were nearby when he did the drawingi 

^ bocauoo 

fhey were not in sight, those fields, a strip of pines intervened -- none of 


which appears on the paper -- but as Tom used his crayons he could hear 
all sorts of sounds from the migrants, who were eating their lunches and 
talking and arguing and in the case of one man, singing. Tom worked on 

the grass, used a wooden board I carried around, talked as he drew, 

interrupted his work to eat his lunch. This is perhaps the point for me to 

something about migrant children, a "characteristic" I suppose it could be 

called: in contrast to all other children I have observed and worked with, 


migrant boys and girls are quite willing to interrupt their particular 
tasks -- for instance, the doing of a picture or the playing of various 
games with me -- for any number of reasons. It is not that they are 
agitated or anxious or unable to concentrate and finish wh"' they start. 
It is not that they run about helter-skelter because they are confused or 
alarmed or afraid. It is not that they don't understand what we are 
attempting, and have to move on rather than reveal their lack of com- 
prehension. Yes, some of them, like many other children, do have some 
of the difficulties I have just listed; but I emphatically do not have such 
essentially psychopathological matters in mind when 1 describe the 
apparent willingness of small children to take up a job, an assignment, 
a bit of labor, then leave what is being done for some other obligation or 
duty, which in turn is either finished or left half-finished so that the 
earlier task is once again taken up and in fact completed. Here I believe, 
one has to see the habits of children as vastly responsive to the habits of 
their parents. If parents take in their stride (because they have learned 
they nnust) the necessity for constantly moving from one field to another, 
fronn one responsibility to another, each of which can only be partially 
fulfilled by any given person, and indeed requires a whole field of people, 
then it is only natural that the children of migrants will experience no 
great need to stay with things, work at them endlessly and stubbornly or 
indeed consistently. Always, the child has learned, there is the next 
place, the next journey, the next occasion. The fields are there, being 


•worked on when the child arrives with his parents. The fields are still 
there, and often enough still being worked on when the child with his 
family leaves -- for another location, another cycle of arrival and 
initiative and involvement and exhaustion and departure, in the words of 
the Bible, words that in my opinion convey exactly what thousands of 
children feel, "world without end. " 

If Tom can distract himself, say, for candy and coke, yet return 
and finish what he has started, he can also do a quick turn of drawing or 
sketching and pause for discussion, which itself can be a pleasant dis- 
traction to a child not made anxious at the prospect of abandoning 
thoroughness for the sake of a whim, a change of direction or action: 
"I'd like to stop for a second, because when we're travelling on a road 
like that one, we'll have to stop, you know. My daddy, he says that a 
field isn't so bdd when you're resting on it; it's only when you're picking 
that a field is so bad. No, most of the time we don't stop by the road. My 
daddy, he says you can get into a lot of trouble that way, because the 
police are always looking to see if we're not keeping moving, and if they 
catch you sitting by the road, they'll take you to jail and they won't let 
you out so easy, either. They'll make you promise to get away and never 
come back. They'll tell you that if you're going to be picking, you've got 
to go ahead and pick, and then you've go to get away, fast. That's why 
you have to watch where you're going when you're on the way to a farm, 
and you're not sure where it is. You've got to be careful, and the best 


thing is to follow someone who can lead you there, that's what my daddy 
says. Then, if you have to stop, you can find a path and go down it, and 
you'll be safe, and you won't end up being caught. " 

He does not seenn to regard the fields as very safe or pleasant 
places to be. The more he works on his drawing of the fields, the more 
he seems compelled to talk about the subject: "I like to be moving along. 
If you keep moving you're safer than if you just stop in a field, and some- 
one comes by, and they can ask you what you're doing, and they can tell 
you to get back in the car and go away as fast as the motor will go. Once 
I was really scared, and so was everyone else. We went way down a road 
that we thought was safe, and there was a little pond there, and we went 
and played in it, because they said we could, momma and daddy did. Then 
the man came, he was a foreman my daddy told me afterwards. Then he 
said we would all be arrested and we were no good, and we should be in 
jail and stay there forever. My daddy said we'd go right away, and we did, 
and he said -- the rest of the day he said it over and over -- that you're in 
trouble moving from one state to the other, because the state police, they 
don't like you, and the sheriffs, they don't like you, and you know the fore- 
men, they have badges, and they can arrest you, and they have men with 
guns and they'll come along and hold one right to your ears and your head, 
and they'll tell you that either you work or you move on up the road, and 
if you sit there and try to eat something, or like that, then you'll get your- 
self in jail, and it won't be easy to get out, no sir. That's why it's bad 


luck to stop and rest in a field, and if you see one that has crops, 

then it's bad luck, too -- because you're lucky if you'll have any money 

left, for all the work you do. I don't like fields, that's what I think. " 

What else is there to say about Tom's drawing, about the fields in 

the life 
it; about the migrant life for that matter, he has already become part of? 

Tom looks upon the fields and roads, the fields and roads that never 

really end for families like his, as both fearful and redemptive: "One 

thing I'll tell you, if it's real bad on a farm, if they're watching you too 

close and they don't pay you what they should, then you can sneak away 

in the middle of the night. Even if they have their guards looking over 

where you're staying, the guards will fall asleep and before they wake 

up, you can be on your way, and then you've got a chance to find a better 

place to work. That's why you have to keep your eye on the road, and 

when you leave it to stay in a cabin near a field, or in a tent like we were 

in the last time, then you should always remember the fastest way to the 

main road, and you should point the car so it's ready to go and all you have 

to do is get in thi-> car and start the driving. It wasn't long ago that we did 

that, just packed up and left. We pretended we were asleep for a while, 

in case anyone was looking, and then in the middle of the night we up and 

went, and they probably didn't find out until it was morning, and by then 

we were a long way and my daddy and the others, they checked in with 

this man they knew, and he gave them all work to do, picking beans, and 

he said he was glad to have them, and he'd give them every penny they 


earned, and not to worry -- but my daddy says you never know if you 
should believe them or not, and a lot of the time they'll just double-cross 
you, and go back on their promise, and you're left with almost nothing, 
and there isn't much you can do, so you move on and hope it won't keep 
happening like that, no sir; and sometime it won't either, because you'll 
work, and then they'll pay you right what you deserve, and that makes it 
much better. " 

Does Tom wonder where it will all end, the travel and the new 
places to occupy for ever so short a time? Does he dream of some road 
that will lead to some other way of life? Does the continual motion make 
him grow weary and resentful, in spite of his own words to the contrary? 
Does he think about other children, who live not far from the roads he 
knows so well, children he occasionally, sporadically meets in this school, 
where he attended classes for a month, and that one, which he liked, but 
had to leave after two weeks? I have asked him questions like those, but 
I believe he answers them, in his own way, in many of the drawings he 
does, and often he condenses his answers in a particular drawing -- such 
as this one (Figure 2): "I don't know where that road is going; I mean, no, 
I didn't have a road I was thinking of when I drew. I just made the road, 
and it probably keeps going until it hits the icebergs, I guess. I put some 
little roads in, but you shouldn't leave the road you're going on. I remem- 
ber I asked my daddy once if he knew where the highway ends, the one we 
take North, and he said it probably ended where you get as far North as 


you can get -- and there aren't any crops there, he said, so we'll 
never see the place, but it's very cold there, and maybe a lot of it has 
no people, because it's better to live where it's warmer. I said I'd like 
for us one time to keep going and see an iceberg and see what it's like 
there. My daddy said maybe we would, but he didn't mean it, I could 
tell. A lot of the time I'll ask him if we could go down a road further, 
and see sonne places, and he says yes, we can, but he doesn't want to -- 
my momma says we've got to be careful and we can't keep asking to go 
here and there, because we're not supposed to and we'll get in trouble. 
She says we should close our eyes and imagine that there's a big fence 
on each side of the road, and that we can't get off, even if we wanted to 
and tried to, because of the fence. That's why I put the fence in, a 
little, to keep the car there from getting in trouble with the police. 

"No, I didn't mean for there to be a crash, no. It would be bad 
if one happened. My daddy's brothers, three of them got killed in a 
crash. They were combing back to Florida from up North, from New 
Jersey it was, and the bus, it just hit a truck and a lot of people got 
killed. They say the bus was old, and once down here the brakes stopped 
working, but the crew-leader had it fixed, and it was supposed to be safe. 
They were younger than my daddy, yes sir, and he said he didn't see how 
it could be anything but God's desire, that they should all, all of them, be 
saved forever more from going up and down through the states and never 
being paid enough, except for some food and a place to sleep, and after 


that, they don't give you much money for anything else. I figured that 
if I was picturing the road and nne in the car, I'd put a truck there, too; 
because, you know, we see a lot of trucks and the busses, too, when we 
go through Florida and then up North. But I hope the car and the bus in 
the picture don't crash like they do a lot of the time. 

"Sometimes -- yes, sometimes I think to myself when we're 
passing a town, that I'd like to look through the place and maybe stay 
there -- I mean live there, and not go right on to the next place, I used 
to ask why, I'd ask my momma and my daddy and my uncles, but they all 
said I should stop with the questions, and stop trying to get a lot of reasons 
for things, and like that. In school once, in Florida it was, there was a 
real nice teacher (it was last year) and she said to the class that they 
should all be nice to me and the rest of us, because if people like us didn't 
go around doing the picking, then there'd be no food for everyone to eat -- 
the fruit and vegetables. A girl laughed and said that was a big joke, 
because her daddy had a big farm, and he didn't use any people, just 
machines. I nearly asked her what her daddy was growing, but I didn't. 
I guess I was scared. The teacher didn't do anything. She just said we 
should go on and do our work, and the less trouble in the class the better 
it would be all the way around. I thought afterwards that I'd like to 
follow her home, the girl, and see if she was telling the truth; because 
1 didn't believe her. 


"I asked my daddy, and he said there are some farms like that, 
but not many in Florida, because the farmers need us to pick beans and 
tomatoes, and the machines cost a lot, and you can't get a second crop 
from the plants after the machine. No, I didn't speak to her, and I didn't 
follow her either. I mean, I did for a little while, but I got scared, and 
my friend, he said we'd better turn around or we'd be in jail, and we 
wouldn't get out of there for a long, long time. Then we did, we turned 
around, and when I told my sister (she's ten) she said we were lucky we're 
not there now, in jail, because the police, they keep their eyes on us all 
the time, if we leave the camps or the fields, to go shopping or to school 
or like that. I said one of these days I'd slip by. I'd get me a suit or 
something, and a real shiny pair of shoes, and I'd just walk down the 
street until I came to where they live, the kids that go to that school, and 
if someone came up to me and tried to stop me and if he asked me what I 
was doing, then I'd say I was just looking, and I thought I'd go get some 
ice-cream, and I'd have the money and I'd show it to the policeman, and 
they couldn't say I was trying to steal something, or I was hiding fronn them, 
the policemen and like that. But my sister said they'd just laugh and pick 
me up, like I was a bean or a tomato, and the next thing I'd know I'd be 
there, in jail, and they might never let me out, except if one of the growers 
comes, and he would say it was o. k. if they let me out, and he'd pay the 
fine, but then I'd have to work for him. 

"That's how you end up, I hear. They never do anything a lot of 
people, but work for the same man, because they always are owing him 


money, the grower, and he is always getting them out of jail, and then 
they owe him more money. My daddy says, and my sister, she says 
that the grower keeps on giving them the wine, and they drink it, and 
they'll be drunk, and the police will be called, and arrest them, and 
then the grower will come, one of his men mostly, and pay to get people 
out, and then they'll have to work some more -- until they get killed. 
I hope it'll never happen like that to me. I'd like someday, I'll be 
honest, I'd like to go to the city, and I could get a job there. Once 
there was a nice boy who sat beside me -- not long ago, I think it was 
this same year -- and I was going to ask him if I could get a job from 
his father. No, I didn't want to ask him what his father's job was, but 
he seemed like he was real rich, the boy, and I thought maybe I could 
get a job, and I could maybe live there, in the house there, you know, 
where the boy does, and then I wouldn't have to be going North later 
this year. " 

Would he miss his mother and father? "No -- I mean, yes. But 
I think they could come and see me sometimes. If the people let me live 
in their house, maybe they would let my daddy come and see me, and my 
mother could come, and they wouldn't stay too long, I know. " 

Migrant children see everythinc; as temporary. Places come and 
go; and people and schools and fields. The children don't know what it is, 
in Tom's words, to "stay too long;" rather, they live in a world that lacks 


holidays and trips to department stores and libraries. Children like Tom, 
just quoted above, don't see any mail, because their parents lack a home, 
a place from which letters are sent aid to which letters come. Children 
like Tom don't know about book shelves and walls with pictures on them 
and comfortable chairs in cozy living-rooms and telephones (which are 
put by telephone companies into residences) and cabinets full of glass-ware 
or serving -dishes or stacks of canned goods. Children like Tom don't even 
know about luggage; born to travel, born to live abroad the land, they 
nevertheless have to pick up and leave quickly, travel under constant 
surveillance, and never know quite what the next destination will bring in 
the way of work or living quarters, let alone pleasure. A suit-case hardly 
seems like a very important thing to any of us, yet migrant children have 
dreamed of having one, dreamed and dreamed and can say why after they 
draw a picture, as a girl of nine named Doris did: "I was smaller when 
I saw a store, and it had big suitcases and little ones; they all were made of 
leather, I think. I asked my mother if she could please, one day, get one 
for me; not a big one, because I know they must cost more money than we 
could ever have, but a small one. She said why did 1 want one, and I said 
it was because I could keep all my things together, and they'd never get 
lost, wherever we go. I have a few things that are mine -- the comb, the 
rabbit's tail my daddy gave me before he died, the lip-stick and the fan, 
and like that -- and I don't want to go and lose them, and I've already lost 
a lot of things. I had a luck bracelet and I left it someplace, and I had a 


scarf, a real pretty one, and it got lost, and a mirror, too. That's why 
if I could have a place to put my things, my special things, then I'd have 
them and if we went all the way across the country and back, I'd still 
have them, and I'd keep them. " 

She still doesn't have her suitcase, the migrant child Doris doesn't. 
In fact, Doris doesn't have very much of anything, so that when I asked 
her to draw whatever she wished, she answered as follows: "I don't 
know if there's anything I can draw. " I suggested something from the 
countryside -- she seemed sad, after all, and in no mood for my kind of 
clever silences, meant to prod children like her into this or that psycho- 
logical initiative (and revelation). She said no, the countryside was the 
countryside, and she sees quite enough of it, so there is no need to give 
those trees and fields and roads any additional permanence. Rather, she 
said this: "I see a lot of the trees and the farms. I'd like to draw a 
picture I could like, and I could look at it, and it would be nice to look 
at, and I could take it with me. But I don't know what to draw. " Her 
judgement on the countryside was fairly clear and ennphatic, but so was 
her sense of confusion. She knew what she didn't want to do, but she was 
at loose ends, too. She seemed to be asking herself some questions. 
What do I want to see, and carry with me through all those dismal trips 
and rides and detours and long, long, oh so long journeys? Where 'Jean I 
find a little beauty in the world, a touch of joy, a bit of refreshment and 
encouragement -- and self -supplied at that, through crayons I have myself 


■wielded on paper? Is there anything worth remembering, worth keeping, 
worth holding on to tenaciously, without any let-up whatsoever? Perhaps 
I am forcing melodrama on Doris' mind, which certainly needs no more 
worries or fears. Perhaps for her life is a matter of getting up and 
working in the fields and eating what there is to eat and sleeping and 
moving on, moving here and there and always, always moving. I don't 
think so, though. For all the fancy words I use, and all the ambiguities 
and ironies I hunger after, the little girl Doris has insisted that I also 
listen to her. She has even made rne realize I must do more than listen 
and observe and collect my "data" and, like her, move on: "If I draw a 
picture, a good one, I want to keep it. The last time you said you wanted 
it, and I told my mother I liked it and I wanted to keep it. I asked my 
mother if I could get some glue and put it on the window of the car, but 
she said no. She said we'd get stopped and arrested. " 

So, Doris did two pictures at each sitting, one for herself and 
another one, as similar as possible, for me -- all of which leads me to 
state another thing I have noticed especially among migrant children: 
unlike other children I have come to know, girls like Doris and boys like 
Tom don't want to give up drawings they make, not to me and not even to 
others in their family or to neighbors. In a world that constantly shifts 
(yet is the same) things like a drawing, worked on and made by the child 
himself or herself, can't be lightly dismissed, or even reluctantly dis- 
missed. It is not a matter of property; nor does the child cling to the 


picture because he feels "realized" at last through something artistically 
done. Nor is he drawn irresistably to the form and symmetry he has 
wrought, to all those colors at last made accessible to himself. To be 
sure, it is all of that, which is a lot for young and impoverished wanderers. 
Doris one day told me why she wouldn't let go, and 1 fear I will have to let 
her explanation -- unadorned by my translations and interpretations -- 
stand as quite good enough: "I just want it -- because it's good to look at, 
and it may not be as good as it could be, but it was the best I could do, and 
I can take it and look at it, and it will be along with me up North, and I can 
think of being back here where I drew it, and then I'll know we'll be coming 
back here where I drew it, and I can look ahead to that, you see. " Doris 
did a second drawing, essentially the same, which she gave to me, then 
put the first version away -- with her rabbit-tail and other belongings. 
She had done many other drawings for me, but somehow this one meant 
more to her than any of the others. It was as if she had finally found some 
kind of permanence for her meagre possessions, and also a talisman of 
sorts. So long as her things had a new and separate life of their own, in 
the picture, they would all be collected together, her little world of pos- 
sessions, as they could not be in the suitcase that has never come. Now 
she could look ahead and look back and have some sense of direction, some 
idea of a destination, some feeling that life has its rhythms and sequences 
and purposes. But I said I would not do what I have just done, speak for 
her, be her interpreter. 



We are all compelled whether we know it or no, and Ttaibuui^^ the 

are not the only ones irrho 
well-educated and well-analysed comprehend the mind's constraints. I 


have to make my little and not-so-little remarks, and Doris has to carry 
a few personal effects all over America. Another child known to me, whom 
I will call Larry, can spell out, can paint out, if you will, the necessities 
that govern his particular life. (Figure 3). What would he like to draw 
above all else, he was asked, and he said in reply that he didn't want to 
draw at all this time. He wanted to paint. Well, why did he want to paint 
this time? (We had together been using crayons for over a year. ) "Oh, I 
don't know -- except that tomorrow is my birthday. " He was to be nine. 
Half because I wasn't actually sure what day "tomorrow" was, and half 
because, I suppose, 1 knew the reason why time had become blurred for 
me during the weeks I had moved about with Larry and his family, I asked 
him what his birthday is: "It's in the middle of the summer, on the hottest 
day. " He was dead serious, and I was both puzzled and embarrassed, 
a condition of mini which he essentially noticed. 

He was moved to explain things, to help me -- to do what I am 
trained to do, formulate and soothe and heal or whatever. "I don't know 
the day. The teacher in one of the schools kept saying I had to bring in 
a certificate that said where I was born and gave the day and like that. 
1 asked my mother and she said there wasn't any. I told the teacher, and 
she said that was bad, and to check again. I checked, and my mother said 
no, and so did my daddy, and so did the crew-leader. He said I should 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-8 


tell the teacher to shut up, and if she didn't I could just walk out of 
school and they wouldn't go after me or give me any trouble at all. No, 
I didn't leave, no sir; I stayed there for as long as we did in the camp. 
It was the best school I'd ever seen. They had cold air all the time, no 
matter how hot it got. I wanted to stay there all night. They gave you 
good cookies all the time, and milk and the teacher, she said she wanted 
to buy us some clothes and pay for it herself. She said I should tell my 
mother to come to school and they would have a talk; and she said I should 
get nny birth certificate and hold on to it. Then one day she brought in hers 
and showed it to us; and she said we all should stand up and say to the cl?.ss 
where we were born and on what day of the year; but I didn't know. She 
said we should ask where our mothers were born and our fathers. So, I 
did and I told her . I was born here in Florida, and my mother in Georgia 
and my father there, too; and my mother said it was a hot, hot day, and 
she thought it was right in the middle of summer, July it must be, she said, 
around about there, but she wasn't sure. Then I asked her if she'd go 
register me, like the teacher said, and she said I'd better stay home and 
help out with the picking, if I was going to go listening to everything and 
then getting the funny ideas and trying to get us all in trouble, because 
the crew-man, he said if we started going over to the court-house and 
asking one thing of them, and then another -- well, they'd soon have us all 
in jail, my mother said. " 

He painted his certificate, and thus showed both me and himself 
that he could persist with an idea, an intention. Paint to him meant a 


more worthy and lasting commitment. To paint is to emphasize, to 
declare out loud and for all to hear -- or so he feels: "If you paint a 
certificate it won't rub away, like with the crayons. I don't know how 
they nnake the real ones, but they have big black letters and one of them, 
it has a red circle -- and the teacher, she said it was a seal, and it 
belonged to a city and it was put on a lot of important papers. " If he 
had his certificate what would he do with it, once he had shown it to his 
teacher? He would keep it, treasure it, fasten it to himself in some fool- 
proof way that he himself could only vaguely suggest rather than spell out: 
I'I'd never lose it, like I did my belt. My daddy gave me a belt, and I was 
afraid if I put it on all the time, it wouldn't look so good after a while; so 
I kept it with me, and put it with my shoes and when we went to church I'd 
have on my shoes and my belt. But once in a camp there was a fire, and 
I lost my belt and my shoes; and I should have worn the belt, my mother 
said, or carried it with me wherever I went, even to the field. But I 
didn't, and too bad. " 

Shoes cannot be taken for granted by children like him, nor belts, 
nor socks; nor (so it seems) birth certificates, which presumably every- 
one in America has. Since I know that children like Larry are born in 
cabins or even in the fields, with no doctors around to help, and since I 
know that they move all over and have no official address, no place of 
residence, I should not have been surprised that those same children lack 
birth certificates -- yet, I was. Sometimes we figure out the larger 


pattern of things, do so cooly and systematically, and are brought up 
short only be a minor detail here and there, which suddenly makes us 
see a little more (yes, that) but more significantly (and at last) begin to 
feel -- in this case, l^arry's case, the rootlessness of a life, the cata- 
strophic kind of emptiness he must live with all the time. Who am I? 
Where do I come from? When did it really happen, my entrance into this 
world? Those are questions which, after all, the rest of us never stop 
asking, in one form or another; and they are questions Larry asks 
himself in a specially grim and stark fashion, because he really doesn't 
have the usual, concrete answers, let alone all the fancy, symbolic or 
metaphysical ones. Since he is, I believe, a bright and shrewd child he 
won't quite let the matter drop, as many migrant children at least seem 
to do. I'm not at all convinced they actually do let what I can all too 
easily call "the matter" drop. Given a little acquaintance and the right 
conversational opening, I have heard other migrant children tell me what 
Larry has told me: it is hard to settle for near-answers and half-answers 
when the issue is yourself , your origins as a person and as a citizen. 

Put a little differently, it is hard to be an exile, to be sent packing 
all the time, to be banished, to be turned out and shown the door. In the 
drawings of migrant children I constantly see, at no one's behest but their 
own, roads and fields (quite naturally) but also (and a little more signifi- 
cantly) those souvenirs and reminders of other places and times -- when 
a comb was given as a present, when something that at least looked 


precious was found; and finally other drawings show even more mysterious 
objects, such as windows that are attached to no buildings, and doors that 
likewise seem suspended in space. Why, exactly why, should a number of 
migrant children flex their artistic muscles over windows and doors, over 
sand-boxes, or more literally, over a series of quadrangles? I cannot 
speak for all the migrant children I know, even as many of them cannot 
speak for themselves -- only stumble upon their words, only stand mute, 
only look and grimace and smile and frown, only ask questions in reply 
to questions. Yet, a few of those children eventually and often unexpectedly 
have managed to have their say, managed to let me know what they're 
getting at, and by implication, what is preventing me from recognizing 
the obvious concerns of their lives. I have in mind a girl of eight who 
spends most of her tinne in Collier County, Florida and Palm Beach County, 
Florida, but manages a yearly trek north to upstate New York and New 
Jersey and into New England, into the farms of Connecticut. As I be- 
canne a regular visitor of her family's she above all the other children 
expressed an interest in the paints and crayons I brought along, as well 
as the various games. She loved a top I had, and a yo-yo. She loved the 
toy cars and trucks and tractors: "I know about all of those. I know my 
trucks. I know my tractors. I know the cars, and I've been in a lot of 
them. " She once asked me how fast I've driven. She once asked me what 
it was like to be on an airplane. She once asked me if an airplane could 
just take off -- and land on the moon or the stars or the sun. She once 


asked me why there are always clouds up North -- and why down South 
the sun is so mean and hot, so pitiless to people who don't own air- 
conditioners or screens or even mosquito repellents or lotions to soothe 
burnt and blistered skin. 

She was, in fact, always asking me questions and making sly, 
provocative, even enigmatic remarks. "I love the yo-yo" she told me, 
"because it keeps going, up and down, and that's what I do. " What did she 
mean? "Well, we don't stay in one camp too long. When the crops are 
in, you have to move. " As for the pictures she did, she liked to put a yo-yo 
or two in them ("for fun") but most of all she liked to make sure the sun was 
blocked out by clouds that loomed large over the sketched or painted scene -- 
which frequently would have a door or a window or both, along with, say, a 
lone tree or some disorganized shrubbery. In one picture (Figure 4) she 
allowed a door to dominate the paper. I expected her to do something with 
the door, to attach it or use it in some way, but she simply let it be and 
went on to other things, to the sun and its grim face, to the clouds, those 
sad, inevitable clouds of hers, and to a sand-box and a yo-yo, and finally, 
to a tall plant which I thought might be a small tree. I asked her about 
that -- the pine-tree, as I saw it: "No, no, it's a big, tall corn. We pick 
a lot of corn up North. " She was, in oiher words, getting ready to go 
North. It was early May, and soon they would all be on the road. What 
docs that mean, though, to her -- not to me, or to her parents or the many, 
many teachers who see her so very briefly or to the crew-leaders who will 


lead her family on their annual journey? I've asked her that question 
in various ways and she in her own ways has replied^ through her draw- 
ings and paintings, and in the games we've played and finally, with these 
words: "I hate to go, yes sir, I do. I found some sand over there, and 
my brother Billy and my brother Eddie and me, we like to go and make 
things there. Soon we'll be going, I know. I can tell when it's happening. 
First we move our things into the car, and then we go in, and then we go 
away and I don't know if we'll come back here or not. Maybe, my 
mother says -- all depending, you know, I try to remember everything, 
so I won't leave anything behind. Every time we go, my daddy, he gets 
sore at me, because at the last second I'll be running out of the car and 
checking on whether I've left any of my things there. I'll go inside and 
come out and then I know I haven't left something. " 

Twice I watched her do just that, watched her enter the cabin, 
look around and leave, watched her watch -- look and stare and most of 
all touch, as if by putting her hands on walls and floors and doors and 
windows she could absorb them, keep them, make them more a part of 
her. She is a touching girl. She touches. In a minute or two, while the 
rest of her family frets and adjusts themselves, one to the other and all 
to the car which they more than fill up, this little girl of theirf scurries 
about -- inspecting, scanning, brushing her body and especially her 
hands and most especially her fingers on a broken-down shack (no running 
water, no electricity) she is about to leave. When Isaw her look out of 


the window (no screens) and open and close the door several times (it 
didn't quite open or quite close) I realized at last what all those windows 
and doors she drew might have meant, and the sand-boxes and the corn 
up North, the corn that was waiting for her, summoning her family, drawing 
them all from the cabins, making an uproar out of their lives: up and down, 
to and fro, in and out, here and there, they would go -- hence the yo-yo 
and the windows from which one looks out to say goodbye and t' e doors 
which lead in and out, in and out, over and over again. 

It is hard, very hard to take the lives of such children and do 
justice to them with words; and I say that because I have tried and feel 
decidedly inadequate to the job --of all the jobs I have had, to this one I 
feel particularly inadequate. I do not wish to deny these children, who 
like our own children are American citizens, the efforts they make every 
day -- to live, to make sense of the world, to get along with one another 
and all sorts of grown-up people, to find a little pleasure and fun and 
laughs in a world that clearly has not seen fit to smile very generously 
upon them. Nor do I wish to deny these children their awful struggles, 
which in sum amount to a kind of continuing, indeed endless chaos. It 
is all to easy, as I must keep on saying, for a doctor like me to do either 
-- see only ruined lives or see only the courageous and the heroic in these 
children. I am tempted to do the former because for one thing there is 
a lot of misery to see, and for another I have been trained to look for that 
misery, see it, assess it, make a judgement about its extent and severity; 


and I want to do the latter as an act, perhapSjOf reparation -- because 
I frankly have at times felt overwhelmed by the conditions I have wit- 
nessed during seven years of work with migrant farm familes: social 
conditions, medical conditions, but above all a special and extraordinary 
kind of human condition, a fate really, and one that is remarkable and 
terrible and damaging, as I have said, almost beyond description. 

In a way that has to be discussed, what Conrad called in Heart 

of Darkness "the horror, the horror" eventually has its effect on the 

observer as well as the observed, particularly when children are the 

observed and one like me, an observer of children, does the observing. 

"The horror, the horror" refers to man's inhumanity to man, the 

brutality that civilized people somehow manage to allow in their midst. 

The crucial word is "somehow"; because in one way or another all of 

us, certainly including myself, have to live with, contend with even, 

the lives of migrant children -- those I have just attempted to describe 

and hundreds of thousands of othersT"who live (it turns out, when we take 

the trouble to inquire) just about everywhere in the United S^tess &■ ^ 

and also. 
North and South, East and West'as^ in between'apasl near towns or cities* 

astf far away from ahnost (but not quite) everyone's sight. 

Somehow, then, we come to terms with them, who are, to take 
an expression literally and apply it very soberly, the wretched of the 
American earth. We do so each in his or her own way. We ignore them. 


We shun them. We claim ignorance of them. We declare ourselves 
helpless before their problems. We say they deserve what they get, or 
don't deserve better, or do deserve better - if only they would go demand 
it. We say things are complicated, hard-to-change, stubbornly unyielding. 
We say progress is coming, has even come, will come in the future. We 
say (in a pinch) that yes, it is awful -- but so have others found life: 
awful, mean, harsh, cruel, and a lot of other words. Finally, we say 
yes it is awful -- but so awful that those who live under such circumstances 
are redeenned, not later in Heaven, as many of them believe, but right here 
on this earth, where they become by virtue of extreme hardship and suffer- 
ing a kind of elect: hard and tough and shrewd and canny and undeluded 
and undeceived and open and honest and decent and self-sacrificing and 
haunting ly, accusingly hard-working. I have at times, many times, done 
that, extolled these children and their brothers and sisters and cousins 
and friends and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles -- extolled 
them all almost to Heaven, where I suppose I also believe they will 
eventually and at last get their reward, and where, by the way, they 
will be out of my way, out of my mind -- which balks at saying what it 
nevertheless knows must be said about how utterly, perhaps unspeakably 
devastating a migrant life can be for children. 


I fssm talking about what I imagine can loosely be called psycho- 
logical issues, but I do not mean to ignore the bodily ills of these children: 
the hunger and the chronic malnutrition that they learn to accept as un- 
avoidable; the diseases that one by one crop up as the first ten years of 


life go by, diseases that go undiagnosed and untreated, diseases of the 

skin and the muscles and the bones and the vital organs, vitamin deficiency 

diseases and mineral deficiency diseases and untreated congenital diseases 

and infectious diseases and parasitic diseases and in the words of one 

,/ She coes on: 
migrant mother, "all the sicknesses that ever was, I believe our children 

t3iG sicloiesses, 
get them, and there isn't anything for us to do but pray, because I've 

never seen a doctor in my life, except once, when he delivered my oldest 
girl; the rest, they was just born, yes sir, and I was lucky to have my 

sister near me, and that's the way, you know." She has some idea about 


other things, too. She thinks her children are living in Hell, laterally 


that. She is a fierce, biblical woman when she gets going -- when, that 
is, she is talking about her children. I have heard the sermons, many 
of them from her, and I see no reason, after these years of work with 
mothers like her and children like hers, to refuse her a place in the last, 
sad summing up that mercifully allows an observer to pursue other 
matters while the observed, in this instance, pursue all they can possibly 
hope for, the barest, n^ost meagre fragments of what can only ironically 
be called a life. 

"This life, " says the mother, ^it's no good on me and my husband, 
but it's much worse than no good on the children we have, much worse 
than it can be for any of God's cliildren, that's what I believe. I'll ask 
myself a lot of the time why a child should be born, if this is the life for 
him; but you can't make it that we have no children, can you -- because 


it's the child that gives you the hope, I say to myself that maybe I 
can't get out of this, but if just one, just one and no more of my children 
do, then I'd be happy and I'd die happy. Sometimes I dreann of my girl 
or one of my boys, that they've left us and found a home, and it has a 
back yard, and we all were there and eating in the back yard, and no 
one could come along and tell us to get out, because we could tell them 
to get out, because it's our land, and we own it, and no one can shout 
at us and tell us to keep moving, keep movine;. That's the life we live -- 
moving and moving and moving. I asked the minister a little while ago; 
I asked him why do we have to always move and move, just to stay alive, 
and not have no money and die, and he said we're seeking God, maybe, 
and that's why we keep moving, because God, He travelled, you know, 
all over the Holy Land, and He kept on trying to convert people, to be 
good to Him, you know, but they weren't. oh no they weren't, and He was 
rebuked, and He was scorned (remember those words?) and He couldn't 
stay anyplace, because they were always after Him, always, and they 
didn't want Him here and they didn't want Him there, and all like that, 
and all during His life, until they punished Him so bad, so bad it was. 

"The minister, he said if you suffer -- well, you're God's people, 
and that's what it's about. I told him that once he preached to us and 
told us all morning that it was God who was supposed to suffer, and He 
did. Now it shouldn't be us who's going from place to place and, you 
know, nobody will let us stop and live with them, except if we go to those 


camps, and they'll take all your money away, that you must know, 
because they deduct for the food and the transporting, they tell you. 
Pretty soon they'll give you a slip of paper and it says you've worked 
and picked all the beans there are, and all the tomatoes, and the field 
is empty, and you've made your money, but you've b'='en eating, and 
they took you up from Florida to where you are, and it cost them inoney, 
to transport you, so it's all even, and they don't owe you and you don't 
owe them, except that you've got to get back, and that means you'll be 
working on the crops to get back South, and it never seems to stop, 
that's what. Like I said, should we be doing it, the crops all over, and 
without anything to have when it's over? They'll come and round you up 
and tell you it can be jail or the fields, that's what they will tell you, if 
you get a bad crew-leader, that's what. Once we had a nice one, and 
he was always trying to help us, and he wanted ug to make some money 
and save it, and one day we could stop picking and our children, they 
could just be, in one place they could be, and they wouldn't always be 
crying when we leave. But he died, the good crew-man, and it's been 
bad since. You know, there comes a time, yes sir. there does, when 
the child, he'll ston crvincr. and then he doesn't care much, one way or 
the other. I guess he's figured out that we've got to go, and it's bad 
all the time, and there's no getting; around it. " 

That is what the migrant child eventually learns about "life, " 
and once learned finds hard to forget. He learns that each day brings 


toil for his parents, back-breaking toil: bending and stooping and reaching 
and carrying. He learns that each day means a trip: to the fields and 
back from the fields, to a new county or on to another state, another 
region of the country. He learns that each day means not aimlessness 
and not purposless motion, but compelled, directed (some would even 
say utterly forced ) travel. He learns, quite literally, that the wages of 
work is more work rather than what some of us call "the accumulation of 
capital. " He learns that wherever he goes he is both wanted and unwanted, 
and that in any case soon there will be another place and another and 
another. I must to some extent repeat and repeat the essence of such 
migrancy (the wandering, the disapproval and ostracism, the extreme 
and unyielding poverty) because children learn that way, learn by repeti- 
tion, learn by going through something ten times and a hundred times and 
a thousand times, until finally it is there, up in their minds in the form of 
what me and my kind call an "image, " a "self-image, " a notion, that is, 
of life's hurts and life's drawbacks, of life's calamities -- which in this 
case are inescapable and relentless and unremitting. 

By the time migrant children are nine and ten and eleven they have 
had their education, learned their lessons. In many cases they have long 
since stopped even the pretense of school. They are working, or helping 
out with younger children, or playing and getting ready to go out on dates 
and love and become parents and follow their parents' footsteps, thousands 


and thousands of those footsteps. As for their minds, they are, to my 
eye, an increasingly sad group of children. They have their fun, their 
outbursts of games and jokes and teasing and taunting and laughing; but 
they are for too long stretches of time downcast and tired and bored and 
indifferent and to themselves very unkind. They feel worthless, blamed, 
frov/ned upon, spoken ill of. Life itself, the world around them, even 
their own parents, everything that is, seems to brand them, stinimatize 
them, view them with disfavor, and in a million ways call them to 
account -- lace into them, pick on them, tell them off, dress them down. 
The only answer to such a fate is sex, when it becomes possible, and 
drink when it is available, and always the old, familiar answers -- 
travel, work, rest when that can be had, and occasionally during the year 
a moment in church, where forgiveness can be asked, where the promise 
of salvation can be heard, where some wild, screaming, frantic, angry, 
frightened, nervous, half-mad cry for help can be put into words and 
songs and really given the body's expression- ^jx turns and twists and 
grimaces and arms raised and trunks bent and legs spread and pulled 
together and feet used to stamp and kick and move -- always that, move. 

"I do a lot of walking and my feet are always tired, but in church 
I can walk up and down, but not too far; and my feet feel better, you know. 
It's because God must be near. " So she believes -- that God is not far 
off. So her children believe, too. What is life like? One keeps on 


asking those children that question -- for the tenth or so time (or is it j 

the hundredth time?) in the last year or two, because they do seem to 
want to talk about what is ahead for them, and that, one believes, is a 
good sign for them and a helpful thing (it must be acknowledged) for any- 
one who wants to find out about such nnatters, about what people see their 
life to be, their future to be, their destiny I suppose it could be called 
ordinarily, though whether migrants have any such thing is another 
matter. "Well, I'll tell you, " the girl says gravely in answer to the 
question. Then she doesn't say anything for a long time and the observer 
and listener gets nervous and starts rummaging for another question, 
another remark, to lighten the atmosphere, to keep things going, to pre- 
vent all that awkwardness, a sign no doubt of mistrust or suspicion or a 
poor "relationship. " Yet, once in a while there does come an answer, 
in fits and starts, in poor language that has to be a little corrected later, 
but an answer it is -- and a question, too, at the very beginning a 
question: "Well, I'll tell you, I don't know how it'll be ahead for me, but 
do you think my people, all of us here, will ever be able to stop and live 
like they do, the rest of the people?" No one knows the answer to that, 
one says, but hopefully such a day will come, and soon. "No, I don't 
think so. I think a lot of people, they don't want us to be with them, and 
all they want is for us to do their work, and then goodbye, they say, and 
don't come back until the next time, when there's more work and then we'll 
have you around to do it, and then goodbye again. " 


There is another pause, another flurry of remarks, then this: 
"I'd like to have a home, and children, maybe three or four, two boys 
and two girls. They could all be nice children, and they wouldn't get 
sick and die, not one. We would have a house and it would have all the 
things, television and good furniture, not second hand. If we wanted to 
work the crops, we'd plant them for ourselves, because it would be ours, 
the house and the land we'd have and no one could come and take us away 
and take the house away, either. I'd make us all go to school, even me; 
because if you don't learn things, then you'll be easy to fool, and you'll 
never be able to hold on to anything, my daddy says. He says he tries, 
and he doesn't get tricked all the time, but a lot of the time he does, and 
he can't help it, and he's sorry we don't just stay in a place and he's 
sorry my sisters and brothers and me don't go to school until we're as 
smart as the crew -men and the foremen and the owners and the police 
and everyone. Then we could stop them from always pushing on us and 
not letting us do anything they don't want us to do. That's why, if I could, 
I'd like to be in school at the same time my kids would be there, and we'd 
be getting our education. 

"I do believe we could have it better; because if we could get a 
job in one of the towns, then we could get a house and keep it and not 
leave and then if I broke my arm, like I did, they would take care of it in 
the hospital and not send you from one to the other until you pass out 
because you're dizzy and the blood is all over, and it hurts and like that, 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-9 


yes sir. Also, we could go and buy things in the stores -- if we had 

the money and if they knew you lived there and weren't just passing 

through. All the time they'll tell you that, they'll say that you're just 

passing through and not to bother people, and they don't want you to 

come in and mess things up. But I could have a baby carriage and take 

my babies to the shopping stores, like you see people do, and we could 

go into all of them and it would be fun. I'd like that. I'd love it. I'd 

love to go and shop and bring a lot of things home and they'd be mine J 

and I could keep them and I could fix up the house and if I didn't like 

the way it looks I could change things and it would look different, and | 

it would be better. 

"My mother, she always says it don't make any difference how 
we live in a place, it don't, because we'll soon be leaving. If it's a I 

real bad place, she'll say 'don't worry, because we'll soon be leaving, ' 
and if it's a better one, then she'll say 'don't fuss around and try to get 
everything all fixed up, because we'll soon be leaving. ' Once when I 
was real little, I remember, I asked her why we couldn't stop our leaving I 
and stay where we are, and she slapped me and told me to stop bothering 
her; and my daddy said if I could find a better way to make some money, 
then he'd like to know it. But I don't know how he could do any better, 
and he's the hardest working picker there is, the crew-man told him, 
and we all heard. My daddy said if he would ever stop picking, he'd 
never, never miss doing it, but he can't, and maybe I'll never be able to. 


either. Maybe I'll just dream about a house and living in it. My mother 
says she dreams a lot about it, having a house, but she says it's only 
natural we would wish for things, even if you can't have them. But, if 
you're asking what it'll be like when I'm much older, then I can tell you 
it'll be just like now. Maybe it'll be much better for us, but I don't 
think so. I think maybe it won't be too different, because my daddy 
says if you're doing the work we do, they need you, and they're not 
going to let you go, and besides there isn't much else for us to do but 
what we're already doing. My brother, he thinks maybe he could learn 
to drive a tractor and he'd just go up and down the same fields and a few 
others, and he'd never have to go on the road like we do now; and he says 
when I think of going with a boy, I should ask him if he's going to go on 
the road, or if he's going to stay someolace, where he is, and get him- 
self some kind of work that will let him settle down. But every time 
you try, they have no work but picking, they say, and the foreman, they're 
around and soon the sheriff and likely as not they'll arrest you for owing 
them something. If you get away, though, then you have to go someplace, 
and if you go to a city, then it's no good there, either, from what you hear, 
and you can't even work there, either; and it's real bad, the living, even 
if you don't have to be moving on up the road all the time. 

"To me it would be the happiest day in the world if one day I woke 
up and I had a bed, and there was just me and a real nice man, my husband, 
there; and I could hear my children, and they would all be, next door to us. 


in another room, all their own; and they would have a bed, each one of 
them would, and we would just be there, and people would come by and 
they'd say that's where they live, and that's where they'll always be, 
and they'll never be moving, no, and they won't have to, because they'll 
own the house, like the foremen do and the crew-men and everyone else 
does, except us. Then we won't be with the 'migrant people' anymore, 
and we'll be with everyone else, and it'll be real different. " 

So, it would be, vastly different. She and children like her would 

see a different world. Unlike migrant children, other children like to 

pastoral like 

draw |lOw^i fiBl8aaj^ landscapes, to drench them in sun, fill them with flowers, 

render them anything but bleak. Unlike migrant children, other children 

don't draw roads that are fenced in and blocked off or lead nowhere and 

everywhere and never end. Unlike migrant children, most children don't 

worry about birth certificates, or doors and more doors and always doors 

-- that belong. even in a few years of experience, to a half a hundred or 

more houses. So again, it would be different if the little girl just quoted 

could have a solid, stable home. Her drawings would not be like the four 

I have selected, or like dozens of others very similar. The themes would 

be different, because her life would be different. Her days and months 

and years would have a certain kind of continuity, a kind we all don't 

think aboutjbecause some things are so very important, so central to life's 

meaning and nature that we really cannot bear to think about them; and 

indeed if we were thinking about then^ we would for some reason have 



come upon serious trouble. Even nnany animals define themselves by 
where they live, by the territory they possess or covet or choose to 
forsake in order to find new land, a new sense of control and self- 
sufficiency, a new dominion. It is utterly part of our nature to want 
roots, to need roots, to struggle for roots, for a sense of belonging, for 
some place that is recognized as mine, as yours, as ours . Nations, 
regions, states, counties, cities, towns -- all of them have to do with 
politics and geography and history; but they are more than that, they 
somehow reflect man's humanity, his need to stay someplace and live 
there and get to know -- a lot, actually: other people, to varying extents, 
and what I suppose can be called a particular environment, or space or 
neighborhood or world, or set of circumstances. It is bad enough that 
thousands of us, thousands of American children, still go hungry and 
sick and are ignored and spurned -- everyday and constantly and just 
about from birth to death. It is quite another thing, another order as it 
were, of human degradation, that we also have thousands of boys and girls 
who live utterly uprooted lives, who wander the American earth, who 
enable us to eat by harvesting our crops -- yes, as children they do -- 
but who never, never think of any place as home, of themselves as any- 
thing but homeless. There are moments, and I believe this is one of them, 
when even doctors or social scientists or observers or whatever, justly 

have to throw up their hands in heaviness of heart and dismay and disgust 
and say, in desperation: God save them, those children; and for allowing 
such a state of affairs to continue, God save us, too. 


Senator Mondale. "We are pleased to have as the next witness this 
morning Dr. Ernesto Galarza. Proceed as you wish. 



Dr. Galarza. :Mr. Chairman, it is the usual formality for a witness 
to thank the chairman for an invitation to speak and testify before a 
committee. With me on this occasion, it is much more than a formality 
and so my appreciation for this invitation is this morning unusually 
warm and personal. 

My name is Ernesto Galarza. I live at 1031 Frankuett Avenue, San 
Jose, Calif, I suppose the reason for my beinp: invited here is that my 
experience in and with farm labor ^oes back some 40 to 45 years. I 
spent my early life in California between sessions of school working 
in the fields and canneries and from 1948 until 1960 I was field or- 
ganizer and educational director for the National Farm Labor Union. 

In this connection my assignments took me to the Southern States, 
Florida, Louisiana, Texas, but for the most part to California and 
Arizona. So that I have worked with INIexican farmworkers who are 
residents, with locals, with wetbacks, with A])])alachian farmworkers 
or farmworkers from the Appalachian region, and with Negroes. 

I am a little embarrassed. Senator, because the shortage of my 
time assignment was such that I was not able to prepare the statement 
sufficiently in advance for the committee and staff to get it to you in 
mimeographed form and I would much rather, with your permission, 
speak from an outline raising the major points in the statement so that 
you might question me. 

Senator Mondale. We will place your statement in the record as 
though read and then you can proceed as you wish and emphasize 
those points. 

Dr. Galarza. Thank you. I think this will be a saving in time and 
probably enable me to cover the ground with some emphasis. 

Prepared Statement of Ernesto Galarza, Lecturer and Author, 

San Jose, Calif. 

To be given the opportunity of testifying before a subcommittee of 
the Senate is a privilege and I want to thank the chairman for the 
invitation that brings me here today. 

I realize, however, that the subject of this particular hearing — 
Mexican farmworkers, their culture and their powerlessness in Ameri- 
can society — puts me in an uncomfortable spot. I am as much aware 
of tlie hazard I face as of the privilege I acknowledge. 

The hazard is that I find myself in an area tliat is strewm w^ith con- 
ceptual banana peelings — at least for me, since I am an amateur as 
to the subjects of culture and power. For this reason the subcom- 
mittee will notice, I am sure, that my statement is a series of broad 
conclusions without much offer of proof of objective data. I do not 
know of any scientific research that has been done on farmw'orkers in 
relation to culture and power, as there has been about their wages, 
housing, and employment conditions. About these I do have some 
knowledge and experience. 


If I am venturing from this small area of competence it is because 
I understand that this subcommittee, too, understands the hazard I 
sense. I agreed to this exploration, therefore, as a sort of joint venture 
that may be of some possible value to the Members of the Senate. 

Accordingly, I want to prepare my ground as prudently as I can 
with some preliminary comments. 

Right off, let me stress that we are concerned mainly with workers 
who hire out to very large private agricultural enterprises in which they 
own no equities and from which they have no contractual guarantees or 
other social securities based on custom and tradition. As a class with 
these basic characteristics, they have been around, if we stretch a 
point, barely a hundred years. Considering the time that a genuine 
culture needs to mature into a pattern of life for a given society, a 
century is hardly enough for a peculiar and recognizable culture of 
farm labor to develop. 

The span has been even shorter for farmworkers of Mexican an- 
cestry who have migrated to the United States. This migration dates 
roughly from the 1910's. Even under the optimum conditions for the 
birth and maturity of a culture, in these past 60 years Mexican farm 
laborers could not have developed a peculiar and recognizable culture 
that did not exist before in the Southwest. Crash programs and fiscal 
years are not methods of cultural growth. 

Within these scant 60 years, moreover, the Mexican farm laboring 
class has experienced the worst of all disasters that can overtake a 
culture — instability. These people have had no permanent and secure 
habitat. Indeed, cyclical dispossession has been their lot. The land that 
was theirs before 1848 became an alien land after the Treaty of Guada- 
lupe. Since then they have been dispossessed of the value of their 
labor by a wage sj^stem designed for that purpose. They have been 
displaced by the advance of technology. They are being dislodged 
again from rural communities in which they had found refuge by the 
steady advance of freeways and the lowering upon their heads of the 
real estate boom. 

This has not been all. A culture can be transmitted only in one way. 
It passes from generation to generation more rather than less intact, 
more rather than less integral. But among Mexican farm laboring 
families what has been happening is clear: the sons of the original 
migrants begin to suspect that laboring for American agribusiness is 
for their parents. Their sons in turn become convinced that it is "for 
the birds." The third generation leaves the land for the city. Rural 
cultural transmission comes to a dead stop when they migrate to the 
cities. We may speak of this as an escalator routine, in which the 
young and discouraged are continuously leaving at the top and new 
migrants from Mexico are continuously getting on at the bottom. And 
I may add that what I call the top of the escalator is only the thresh- 
hold of some teeming, poverty-ridden barrio. 

I repeat that under these historic conditions the Mexican farm labor- 
ers, as a group, have not and could not have developed a culture of 
their own. They could not and have not acculturated their young in 
the way that all societies acculturate them and thus survive. They have 
rather been subject to the special mode of acculturation that takes place 
when one culture is plumped into the midst of another on unequal 


terms. To make a living, the members of the culture-away-from-home 
must accept terms and conditions that enable them to survive and little 
more. With this type of acculturation there is relegation, of which dis- 
crimination and segregation are merely psychological and administra- 
tive techniques. "We now have a superculture and a subculture. 

AVhat distinguishes this kind of acculturation from the original and 
genuine article is that the former is nearly always compulsory. To be 
sure, "they" can always "'go back where they came from." And if they 
don't, they ought to make the best of it and not complain. The proof 
that they consider it better here than where they came from is that 
they do not, in fact, go back. 

But I am not concerned with looking into the minds of persons who 
are ready to offer this easiest of all choices — the choice between two 
distresses neither of which touches them. I am concerned with point- 
ing out that the Mexican farm laborers, as a class, have been accultur- 
ated by extrusion. What comes through the mold are those ways of 
doing things that are practically useful to the superculture. What is 
permitted to I'emain unmolested is the quaint, the harmless or the 
amusingly exotic. To the supercultured it can be fun eating tacos or 
listening to mariachis. But the ancient attitudes and the old values, 
that are as to tacos as dawn is to a flickering match, have no currency 
any more. 

It is of course quite true that down the ages the people of one 
ethnic group have indeed adopted the cuture of another. Whether 
this adoption takes place with hostility or with mutual sympathy, it 
takes place. I only want to express my opinion that migrancy between 
cultures is far more damaging than migrancy between jobs. 

There is something else I would like to point out in this connection. 
We can speak of farmworkers in this country as a class but we cannot 
speak of them as a homogeneous cultural group. Among farm laborers 
there are Mexicans, Filipinos, Negroes, Indians and Appalachian 
whites. But there is more than this. Within the Mexican farm labor 
component there are cultural variations. The self-styled locales are 
workers who have spent most of their lives in this country and on 
the land, undergoing the accultural extrusion of which I have spoken. 
There are the "green card commuters" who, if they are border pro- 
fessionals, have begun to mingle in their attitudes and behavior the 
Mexican and the American. There are the outcast wetbacks, an under- 
ground society drawn from the poorest of the poor in interior Mexico. 
All of these persons have common cultural origins, if we take them 
back far enough. But it is important to note that they have very 
different survival tactics. They are all competing with one another for 
farm jobs, and when I say "tactics of survival" I mean that locales, 
wetbacks, and greencarders are more separated from one another by 
such competition than they are bound by common cultural traits. 

The foregoing are some of the aspects of the question of culture in 
relation to farm laborers, especially Mexicans, which are raised in this 
hearing. There is also raised the question of the powerlessness of this 
group. I do not feel that at this point I can deal usefully with the issue 
of powerlessness. I can do this only when I have discussed some cul- 
tural traits which I believe are still operating in some degree, among 
the Mexicans. I do, however, want to take note of the fact that in rais- 


ing the question of powerlessness of farm laborere in our society, the 
question of power is necessarily raised also. If we speak of the power- 
less we must, it appears to me, talk of the powerful. This I propose to 
do before I finish. 

Since it is the interest of this subcommittee to find out whether we 
must deal with cultural factors in assessing the past and current ex- 
perience of farmworkers, and whether these factors explain in some 
way their powerlessness as a group, I want to explain how I use these 

A culture is a multitude of items or the ethnic group behavior and 
its countless ways of manipulating the environment. If it is an inte- 
grated culture, behavior and manipulation fall under the sway of 
dominant attitudes and values that give the whole a unique pattern. 
A culture is a human invention, it is transmitted only by social experi- 
ence, it lives only by perpetuating itself in its original form, it must 
assimilate change in sympathy with that form, and it must express 
the collective anxieties of the society. All members of the ethnic group 
must be evenly exposed to the unique pattern and their acceptance of 
it must become the personal way of life. 

If a culture evolves it may become a civilization. When skills have 
been sufficiently refined, techniques developed, the machinery of pub- 
lic administration invented, and material resources hoarded and con- 
centrated a culture is on the way to becoming a civilization. Its launch- 
ing pad is the city. 

In a culture the decisive element — that which makes the difference 
between tone and decay — is vitality. In a civilization the decisive ele- 
ment is power. A culture is such because it responds vitally to the or- 
ganic demands of nature upon man and of man upon nature. A civili- 
zation is such because it provides a practical organization for society 
to get things done. The management of that organization is power. 

In these perspectives we can now look more closely at farm laborers 
as a group. What are they, culturally speaking ? Because I know them 
better, I will discuss the Mexican land workers as a component of this 

It is my belief, based on a lifetime of work and study among them, 
that the Mexican agricultural workers of the South and Middle West 
exhibit cultural characteristics that may be called Mexican. These 
characteristics affect in many ways the manner in wh^ch they deal with 
American society and the manner in which it deals with them. These 
traits are probably in decline, as acculturation proceeds, but they are 
still sufficiently real to demand our attention. 

These traHs are the Spanish language, intercessory religion, family 
cohesion, family labor, a patron system, a pretechnological view of 
production and work, a reluctance to act publicly and to act organiza- 
tionally, education as nonutilitarian, an ethics of vergiienza, and moral 
obligation as a function of palabra. 

Let me discuss each of these, very briefly and speculatively, since I 
am now entering fully on the slippery ground I mentioned before. 

Within their own group Mexican farm laborers communicate in 
Spanish. This is undoubtedly the strongest bond between locales, 
braceros, wetbacks, and green-card commuters. The Spanish speech 
brought to the New World by soldiers and priests has been stamped. 


in the course of more than three centuries, with unmistakable Mexican 
word forms, meanings, and intonations. Until this mark is rubbed 
out by acculturation, these forms, meanings, and intonations provide 
an instant key to ethnic identity. In many unnoticed colonias Spanish 
speech still flows in the sensitive style of true-conversation, the platica. 
One can still hear the platica seasoned with traditional proverbs and 
folk sayings that convey something even deeper than identity. One 
who knows these proverbs and uses them discreetly and aptly is a 
Mexican who has tasted the marrow of wisdom of the ethnic group. 
"Mas pronto cae un hablador que un cojo" — sooner a man will fall 
who lies than one who limps. 

However vital this ancestral speech may be, it is of little use in deal- 
ing with the alien culture that surrounds and engulfs the farmworkers. 
Everyday activities for which there are no inherited words but which 
are identified in English stimulate the invention of half-and-half ex- 
pressions. We have locales for "local laborers,-' chanza for "job," jale 
for "deal," ganga for "crew," raite for the "day haul," bonos for 
"bonus," cleme for the "claim," or allotted work in a field, and so on. 

These are, one might say, in-house adaptations of language to deal 
with the ordinary items of work experience. They are not a vocabu- 
lary through which the Mexicans can deal with the outside agencies 
that determine production, investment, allocations of various sorts, 
administrative supervision, regulation and the distribution of the 
wealth created by the industrial operation as a whole. I know of no 
common and widely imderstood equivalents in Spanish or quasi- 
Spanish for "congressional hearing," "wage determination," "Farm 
Placement Service," or "referral." In short, the Spanish of the Mexi- 
can farm laborers does not have the conceptual tools to deal on equal 
terms with economic reality in its broadest scope. 

Mexican farmworkers are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Not 
that they are overwhelmingly pious, but that the sacraments of the 
Church still ritualize the high moments of their lives — baptism, com- 
munion, matrimony, death. Between these high points there are in- 
numerable crises in which ritual does not intervene. They are on-the- 
spot clutches in which there is an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation be- 
tween the believer and his guardian saint. What is demanded of the 
saint is instant and efficacious intercesssion to ward off the harm. 

This intercessory role is the cultural answer which the Mexican 
farmworker invokes in his economic relations with agribusiness, 
especially if the worker is a wetback or a bracero. I have attended 
prayer meetings of braceros in which the help of the Virgin of 
Guadalupe was fervently invoked to obtain the renewal of work con- 
tracts, the removal of a brutal crew boss or to implore a raise in 
wages of 5 cents an hour. There can be no doubt that these men be- 
lieved that the Virgin was listening to tliem. But it was a question 
whether their employers were listening to the Virgin. I have never 
found any evidence that they were. 

The family is still the principal bond of the Mexican farm laborer 
to society. The extended family is in his Mexican tradition and he 
clings to it even though it is becoming more and more the extenuated 
family. There is a hierarchy within the family and one of its func- 
tions is to see to it that the family confronts tlie world as a unit. To 
say that in the year 1968 the Lopez family worked for XYZ Corp. 


picking tomatoes, is in a sense to juxtapose 16tli-century Mexico with 
20tli-century America. As the Mexican farm labor family moves from 
crop to crop it is abiding by an ancestral custom. It is also reacting 
to an ancestral need — the need to wring from each and every member 
his share of productivity to keep the family alive. 

This economic utility of the family as a whole collects a heavy toll, 
especially from the children. Public schools are located in fixed places; 
migrant children travel over the face of America ; the gap between the 
two has never been closed. There is nothing into which the family 
can educate the child except work. It cannot induct the child into a 
stable community because as a family it spends much of its time in 
transit from farm labor camp to farm labor camp. A single breadwin- 
ner for a farm labor family obviously cannot earn the income neces- 
sary for even a low level of living, at the wages which have prevailed 
over the past half century. 

Out of these conditions there emerged a modified patron system in 
the persons of farm labor contractors and crew leaders. In the Mexico 
of the 1900's the patron was a paternal figure. It was through him 
that the campesino and his family made and maintained the employ- 
ment connection. It was also through him that the family was linked 
to and disciplined by the dominant economic institution, the hacienda. 

In the American Southwest there was nothing like this institution or 
its paternalism. But the job connection, at least, had to be made. By 
and large it was brought about by the contractor and the crew leader. 
From hiring agents they evolved into patroncitos possessed of some 
capital from which they loaned money, provided bail, served meals on 
credit, and charged groceries against future paychecks. Such became 
the most available and most practical organization of the farm labor 
market and in many respects the farm labor society. Just above the 
contractors another layer of organizations was introduced — the asso- 
ciation of employers. It is between these associations and the farm 
labor family that the contractors acted as brokers. 

One can well understand, as a cultural matter, why the farmworker 
family adapted itself to this pattern. These historical conditions also 
made it difficult for the Mexicans in the fields to adopt promptly the 
mode of organization which by the 1940's had become accepted in 
American life. This mode was trade union organization. Those of us 
who have worked in the Mexican rural community, attempting to or- 
ganize farm laborers into unions, are well aware of the cultural and 
practical obstacles we faced. Union organization progressed very 
slowly partly because of this "cultural drag." While the employer as- 
sociations were applying organization as a fine art, and while the 
contractors provided vital and immediate services to a fragmented 
mass of fannworkers, union organization Avas a kind of resistance 
movement and educational crusade combined. 

When I mention education I come to another cultural trait I have 
frequently found among the older Mexican farmworkers. This is their 
sense of what the word means. To them education was not instru- 
mental. Education does not prepare you in some practical way to 
earn a living. Rather education is a discipline that teaches one the 
manners and customs that keep the proper distance between indi- 
viduals, that distance depending nicely upon the persons and the 
circumstances in which they find themselves. Thus a man can be well 


educated and yet be illiterate; he can be a doctor of philosophy and 
also a boor. 

How explain to a group of Mexican farmworkers wliat one means 
by a course in labor education? I have often had to grapple with this 
question. How induce men in their fifties to accept instruction from 
a teacher 25 years their junior? How do you overcome the indignity 
of sitting down in a class on collective bargaining when it is well 
established that classroom attendance is for children only? 

I believe that along this line of thought we uncover another im- 
portant cultural trait among the older Mexicans. This is the concept 
or rather the feeling, of vergiienza. It is a complicated emotion. It 
means, in one sense, avoiding behavior that is inappropriate to one's 
sense of educacion. It means avoidance of public display of self-im- 
portance. It means a breach of good manners. It means unethical be- 
havior that is disturbing even though it may not be discovered. It 
means that a deep sense of honor is the final monitor of such be- 
havior, not being arrested and fined or jailed. 

An important note about vergiienza is that it is regarded as an 
effective regulator of conduct. It is a kind of minicode of morals, 
flexible and caustic. A farmworker's job may depend upon speaking 
up in a meeting, but he will not speak if he feels "me da vergiienza." 
Only the scarred veterans of union struggles in the fields have over- 
come vergiienza sufficiently to appear and testify before a con- 
gressional committee. We may admire the strong element of modesty 
that there is in vergiienza as a cultural trait ; but it is of no practical 
use in dealing with agribusiness. 

I want to refer to the importance of palabra in traditional Mexican 
usage. It means the pledged word, the spoken commitment. Mexicans 
used to, and many still do, draw a drastic line between palabra and 
labia. The former is the moral ancestor of contracts enforceable at law. 
The latter is a verbal screen for hidden intentions. Much talk that is 
addressed to these farm workers is discounted because, somehow, it 
rings false. They have been lied to by contractors. They have been de- 
ceived by Government agents. Yet they are a people who must rely 
on the spoken rather than on the written word. For this reason com- 
munication between farm workers and persons who want to win their 
confidence demands a slow, pereistent face-to-face contact w ith them. 
One could almost say that their culture protects them against the traps 
of mass communication, as we know it in American society today ; but 
it must also be said that it prevents the quick mobilization of opinion 
on which social pressure is ultimately based. 

Two other cultural traits which I believe operate in some degree in 
this group should be noted. These are the attitudes toward work and 
toward technology. 

Work to the Mexican farm laborer is economic production for sur- 
vival. Work is an input of muscle and nerve. Depreciation is the wear- 
ing out of human tissue. The only thing you own is your body. It is 
the only source of wealth you know anything about. Whatever you 
may be able to buy with your savings — an automobile, a refrigerator — 
is property you have worked for. You do not own anything that pro- 
duces wealth for you apart from your own body. Your concern is to 
protect your own labor. You do not buy the labor of others. You do 
not understand the economics of wealth produced by machines which 


can become your wealth only if you own the machines. When a Mexi- 
can says "'trabajo" he feels a whole way of life. To him "working cap- 
ital" is meaningless. 

Closely tied to this attitude is his approach to technology. The 
Mexican has a well-deserved reputation for being ingenious as a 
craftsman. He can be as competent with a pair of pliers and a piece 
of wire as with the most complicated farm equipment or machine 
tools. A descendant of creative tinkerers he is one himself — at least 
until he is submerged in the city. His delight in the tool or the 
machine is essentially naive. It is a piece of the action, not a piece 
of property. Thirty years ago an illiterate Mexican farmworker ex- 
plained to me the basic principles of the Rust cottonpicking machine. 
If he instead of Rust had invented that machine, I am almost cer- 
tain he would have put it in a barn, just to mess with it for sheer 
fun. He would not have turned it loose in the fields to drive his fellow 
workers from them — at least, not until he had been acculturated into 
the American way of life. 

I want to again qualify this brief summary of cultural traits. 
Transported to the American scene they tend to become cultural 
vestiges doomed in the long run to disappear. That they persist in 
some degree is explained by the fact that the Mexican emigration is 
only half a century removed from its roots. I believe that on the 
whole they are still sufficiently operative to account for some of the 
helplessness of Mexican farm laborers as a class which interests this 

How is this to be explained, in cultural terms? 

It is to be explained by comparing them with the corresponding 
traits of the dominant American society. 

This society is English speaking. Its important business is carried 
on in that language by right of conquest and of sovereignty. Fluency 
in English is a condition for holding your own. Lacking such fluency 
you can be misunderstood in two languages, not just in one. Until 
he achieves it the Spanish speaker must do all the fumbling. It is 
he who must pay the penalties of a miscarriage in communication. 
This is one of the penalties of migration, and I suppose it is imposed 
under all flags. All that I am trying to point out is that here, in a 
cultural ambivalence, there is already an enormous loss of social power. 

As to religion, we see the Mexican laborer imploring his patron 
saint. We also see the American employer sending his congressman 
a telegram. Some Mexicans may still believe in the efficacy of inter- 
cessory religion. No American executive relies on the saints in this 
fashion. He has devised and perfected very mundane technics for 
running the show. For some 40 years or more I have observed the 
test of both systems in corporate agriculture in the Southwest. The 
saints have lost every round. 

There is the same contrast between concepts of the primary social 
unit. With the Mexican it is still the family. With the American it is 
the corporation, now fast becoming not only the provider but also 
the arbiter of style, the molder of attitudes, the keeper of the inherit- 
ance, and the giver of values. 

The object of both of these styles of the primary social unit is co- 
hesion. Both apply it to production. But the life styles resulting from 

Tolnt' WilHp!?' T H- ^^'' '' so obvious I need not belabor the 
point. 1 ^Mll rest with the opinion that increasingly in America the 
securities of corporations appear to thrive as the insecurities of the 
family mcrease. Mexican farm labor families are, of course, not the 
only casualties 9f this process. They are only a special illustration 

l^or the Mexican wHo is still inclined to mean social behavior by 
education, it requires a cultural wrench to accept education as a utility. 
An American who does not appreciate the dollar value of a college ed- 
ucation IS to most Americans, an idiot. A Mexican who appreciates it 
m those terms is to many Mexicans, a monster. The practical view of 
education seems to me to be winning in the process of acculturation 
through which the Mexicans are being taken. There are those who 
continue to resist it, but they do so under severe handicaps. 

The differences as to work and production ethics are equally sharp. 
As I have said the only property the Mexican has is the property he 
works for. It is clear, by contrast, that in the affluent American society 
the kind of property that counts increasingly is the property that 
works for you. Do we not have here a cultural difference of very great 
implications? I believe we do. Given the trend in America in the dis- 
tribution of the kind of property that works for you it would appear 
that those who do not grasp the difference are culturally retarded. 

Now as to the differences in cultural stress on organization. In the 
small and relatively compact rural Mexican society the folk life is the 
social organization. In a society of more than 200 million people living 
on a vast territory — a society which is, moreover, a quilt of cultures 
rather than a culture — conflicting interests and cross-grained values, 
in trying to prevail, make more and more use of better and better or- 
ganization. The mechanics, the efficiency, of organization become the 
vital things. Those who do not master them will languish, if indeed 
they do not perish. The Mexican farm laborers are not experts in this 
matter. Their employers, the agribusinessmen, are. What expertise the 
laborers have has been gained in spite of the overwhelming financial 
and political resources marshaled to prevent their organization. 

I want to dispose now^ of the subject of cultural traits before con- 
cluding with some observations on powerlessness. 

I do not believe that there is a subculture of farm laborers because 
I am not convinced that there are any subcultures at all. To the extent 
that Mexicans in American agriculture today preserve cultural traits 
peculiar to their ancestry they are worthy for that reason. I find noth- 
ing primitive about any culture, if it is a culture as I have defined 
it. The word "subculture" suggests subordination as the word "prim- 
itive" suggests inadequacy or inferiority. But no social pattern can 
be subsidiary or submarginal which is made up of the unprogramed 
responses of human beings seeking to fulfill their needs in a given 
environment. If this is the least as well as the most of culture, there 
are no higher and lower orders of culture. Coleridge, I suspect, has 
given us the true pitch : 

"And what if all of animated nature 
Be but organic harps diversely framed 
That tremble into thought?" 

On these grounds I doubt that this subcommittee gains much by 
lingering on the subject of culture. You cannot legislate for or against 


The dominant subject is powerlessness and the basic issue is power. 
What are farmworkers in general, and Mexican farmworkers in 
particular, powerless against? 

They are powerless against a power that is lodged somewhere. We 
can locate this power and identify it in one of two ways. 

First, we may believe in a thoroughly modern demonology that 
haunts American society. The demons have names : the prime rate of 
interest, the cost of living, inflation, to name only three. They are 
pervasive. They are insatiable. The executive cannot placate them. The 
Congress cannot exercise them. The judiciary cannot restrain them. 
They demand sacrifice and they are offered, bit by bit, to the American 

But this would be a primitive way of explaining the matter. 
I suggest a rational one, namely : 

American is not yet a seamless culture but a texture of many cul- 
tures. Upon these there has been superimposed a dazzling civilization. 
The focus of this civilization is technology. And the command of 
this technology is in the hands of the arch-azoics. The arch-azoics are 
persons who abhor "harps diversely framed" and who do not tremble 
into thought but at the thought that others might think. Their world 
is not animated nature but nature synchronized, sanforized and 

A life style of this kind, to be created and maintained and advanced, 
requires very great power. We must all be disciplined to pay the neces- 
sary tribute to it. Its technique is superb organization. Its instrument 
is science. Its goal is thrust — thrust into Vietnam, thrust to the Moon, 
thrust to Neptune — no matter, so long as it is thrust. And its require- 
ment is power. 

The farmworkers of the southwest— Mexicans, Filipinos, blacks, 
white Appalachians^are not exempt from this power. They are pe- 
culiarly less resistant to it because of their cultural atavisms. Aside 
fffom this pecularity they are in the same condititon as millions of 
other Americans, nonfarm workers and nonethnics. 

There is no other way in which I can understand the powerlessness 
of America's minorities today. [End of prepared statement.] 

Senator Mondale. Your statement has been ordered printed in the 
record so please proceed as you wish. 

Dr. Galarza. Before I get into my own subject matter, I want to 
tell you how much impressed I was with the drawings that Dr. Coles 
projected on the screen. It just happens that because I am a teacher 
by profession, I have collected drawings of this kind myself. I think it 
is extremely useful for a gentleman of Dr. Coles 'competence and back- 
ground to bring before you this evidence that carried you right into 
the psychological field because these drawings and Dr. Coles' words 
can, I think, tell us something even more significant; namely, that 
this evidence on the screen is evidence of cortical damage. 

Let me explain what I mean by that. We have had in the last 15 
years enough research in neurology, mostly with primates and animals, 
to indicate that when an organism is deprived of certain experiences 
in the early stages of development, there is such deprication of cortical 
development that we can truthfully say that as much damage is done 
as if a weapon or an object were thrown against a human skull and 
the cortex beneath it were physically damaged. This means that i± 


from the age of 1 day to the age of 10, migrant children are deprived 
of the physical experiences, the variety and richness of life, and above 
all, the stability that the human brain needs to assimilate these ex- 
periences, that we are in every sense of the word damaging the brain 
of that child and this damage has no repair, at least so people who 
know more about these matters than I tell us. 

I also want to emphasize Dr. Coles' statement to you that migrancy 
ought to be abolished. I could not agree more. Migrancy is obsolete. 
It IS not only damaging and harmful to children particularly, but it is 

Migrancy and migration of this kind are even technologically not 
necessary. Without going any further into it, I would endorse and sup- 
port Dr. Coles' plea that migration and migrancy be eliminated and 
abolished as an economic feature of our society. 

With this much by way of preliminary, Mr. Chairman, let me then 
proceed to the highlights of my statement. 

When Mr. Chertkov (counsel to the subcommittee) explained to 
me that you were now dealing in these hearings with such matters as 
cultural subgroups and powerlessness, I was alarmed. I told Mr. Chert- 
kov that this is getting into very hazardous ground, not that I would 
be afraid to follow you into it, but that I had to recognize immedi- 
ately for my own safety that if he agreed to a discussion on culture 
and powerlessness, especially the very dubious subject of subculture, 
that I had better cross my fingers and keep them crossed until I leave 
this chair. 

So I am entering into an aresi which is, as I say in my statement, 
strewn with conceptional banana peelings. I enter it with a great deal 
of caution, but I am in it now and let me see if I can get through with 
it without falling. These are the points that I make preliminarily. 

No. 1. Corporation farming commonly known in my part of the 
country as agribusiness and the type of labor that it calls into being, 
dates approximately only 100 years back and, further, that the Mexi- 
can migration that is now our concern, has even a shorter history. It 
doesn't date more than some 60 years back. 

I make the further point that during this very short span of 100 
years or less, the basic characteristic, from a cultural point of view, of 
farm labor in the South and in the southwest has l)een instability. 
Here, of course, I am simply underlining something that Dr. Coles 

Mexican farmworkers in the Southwest today are the product of 
instability that goes back to their own country. They are people who 
are ejected from the social system into which tliey were born and the 
true culture which they inherited. I make the point in my statement 
also that this instability is also characterized by dispossession of an- 
other kind and that is the dispossession of the wealth which they earn 
through their labor. 

The wage systems in agriculture which I have seen and studied for 
the last 40 years are wage systems designed to dispossess the farm 
work from a portion of the wealth to which he is legitimately entitled. 
I also make the point, Mr. Chairman, that the farm labor group as 
a group, especially the Mexican sector, is a kind of an escalator system. 
That is to say, in the last 60 years we have had a generation of farm- 


workers which grows old on the job in the industry ; a second genera- 
tion of farmworkers who begin to understand that the life of farm 
labor is not for them, but are not quite able to make it out of there. 

Then there comes a third generation, which is the generation in 
which we are today that moves out at the top. They go to the cities 
and become industrial or service workers. 

Senator Mondale. You find that takes about three generations then ? 

Dr. Galarza. In the Mexican group it has taken about that long 
to get out of there. I also point out when I say "escalator," and the 
fact that at the top of the escalator the young leave the agriculture 
industry, I want to emphasize that the top of the escalator is the 
bottom of the central city. 

When they get off, they do so not to enter heaven, but to enter the 
lowest rungs of the ghetto. I want to make that very clear. 

Senator Mondale. Based on Dr. Coles' testimony, even that is 
progress, because they stop moving. 

Dr. Galarza. Yes ; that is right. I then go on to point out that we 
have to deal with a poor concept here and that is the concept of 
acculturation. The sociologists, who are my teachers in this respect, 
tell us that acculturation takes place with all of us. We are born into 
a society and we just unconsciously are absorbed into it. 

When you are a migrant from another country, acculturation is a 
different matter. You have to give up your original culture in the same 
process by which you have to take on the new one. You have to take 
note of this and you have to be aware that this is a very difficult and 
very trying and sometimes a very tragic process. So, I describe the 
acculturation of the American farmworkers in the United States as a 
process of acculturation by extrusion. That is to say, human beings are 
put through a process by which they have to give up some of their 
cultural traits. 

I will point out what some of these are. And having been forced to 
give these up, there is something totally different taking place. You 
don't accept a cultural trait because it is natural, because it is auto- 
matic ; you accept it because the society around you makes you accept it. 

Another important matter I want to underline here, Mr. Chairman, 
is that if you take the Mexican farm labor group as an exponent of the 
total farm labor group, this sector itself is a mix of subgroups. What I 
mean is that among the Mexican farmworkers today there are the so- 
called locales. The locales are the local resident farmworkers who are 
of Mexican ancestry. 

There are thousands of wetbacks. There have been and continue to 
be braceros, who are temporary contract workers, and there are so- 
called green-card commuters, another type of worker. If you just take 
these four classes and study them closely, you find that within the 
Mexican farm labor group, they constitute a very difficult mix, difficult 
in the sense that it makes it hard for Mexicans as Mexican Americans 
to protect themselves, to organize, and to watch over their own interests, 
because these are separations within the group and they are very im- 
portant cultural ones. 

Finally, a very important fact is that the farm labor group in the 
Southwest, particularly, is composed of Mexicans, Filipinos, blacks, 
and of southern Appalachian whites, to name just the major categories. 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-10 


If you take all of these people as a group and if you find in them cul- 
tural characteristics which are very distinct from one group to anothei, 
you begin to understand what the relationship between powerlessness 
and culture really means. There is not the cohesion, the even texture 
between them that there is in a society which doesn't have these 
various groups. 

I want to use a phrase here which I think is very significant. It is a 
Spanish phrase. I will say it first in Spanish and try to translate it 
for you. "When we say in Spanish in Mexico, "Estoy en case ajena," "I 
feel as if I were a guest in your home,'- what I am saying is that there 
are many things I cannot do or even feel or speak as long as I am in 
somebody else's house. 

I want to suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that this is an important 
thing to take note of because when farmworkers, especially Mexican 
farmworkers, are engaged in organizing campaigns or in efforts to 
call attention to their plight, they have this handicap. They feel a 
sense of respect, of not being obtrusive or boorish or clownish or just 
rude in raising the certain issues which are vital to them, but are not 
vital to you. 

And so this very subtle difference of feeling that the Mexican ex- 
presses out of a sense of courtesy to his hosts has disastrous effects for 
him. This is a cultural factor. 

I am not going to stop to call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the 
fact that in this paper I am careful to define what I understand by 
culture and power, because I will come to that briefly in a minute. The 
gist of my testimony here would be in the pages that follow in which I 
suggest that in the area of cultural traits, those that are important 
at least so far as the Mexican farmworkers are concerned, are the fol- 
lowing: language, what I call intercessory religion, family cohesion, 
family labor, the patron system, the attitudes of Mexicans toward 
work, toward technology, toward organization, toward education, and 
toward something that I call the sense of obligation. 

Let me say just a sentence about a group of each of these. 

Language. Mexican farmworkers in this country, of which there are 
possibly 600,000 or 700,000 in and out of industry, employed and unem- 
ployed, use Spanish as their basic language. This is so obvious that I 
might be stating a truism, but I need to emphasize it because Spanish 
being their cultural heritage and being the only word system which 
they have to understand one another, this immediately raises the ques- 
tion, is Spanish adequate for tliese particular farmworkers to deal 
with the economic environment outside of their own group? And the 
contention I make, the interpretation I offer is that while Spanish is 
absolutely essential for them to understand one another, it is inade- 
quate for them to deal with the forces and the powers that they have 
to contend with that come upon them from the outside and that come 
upon them using the English language, not the Spanish. 

I think it would be of interest to you, Mr. Chairman, to read in this 
statement a paragraph in which I call your attention to tlie effect that 
this has when the Mexican Spanish-speaking farmworker reaches a 
point where he has neither a Spanish nor an English word in which 
to express himself. 

I give you a list of a few words of that kind. You will find that at 
page 8 in the next to the last paragraph. 


The point of that passage in my testimony is simply that the 
language necessary for the cohesion of the group is a handicap when 
it comes to deal with business, which speaks its own brands of Eng- 
lish. Then I take up the subject matter of the family, which is a very 
important cultural factor. 

Mexican farmworkers are very deeply conscious of the role of the 
family. It is the only stable frame that they have in their society. And 
the preservation of this family unit is important to them. I want to 
emphasize that what sociologists call the "extended family" is begin- 
ning to turn in the Mexican communities into what I would call the 
"extenuated family." It is wearing away, it is being eroded, but it 
still is a powerful cultural trait. 

This leads me to the next point, which is that the Mexican farm- 
worker still looks upon the family unit also as economic and not 
merely a cultural unit. That is to say, they tend to think in terms of 
family labor, which means that each and every member of the family, 
including the very young, have to contribute not only to the psycho- 
logical unity of the family, but to its economic survival. 

This by steps leads us to the reasons for the revival in the South- 
west of the patron system. I have no trouble at all in remembering 
when I was 5 years of age what the patron meant to us in the little 
town where I was born. The patron was a very vivid figure. He was a 
man who rode around on a horse with a Winchester hanging from 
his saddle and revolver from his belt. Not only was he the authority 
figure, but he was the man with whom the campesino made the job 

If it weren't for the patron, you couldn't have a job. In the South- 
west, Mexicans rediscover the patron, but in a different incarnation. 
He is the labor contractor and the crew leader and in time he becomes 
what I call in the text the patroncito, the little patron, who accumu- 
lates a little capital and is able to play the role of protector and of 
keeper and sort of helper, because from his little accumulation of 
capital he makes loans to his workers, he bails them out of jail, he 
feeds them on credit, he lets them live in the camp through the winter 
months until the next season and then he collects the back rent. 

This is the traditional patron system which has become in the South- 
west the core of the social system and which in a sense explains the 
pow^erlessness of the workers. 

Senator Mondale. The patron is the crew leader ? 

Dr. Galarza. The crew leader. 

Senator Mondale. He doesn't want a union, does he ? 

Dr. Galarza. Never. 

Senator Mondale. Because that is the end of his role ? 

Dr. Galarza. That's right. 

Senator Mondale. So when you want to organize a union in an en- 
vironment where the patron system is widespread, the man that the 
worker depends upon for his job, depends upon for his credit to get out 
of jail, depends upon as his special pleader with the power system, 
this man will oppose it and try to deny him these services that are es- 
sential to his survival. 

Once he becomes a troublemaker, he is a marked man in the system, 
is he not ? 


Dr. Galarza. And if you fall into disgrace or disfavor with your 
local patron, the labor contractor with whom you have been working 
for years perhaps, you are in real trouble because you are not only in 
disgrace with him, but you are in disgrace with those powers above 
him for whom he is the broker, and this is a major disaster in your life 
and the life of your family and one you try to avoid at all costs. 

If you have to chose between a trade union organization that cannot 
give you these credits, cannot feed you and cannot take care of you in 
this paternalistic fashion, you will think twice before you carry a 
union card. 

Senator Mondale. The patron in turn has to develop a constituency 
that will use the services that he will provide and he will want to 
promise a hard-working labor group, and liopefully a labor group that 
will work for less than someone else's group, is that right? 

Dr. Galarza. Yes. One of the results, if not one of the stated ob- 
jectives of the contractor system in the Southwest that I have seen, is 
to keep the wage scale down and in that its effort has been eminently 

"Well, Mr. Chairman, I make reference to two or three other cultural 
traits which I think are important, but I think you have just touched 
upon one, and that is the matter of organization. 

Having been a farm labor organizer for some 15 years of my life in 
some 10 States of the Union, but particularly with Mexicans, I am 
convinced that the concept of organized action is not in the culture of 
the Mexican worker. To join an organization, to take out a card and 
pay dues, to go to meetings, to go throu<i;h this whole process of what 
we know is necessary and traditional ni the American trade union 
movement, is really an alien concept to a Mexican fresh out of Mexico 
and remains strange to him until he has been here at least two genera- 

Senator Mondale. Why is that? 

Dr. Galarza. The reason is that most of these workers in the last 
40 years have come from rural Mexico and in rural Mexico the cul- 
tural life of small groups of people living in villages is the organiza- 
tion. You don't think of organization as something apart from the 
texture of life around you. That is to say, you belong to your religion, 
your customs, the way you dress, your speech, all of this is part of 
something that is not called organization but that is organization in 
the deepest and most satisfying human sense. 

When they come to the United States, organization has to be pre- 
sented to them as I have had to present it as a technique, not a way 
of life. And until they understand this, they are cautious. 

I have had this difficulty, for instance, when I have organized local 
Mexican farm labor. I would offer to give them a class in trade union 
organization. On such and such an evening we would meet as a 
class. Out of perhaps a hundred people to whom I issued the invita- 
tion, two would show up, among other reasons, because under those 
circumstances that I am referring to, I happened to be about 25 years 
of age when this was happening to me and the men I was inviting 
were 50 and 60 and it was hard for them to conceive themselves going 
to a classroom, sitting down in chairs, and listening to a teacher who 
was half their age. 


In their culture, you listen to teachings and wisdom from people 
twice your age, not half your age. And until you have lived through 
this for years and have learned that these are important and psycho- 
logically sound and healthy attitudes, you wonder why don't these 
people come to my class ? I am only trying to help. But you eventually 
learn this and you find ways to do so. 

This is the answer to your question. 

Senator Mondale. How do you explain Cesar Chavez' success in 
California ? 

Dr. Galarza. If you will allow me to postpone the answer to that 
question a while, because it is a very important one, I will bring it 
into the whole picture. 

Two other things I want to mention and then I will go on. One is 
a psychological attitude, the culture trait of the Mexicans so far as 
technology is concerned. Culturally and given his background as a 
Mexican, his ancestry, the Mexican does not regard work as anything 
other than a physiological input. 

Work is putting your muscle and your nerve into a productive oper- 
ation. Work is not something that machines do, but that people do. 
Work is a way of life and not a technology. And some Mexican farm- 
workers of the older generation have a cultural hangup, a cultural 
drawback in that they automatically think of themselves as people 
born to physically spill their sweat and use up their muscle because 
this is the only way in which society can produce wealth. 

And it is very hard for them, but they do learn slowly that wealth 
can also be produced by machines and that you can also make a living, 
a very comfortable one sometimes, by owning machines and never 
doing a lick of work, as they understand it, in your life. 

This cultural trait is important because along with it goes a deep 
respect for putting in an 8 or 9 or 10-hour day, sweating it out and 
laboring at some kind of a task. And it is an interesting thing. People 
who consider the Mexican farm laborers lazy and lackadaisical and ir- 
responsible don't know that these people consider people who own ma- 
chines and who never lift their hands or more than press buttons to 
make them work, in their opinion, they are the lazy ones. 

Here you have an almost perfect contrast between cultural traits 
and cultural attitudes. I bring this into the discussion in order to 
make the further point that the Mexican does not make a very great 
effort to become an owner of machines, so that he may live through 
the labor of machines. 

Senator Mondale. So that in his culture, being an entrepreneur is 
not considered to be an aspiration, but is a way of avoiding work and 
work is the honorable thing ? 

Dr. Galarza. That is correct. You have put it much more succinctly 
than I have, Mr. Chairman. I want to close with one cultural trait 
which is very important and very difficult to explain. I can't word it 
in a way that even satisfies me, but I am going to try. 

In the Mexican culture originally and as a survival in the Southwest 
among Mexican farmworkers, especially the elderly, there is a concept 
of verguenza. Verguenza is a very complicated cultural idea. In its 
simple9t meaning you might say it is a sense of shame, but it is more 
than that. 


In the text I try to explain that a Mexican farmworker has a deep 
sense within him of what is socially good and what is antisocial. Ver- 
guenza does not require being caught in the act to make you feel bad. 
Verguenza is confrontation between you and your conscience. 

And so, therefore, the Mexican farmworker in the fields feels that 
verguenza, if he doesn't do the job right, if he is skipping or fudging 
or not doing it as he knows the job ought to be done. I have talked 
to cottonpickers who occasionally throw a brick in their cotton sack 
to make it weigh more and who at long last do this because they 
have seen that when they go in to weigh their cotton sack, the con- 
tractor turns the face of the dial away from the worker and marks 
5 pounds or 10 pounds less than the cotton actually weighs. 

So he discovers a way of compensating and throws a rock or brick 
in the bag and, of course, the checker looks for it in the bag and takes 
it out and penalizes him. He does this with a sense of shame, as I 
know from having talked with him. 

Unless we understand this, we fail to understand also why, for 
instance, Mr. Chairman, it is so difficult to find farmworkers who 
are willing to appear in public meetings and make known their 
grievances and their distresses and their anxieties. They feel ver- 
guenza in standing up before a meeting, because there is a cultural 
tendency for the others in that meeting, if they are Mexicans, to say 
that he is showing off, he is pretending to be better than the rest. 

This keeps these people from legitimately expressing themselves 
before a public official like yourself what is on their minds and what 
is happening to them. 

At this point, Mr. Chairman, in my presentation I then make what 
I think is the whole import of this testimony, namely, when you take 
these cultural traits and assess them with their direct opposites in 
American culture that they have to deal with, you come up with the 
conclusion that the total effect is already a loss of power. 

It is already an explanation of the powerlessness with which this 
subcommittee is concerned. I point out, for instance, that in the mat- 
ter of religion, what the Mexican believes in and feels is intercessory 
religion. By that I mean that these are overwhelmingly Roman 
Catholic people and in the Roman Catholic tradition and faith and 
creed you call upon the saints and you depend upon the rituals of 
the church to keep you in touch with eternity and with divinity, but 
there are many occasions when the priest is not around. You can't wait 
for ritual and it is at this point that you call directly upon your patron 

I want to tell you of an experience that illustrates this perfectly. I 
attended a meeting of braceros some years ago where there were a 
hundred men in the room and at the front of the hall — this took place 
in their barracks — at the front of the dormitory they had erected 
a little altar. On top of that they had put a figurine of the Virgin of 
Guadalupe. They were praying to the Virgin that their contracts 
might be renewed and that they might receive a wage increase of 5 
cents an hour. 

I have no doubt that these men deeply and truly felt that the Virgin 
of Guadalupe was listening to them that very moment. This was inter- 
cession that they were seeking. And afterward I made an effort to 

r 477 

find out whether their employers and the contractors had been listen- 
ing to the Virgin, because I am sure the Virgin of Guadalupe responded 
to the workers, but I could find no evidence there was any response to 
the Virgin from the employers, which means that from a cultural point 
of view, you have these hundred men reduced to an utter extremity 
and their only cultural recourse was appeal to their saint, whom they 
really believed would intercede with them vis-a-vis the employers. 

So, when you look at the culture of the a^ri-businessmen, they were 
not in a habit of holding services for the Virgin of Guadalupe to find 
out what the farmworkers were asking. 

Senator Mondale. I was struck with this recently when farmworkers 
walked a hundred miles, much of it across the desert, that they had a 
National Farm Workers sign along with the Lady of Guadalupe which 
they carried with them. 
' Dr. Galarza. This leads me directly to answer the question you 
raised before about Chavez. The Delano movement, among other things, 
has put together a pattern of cultures and traits which up to now has 
been very effective and among them is this religious appeal. 

There is no question but that this symbolism has given a dignity 
and a hope and power. Of course, I must also point out that an im- 
portant reason why the Delano people have been able to hold them- 
selves together thus far is that not only have they invoked the 
intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but they have invoked and 
received the intercession of the American labor movement and the 
I combination thus far has proved to be very effective and ven^ hopeful. 
' I hope both remain in the picture, both the Virgin of Guadalupe 
and Mr. George Meany. 

Well, Mr. Chairman, I had intended to draw the contrast in detail, 
but I am sure my time has run out. It is now five after twelve. I want 
to give some time for questions if you have any. 

Let me conclude by going back to the question of the power- 
lessness which is central to your inquiry. You will notice in my 
statement that at the very outset I indicate that we cannot, I think, 
discuss powerlessness in a vacuum because what we are really saying 
is that this is a powerlessness in the face of power. There must be a 
power somewhere against which these people are powerless. I think 
it is in this direction that the time and thought of the committee can 
best be spent. 

Let me say in passing that I have very serious doubts as to how- 
useful it is for us to use the word subculture. I hear it a lot — about 
the subculture of the farmworkers and of the Mexican farmworkers. 
I think it is very difficult to prove that there is such a subculture 
as it is to prove that there are primitive cultures. 

If a culture is adequate and genuine, it is neither higher nor lower. 
It is a genuine culture and I don't think we can rightfully say that 
the culture of the pueblos of New Mexico is inferior to the culture 
of New England or of the eastern seaboard or of New Yorkers. 

What I want to stress is that our attention should be directed, 
if we want an answer to the question of powerlessness, we should 
look at the question of power. The reason why these farmworkers are 
and have been under such distress and handicaps is that there is a 
power in America today which affects them as well as many of the 
rest of us. 


The power in America today, it seems to me, is an economic power 
of ver}' great imbalance. In agriculture there is no question in my 
mind but that the powerlessness of the farmworkers is in inverse 
ratio to the powerfulness of the agricultural industry and its major 

We have a relationship of people, employers, and employees, entre- 
preneurs and farmworkers, in which there is no economic power on 
the one hand and practically all of it on the other. 

I am concerned today in appearing here, Mr. Chairman, with, first 
of all, my eti'ort, and I think it is a very inadequate one, to identify 
for your interest or your emphasis upon the effect of culture differ- 
ences in the relations of employer and employee. 

I am also concerned that we do not lose sight of the fact that we 
cannot isolate the question of powerlessness of farmworkers from the 
general question of power in our society as a whole. 

And I want to conclude by trying to wrap this up, these cultural 
traits that I have discussed m the following way. What we have in 
America is not one culture but a fascinating quilt of cultures from 
coast to coast and from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. 

On top of these many cultures there is superimposed a civilization, 
which is not the same thing. And within the civilization we have a 
very narrow emphasis on technology. This is what we consider to be 
the glory of our civilization. 

Just in the last 10 days, we have had what is probably the peak of 
this glory in the landing on the moon. Within this technology we have 
persons, individual human beings, who manage and own that tech- 

This is the power that I am talking about and to this kind of power, 
farmworkers, Mexican farmworkers, have no access. The minute you 
move into the upper levels of American civilization, into technology 
and property concepts and controls, you have left these people behind. 
You have lost them. This is the powerlessness of the farmworker. 

And in this connection I want to say that they are in great company. 
The farmworkers of this country are not the only powerless people 
today. Millions and millions of Americans today are haunted by the 
special demons of American civilization. We have a demonology: the 
prime rate of interest, the cost of living, and inflation. These are our 
demons and nobody seems to be able to deal with them, not the Con- 
gress, not the executive, not the judiciary. You can't placate them and 
you can't stop them. 

These demons demand their sacrifice. And they are getting their 
sacrifice piece by piece, and the name of that sacrificial victim is the 
American consumer. 

If you press me to give you some example of powerlessness elsewhere 
than in the American labor field, I can say the American consumer 
is as powerless today as the farmworker. 

The point I want to make is that the farmworkers are in good com- 
pany. The point is to have committees like your own isolate and elimi- 
nate the immediate damage that is done to these people because of their 
special culture situation and their special powerlessness and then to go 
on and to understand why power in our society is organized as it is 
because if the farmworker served this historic purpose, they have 
served us all well. 


Thank you very much. 

Senator Mondale. Thank you, Doctor, for an excellent presenta- 

You have written a landmark volume entitled "Merchants of Labor", 
in which you describe very accurately the bracero program and its im- 
pact on Americans. 

Do you think we can ever solve our other problems we have dis- 
cussed this morning without first stopping or substantially slowing the 
flow of commuters across our borders with Mexico ? 

Do you think the Bracero program should be started again as a sub- 
stitute for the present use of green cards ? 

Dr. Galarza. Mr. Chairman, when I heard you allude to this before, 
I was extremely impressed because w^hen I was with National Farm 
Labor Union some years ago, I am going back 20 years, we tried to 
arouse labor leaders and many others to approve a plan that we were 
then proposing, namely, to take thought over what was happened and 
beginning to shapeup along the United States-Mexican border, other- 
wise it would be impossible to solve these other difficulties, to deal with 
farm labor migrancy and so on. Today I am sorry to say that our prog- 
nosis is being carried out, it is happening. And I want to go along with 
you and encourage this committee to focus very intensely on the border 
because unless the two countries, the two governments, candidly admit 
that what is going on along the border has a serious effect on the Mexi- 
can farmworkers and others on the north, that we are going to be beat- 
ing around the bush. 

I do not believe in the revival of the bracero program. I do not 
believe that the commuter matter is going to be resolved until we take 
a deeper look at the entire border situation. 

I want to stress, Mr. Chairman, that there is shaping up along the 
border now what I would call technological perfection of migration 
because we have apparently arrived at a point or some persons have 
apparently arrived at a point where they have agreed upon a formula 
and the formula is this : 

That American manufacturing plants should be moved to the bor- 
der in very close proximity to the manpower that is piling up south 
of the border and by a system of export licenses and duties and so on, 
make it possible for the final processing of American goods to be car- 
ried on south of the border at very, very low wages and reshipped to 
the United States for sale in our market and in world markets. This 
apparently is a policy to which both the United States Government 
and Mexican Government are committed. I was impressed, if not 
shocked, when I read not long ago how a very high Mexican official 
describe with great hope and anticipation his feelings about this. He 
said we, and I am paraphrasing, we are going to develop an economic 
system along the border that will be even better than the Hong Kong 

And so there is growing up along the border what I would call a 
powerful economic magnet attracting capital to the border and at- 
tracting literally millions of poor people, of Mexicans, and giving us 
this improved version of the Hong Kong system. This will mean a 
stimulation of more migration in Mexico. It will mean displacement 
of workers in the plants that move to the border and it will mean 
migration of not only people but of such plants. 


So you will have in the making in the next 20 years a very powerful 
leverage to derange and to upset and to introduce more chaos into the 
economic systems of the southwest. 

Your committee, I think, Mr. Chairman, would render this country 
and I think the Mexican people a great service if you would go into 
this and document it and help simply to find out what is gomg on. 
This would be a great service to us all. 

Senator Mondale. We have long recognized the international trade 
prohibitions against the dumping of products in the market at sub- 
sidized and low-cost levels, on the ground that it is disruptive to trade, 
it is a bad below-the-belt strategj'. No nation can be blamed for re- 
taliating to protect itself against dumping. And yet, we have here a 
policy of dumping thousands of human beings across the border, 
with depressed working conditions, that either break unions or pre- 
vent their development. 

It has created what Dr. Coles testified to as an environment in 
which the most deprived of the deprived are being destroyed by these 
oppressive forces and yet no one seems to be able to do a thing about 

The Department of Labor and States along the border are ap- 
parently openly encouraging this border industry program that you 
have between the United States and the Mexican Government. Mexico 
is no different from almost any other country in the world where we 
see people fleeing the rural areas and moving into urban areas. That 
is a rural phenomenon. 

Apparently the answer satisfies the Mexican Government, and the 
powers in our Government think that most of that tragic flow of 
pathetically poor and unskilled men ought to be dumped in the 
United States, which will make the problem worse. 

And all of the hope and optimism that flowed from ending the 
bracero program seems to be nullified with this approach. 

Senator Mondale. On a recent trip to the Rio Grande Valley in 
Texas, I spent an evening with so-called brown power militants. What 
is your appraisal of brown power militancy and role of Mexican youth 

Dr. Galarza. Mr. Chairman, as background for your question, may 
I say that during the last 8 years I have been very frequently a visi- 
tor on the campuses of colleges and universities, particularly in the 
Southwest, where there is an enrollment of Mexican youth and I have 
been in southern and central Texas, also, and in the metropolitan area 
of Louisiana, speaking to these young people, and I know some of the 
leaders of this brown power, as it calls itself, movement. 

First of all, many of these young people are the third generation 
of Mexican migration. They have left agriculture, they have by hook 
or by crook obtained a college education. They have not lost their 
sense of Verguenza. They maintain at least enough of it to feel that 
what the people who are left in the fields have is a shame. They feel 
their portion of it and they are responding to it. 

The so-called Brown Power Movement is very young. It hasn't been 
in existence more than something like 8 years. It is a very youthful 
youth movement and as yet a very small one. These young men are 
devoted to their sense of responsibility and they are just now begin- 
ning to cope with power structures and beginning to discover their 
own powerlessness. 


I think they stand in grave danger. They are powerless enough to 
not be able to withstand the avalanche of repression which is taking 
shape on and off the campus. These are good young men and women. 
They need our understanding and they need our help and they need 
our support and they need our protection. 

In the long run, they are the only hope that we have to really under- 
stand what is cracking up our civilization in the southwest. 

I am sure, Mr. Chairman, without knowing what your personal 
experience was, that it was an abrasive one, and abrasion is a part 
of this so-called Mexican brown power and I say so-called in quota- 
tion marks because I am not really a believer in power. I know our 
civilization is run by it but I don't believe in it. 

I believe in vitality and in strength to resist power because power, 
once it comes into anybody's hands, is invariably misused. 

I spend my time lecturing these young men, telling them that they 
are in the beginning stage of selfidentification. It is a good road to 
be on. I raise the question : What will you do with your power when 
and if you have it ? And I think we are having some very interesting 
discussions among them. 

I am delighted that you were able to meet some of these young peo- 
ple and I think they are going to be around a good long while. 

Senator Mondale. One last question: What explanation do you 
give for the impotence of the Mexican-Americans? Wliy is it thait, 
at least according to the way I see it, they show relatively little in- 
terest in the political power that might be theirs, and particularly 
the migrant many times fails to even consider that this might be an 
avenue for improvement? 

Dr. Galarza. This characteristic, Mr. Chairman, does continue to 
be a very salient one among farm workers and, of course, obviously 
among migrant farm workers. 

Before I come to grips with the core of the question, I want to 
point out to you that this impotence is no longer characteristic of 
the third generation descendent of the original farm worker. 

Not long ago, these young brown jwwer people got together and 
organized themselves in San Antonio, Tex., registered voters, and got 
them to the polls and came within a few hundred votes of forcing 
Mayor McAllister into a run-off, it scared the . . . well, it just scared 
the establishment. 

Now I get back to the core of your question. We have often in the 
farm labor union wondered because this is a very serious problem. 

No. 1, the mobility of the farmworker family is lodged at the 
very root of the answer to your question. They don't stay long enough 
in any one place to become residents. 

No. 2, ignorance of the machinery of the American political sys- 
tem. We have to ^ive classes. I have had to give classes in the meaning 
of the word "registration." These Mexican workers didn't know what 
registration meant. "^ -^ 

You inscribe yourself, for instance, when you move from one town 
to another in Mexico in the civil roll. You don't register. You inscribe 
your child in the civil records when you report his birth. You don't 

The third reason is that there has been, in my experience, a very 
deliberate vacuum among farmworkers as to political education. They 


are not continuously told what the American electoral system is like 
and how you can influence your representative. 

Fourth, they do not have the skill at organizing. American politics 
requires a very high degree of organization and skill and money to 
put together that organization as any Senator or Congressman knows. 

These factors are absent with the Mexican farmworker. 

And, finally, in the farmworker family of Mexican ancestry, the 
attitude of the elders has a great deal to do with it. If your father is 
60 years of age and he has always been a farmworker, he has never 
become an American citizen and he speaks Spanish, is a Roman Cath- 
olic, and has all of these other cultural traits, in a sense it gives him 
shame to go to the polls and let that lady across the table know that he 
can't read or write m any language. 

Senator Mondale. He finds that embarrassing. What about the phe- 
nomenon, at least as perceived by some farmworkers, that many Mex- 
ican-Americans, maybe in the third generation, seek public office or are 
elected, and then seem to show little, if any, sympathy toward their 
own people? Can you dwell on that a minute? 

Dr. Galarza. I wish I could do more than dwell on it because I have 
had some personal experience with these forgetful ones. But I will 
be very brief. 

The politician, Mexican-American, who is elected to public office, 
especially to serve in a remote place like Washington where you can't 
be watched very easily, very soon finds himself in a different world, in 
a world of American politicians. This is a world that his constituents 
know very little about. 

The task, the educational task, of going back to your Mexican con- 
stituents and explaining to them day after day, if need be, what this 
American process is in the House of Representatives or U.S. Senate 
is an extremely demanding one and no Senator and no Congressman 
of Mexican ancestry that I know of has ever dedicated his life to 
doing it. 

Secondly, when you are immersed in the politics of Federal Govern- 
ment or State government or county government, you begin to under- 
stand that you are vulnerable in so many ways if you remain true 
and dedicated. 

I know a Congressman, whose name I won't mention because of 
congressional courtesy, who has his district gerrymandered out from 
under him so that his majority of Spanish-speaking Mexican constit- 
uents become a minority of less than a third. From that point on, he 
had to pay as much attention to the Mexicans and to the blacks as to 
the Anglos. So, his politics began to reflect a division within his poli- 
tics in three areas rather than one. And there are some other cultural 
matters which I could bring to your attention but I think these are 
the important ones. 

Senator Mondale. Some observers have commented that, in the black 
representation in Congress, that there are at least what appears to be a 
more militant type than seen in t)he Mexican-American repr^entation ? 

Dr. Galarza. But isn't it true, Mr. Chairman, that this black rep- 

resentation derives a great deal of its strength from your black 
concentration ? 

Senator Mondale. Yes. 

Dr. Galakza. In the next 20 years when Mexican farmworkers have 
practically disappeared, as the Department of Labor projection shows 
that it will, and has gone to the cities and delevoped the cohesion that 
the blacks now have, I think you will see a different situation. 

Senator Mondale. Thank you very much, Dr. Galarza, for your 
most useful statement. 

At this point, I order printed prepared statements and other perti- 
nent material supplied for the record. 

ExcEBPTS From 


MiGKANT Life in the Yakima Valley — 1967 

Prepared for the Yakima Valley Council for Community Action 

Karen M. James, Jean M. Langdon, Thomas A. Langdon, Kerry J. Pataki, Lynn 
D. Patterson, Steven S. Webster, Department of Anthropology, University of 
Washington, Seattle, Washington 

Bureau of Community Development, University of Washington 

The reijorts presented here are based upon fieldwork done in the Yakima Valley, 
Washington, as part of the Yakima \'alley Migrant Study during the summer of 
1967, primarily late July through mid-September. Each writer conducted ethno- 
graphic fieldwork through intensive contact, discussion and observation in the 
various migrant camps used as centers for the study. All members of the study 
team lived in their respective camps, and participated in the daily activities of 
the camp residents. 

The fieldwork was supported by the Yakima Valley Council for Community 
Action (YVCCA), and the six researchers were graduate students from the De- 
partment of Anthropology, University of Washington. The project was sponsored 
by the Bureau of Community Development, and follows two earlier studies done 
under similar auspices in the summer 1966 and the spring of 1967. 

The field situation in Yakima provided an excellent opportunity for compara- 
tive study of migrant behavior and life-styles, which have common structural 
similarities for residence patterns, mobility and work patterns, but highly con- 
trasting ethnic and character variations. The individual styles of observing and 
reporting provide perspectives which we believe are useful in obtaining contrasts 
between the groups studied. It is intended that these reports will contribute use- 
ful first-hand data and analyses for those readers interested in ethnographic 
asiJects of minority groups, the culture of poverty or of impoverished groups, and 
in general for applied anthropology. 

Opinions and conclusions expressed are the writers' and all quotations used 
are taken from field notes or primary sources. Appreciation is expressed to the 
many individuals within the Yakima Valley, both administrative and private, who 
gave interest and cooperation, and to the YVCCA for its willingness in sponsoring 
the study. Our thanks, also, to those members of the camps, friends who are now 
on the road again, for an experience which will be long remembered. 

Harold L. Amoss, 
Director, Bureau of Community Development. 
Kerry J. Pataki, 
Director, Yakima Migrant Study. 



Loop Camp — Yakima Valley, Washington 

Summer, 19G7 

(By Kerry J, Pataki) 


It is Striking that within the United Sitates today, with its great social concern 
for deprived groups, now tlie subject of intensive aid programs, one can still find 
a major social group relatively untouched by such concerns. After years of in- 
difference and lack of awareness, marked efforts are now in progress for grant- 
ing Negroes, American Indians, and other "minority groups" (a purely relative 
term given the millions of individuals included in this convenient categorizing) 
their full rights as citizens and individuals. Yet a largely-unknown society still 
exists within the broader American society at large, and is the object of this 
report. We are speaking of the migrant sector of the United States populace, a 
heterogenous assimilation of people of widely varied ethnic and geographic back- 
grounds, who follow a yearly pattern well known to them but little known to the 
rest of the country, which, though benefiting from their labor, is largely unaware 
of their travails. 

These are people who come and go on a seasonal basis much as the very seasons 
which dictate their activity and their life-style. This report will present some 
definite information on this group, obtained by fieldwork among them in a mi- 
grant camp, and is one of a series of reports resulting from a coordiriated re- 
search study in various migrant camps. Our source of information was the mi- 
grant population within the Yakima Valley in south-central Washington state, 
but the context of our comments would spread beyond that locale. The i>attemii of 
activity which crystallize each year for several weeks or a few months within 
the Valley are but a momentary focus on a style of life separate from main-stream 
American life, following its own patterns and its own rules across the United 
States. Accurate data on daily, personal and subjective aspects of migrant life 
are fairly scarce, and the conditions in which such data are to be obtained are 
hardly idyllic. Our efforts here are only an initial effort to provide some amount 
of information about this dis-affiliated sector of American society, but may be 
useful in understanding and communicating with people so that an equit- 
able interchange can be established. 

The use of the term "migrant" is not particularly satisfying, since a closer 
contact with the people reveals a wide range of mobilities. Indeed, the pattern 
varies from those who "follow the fruit" for only a few weeks of the year, 
often moving only within a local geographic area, to those continually on the 
road for 36o days of that year, as they go from location to location. This 
variability is reflected as early as 1936 in a survey of farm labor in the Yakima 
Valley done by the State, which report uses ten categories for farm workers. 
Implicit in it is the high variation in mobility and duration of work for 
those who performed the agricultural labor. We .shall use the term migrant 
in this report, but intermittently and interchangeably with the term transient 
workers. Attention is thus called to the critical area of mobility and duration 
of work periods, and the probably relation of these factors to variability in 
individual behavior patterns. 


The location for this report is a camp we shall call Loop Camp, located in 
the unincorporated town of Buena in the lower Yakima Valley, some fifteen 
miles south of the city of Yakima. The camp has been in existence for forty years 
in its original form of sixteen wooden frame buildings : one resident of Buena 
recalled living there in 1929. There are a number of older residents in Buena and 
enviTons who remember the early town and the construction of Ijoop Camp, 
among others. 

At one time Buena was a fairly thriving business center for this part of the 
Valley, particularly just before and during the agricultural boom of World 
War I. Empt.v buildings, including the bank, testify mutely to this moment of 
affluence. In the early 19G0's a new state highway by-passed Buena, which up 
to that point had been located on the main highway going north and south 
in the eastern half of the Valley. The town, or hamlet now, has a permanent 


population of some 300 people, mainly older, long established residents of the 
Valley, most of whom are associated with the agricultural activity which 
dominates the Valley's economy or with its supporting primary and secondary 
services. The general economic and social situations for the Valley have been 
described in detail in earlier research reports done for the Yakima Valley 
Council for Community Action under the coordfnation of the Bureau of Com- 
munity Development at the University of Washington. 

Several other camps were established during this period in Buena. One 
smaller camp with ten housing units (generally, non-winterized, one or two 
room frame bungalows) is at the southern end of town, and now operates 
on a desultory basis. The owner and builder of the camp (1940's) is an elderly 
woman who occasionally rents a unit to elderly male transients or to locals — 
those who move about within the Valley. She finds the responsibility and 
duties of maintaining the units, which are often left in extreme disarray, too 
demanding and has, in effect, closed down operations. However, given an 
individual who looks like a reasonable tenant or intermittent economic pres- 
sures, she will rent. 

Across the street from Loop Camp (east) and immediately south of it is 
a fairly large camp which was closed by order of the County Health Depart- 
ment in the summer of 1966. This location started as a tent city in the mid- 
twenties and had some two-dozen units constructed on it in the early thirties. 
Health facilities are extremely primitive here : one water faucet for the 
entire camp (an artesian well) and several outdoor privies. This camp is 
owned by a very elderly male re.sident of Buena, who sees no point in fixing 
up his property, partly due to a pessimistic outlook for renting to migrants 
in the future, partly through suspicions of bureaucratic regulations, and 
partly by temperament. 

At present, transient men may occasionally occupy a cabin for a night or two 
in the camp, and during the fieldwork one elderly local transient lived there. 
The area of this camp is well shaded with trees, and the artesian well water, and 
the shade, draw migrants as a place of relaxation and social interaction during 
the heat of the afternoons and on weekends. The camp was closed down late in 
the summer of 1966, and intermittent plans to raze it and construct a new trailer 
park were often overheard at the local tavern in Buena, immediately north of 
Loop Camp, a prime dispensing point for such information. It is unlikely that 
such action will be taken, however. 

South of Loop Camp, on the same side of the road, is another sprawling group 
of buildings, also termed a camp by Buena residents and transients. However, 
this privately-owned collection of small and medium size cabins includes some 
houses which function as year-round residences, also. These are called "rent- 
houses" by the residents and transients. This location has significance, for not 
only does it function as a place to stay when Loop Camp is full, but when the de- 
cision is made by a transient family to settle out, that is, .stop followin' the 
fruit" and leave the migrant stream for what is ostensibly intended to be perma- 
nent year-round employment, it serves this type of resident, also. This is a critical 
juncture in transient life which will be mentioned later in the report. 

Rents for the cabins vary according to the type of unit and the facilities avail- 
able. Here, a major perceptual and evaluation distinction, and hence status 
differential, can be noted for transients. This is the distinction held by many 
transients, beetween private camps and labor camps or public camps. A private 
camp is one owned by a private individual, such as Loop Camp, although it may 
not necessarily be operated by the owner. These camps provide, in theory at least, 
some modicum of privacy, better facilities and more desirable neighbors. Feeling 
against living in a labor camp is not usually articulated, for indeed, many of the 
transients at Loop Camp had lived in them on occasion. However, they prefer 
the relative convenience and the more peripheral rewards of living in a private 
location, and are willing to pay a considerable price differential to satisfy this 
desire. The average cost per week at Loop Camp was $7.50 for a small trailer, 
and $10 for a cabin ; weekly rates at the two much larger county-operated camps 
were some $3-$5 per cabin. 

The economy of Buena is almost entirely geared to an agricultural base, which 
includes primarily apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots and some grapes and 
hops. Sub-regional agricultural specialization with the Valley is noticeable, and 
the Buena area tends toward apples, peaches, apricots, i^ears and plums as domi- 
nant crops. Further south in the Valley, the somewhat warmer weather aids in 
production of grapes and hops. 


Noticeable ethnic differences are evident in the employment patterns for par- 
ticular crops, and these distinctions are a part of transient ideology. Thus, Mex- 
ican-Americans will not generally pick tree fruit since they "don't like to go up 
ladders off the ground" ; Negroes and Mexican-Americans usually work the late 
summer hop run, and Mexican-Americans are employed for grapes. 

The other fruits mentioned are generally considered the domain of the white 
or Anglo migrant — a blend of the "Oakie," the "Arky," the "red-neck" and 
others, this wide variety of background, amalgamated to a degree by the grind- 
ing hardships of the depression years. The Anglo views his agricultural skills 
and migrant heritage as associated with these crops. They are the big money 
crops, the ones a man can "hit it big" with during a good season, the ideal of 
making $50 per day for apples being not uncommon. We speak of ideals here, but 
there is, indeed, considerable difference between the ideal and the actual for 
the migrant, which means that he is no different from other men in that re- 
spect : all follow their imaginations. 

Mechanization has made considerable inroads into the use of transient labor, 
primarily for perishable vegetables such as tomatoes, etc. Asparagus, grown 
earlier in the year in the lower Valley and harvested by Mexican-Americans 
who are accustomed to this "stoop labor," is also being cut more and more by 
mechanical means. Recent developments in fruit technology clearly spell out 
the gradual demise of the use of traditional fruit pickers. Experimental apple- 
picking machines have been tried in the Valley, and it is only a matter of time 
before many of these innovations are adopted. These people are aware of tech- 
nological encroachment into their way of life, but seem generally apathetic to 
it or possess a conditioned indifference when confronted by the tremendous dis- 
tance between their minimal training and these technological innovations. 

Some are aware of the diflBculties of adjusting a style of life to these changes 
and are not at all sanguine. One transient said, after an afternoon in the tavern 
discussing such topics, "Fruit pickers can't hardly make it no more . . . it's 
tough." These prophetic utterances often stem from sitates of depression or 
intoxication. For the most part, one can still "make it," and therein falls a wide 
range of life-styles and economic motivation, for some make it very well, par- 
ticularly if their social unit is the extended family used as a mobile work force. 

Others just hang on and "dog along" from week to week. This latter pattern 
is true of some families, as well as individuals. The time perception of transients 
may vary considerably from that of middle-class groups. Quite often the frame 
of expectancy for planning or anticipating activities includes only the week or 
two ahead of the present moment. Longer intervals of time are seen more as part 
of a continuous plan for some anticipated but nonspecified movement within 
an annual geographical context, rather than as a time point for action at some 
specific moment in the expected future. In fact, specific futures are hardly a 
certainty for most migrants. 

The location of the Loop Camp is shown, and details of the camp, which 
includes sixteen wooden frame buildings or cabins, although the term house is 
sometimes used by the women, who feel the term cabin does not quite do justice 
to their living quarters. There are eight trailers, varying widely in size from 
a very .small, pre-World War II, home-made, plywood unit for one person, to a 
very much larger, modern trailerhouse, which was won by the owner in a poker 
game. One ancient bus provides living space for two or three people (a couple 
and their teenage son at the time of fieldwork) at the low rate of $5 per week. 

Space is also rented for campers, the trucks with living units attached, which 
are increasingly popular in the United States today. Some transients have man- 
aged to purchase their own campers, usually on time payments arranged some- 
how, and speak highly of the mobility and money saved by using these units. Yet 
the upkeep cost and the monthly payments seem to generate a rapid turnover in 
ownership for units. At the time of fieldwork (late July-early September, 
1967) there were three campers in Loop Camp. 

The reference to winning a trailer by means of a poker game, mentioned above 
is a good point for consideration of the ethos of transients in comparison to that 
of the settled populace with whom they come in contact. It is mainly through 
ideological awareness and mutual tolerance that some initial communication 
between sectors may be generated, as these people — the migrants, transients, 
fruit-pickers, fruit-tramps or what-have-you — are extraordinarily isolated from 
the larger part of American material life and expectations. Their contacts are 
usually under inequitable conditions, e.g. arrests for drunkenness and traffic 
violations by a police force primed for them each season, and the courts, which 


are seen as a necessary evil that can resolve by fiat the extraordinarily compli- 
cated relations of their private lives — particularly those of child-care and marital 
and extramarital liaisons. Other contacts are usually short-lived and quite im- 
personal : shopping at cut-rate supermarkets, gas-stations, transient-bars and 
taverns (the Buena bar was somewhat of an exception because of its unique 
situation ) , drive-in movies where one can go cheaply en masse, discount houses 
and the post oflSce. 

In general, the transient mode of life follows its own rules and proceeds within 
its own parameters, with only minimal contact with the outside world ; accord- 
ingly, it carries an ethos derived from and applicable to such a -pattern of life. 
This topic will be considered again later in the report. 

The population of Loop Camp varied continuously during the period of field- 
work. These changes reflected seasonality of crops, the relatively local mobility 
of the people, internal mobility within the Buena area, and personal idiosyncra- 
cies. As an average estimate, the population consisted of sixty to seventy indi- 
viduals for the period of fieldwork, of whom approximately thirty to forty percent 
were children sixteen years of age or under. 


A daily cycle of camp activity can be generally described, although it contains 
several sub-cycles and some variability, as would be expected with any human 
group. Before giving this description, it is worthwhile to consider a transient 
typology, obtained from an elderly male resident of the camp who said that he 
was going to retire after this year. According to him, there are three basic cate- 
gories of transients who make their living by picking or purporting to pick fruit, 
whose activities at any rate center around the fruit : the "fruit-pickers," "fruit- 
tramps" and "fruit-bums." The first category includes the true professionals in 
the field, who are becoming scarcer. They consider that picking fruit is their 
primary skill and their specialty, and they usually find steady employment 
throughout their travels. They often have arrangements in advance each year 
with growers in the various states, so that they know for whom they will be 

Fruit-tramps are a less motivated group, who work at picking and live in the 
camps, but who do not work continuously, continuously by transient standards, 
that is, or work with much elan. The fruit-tramp manages to "take care of 
things" but not with much of an eye to the future. In fact, one index of being a 
fruit-tramp is that one does not save any money. While the fruit-picker will 
work as often as he can, the fruit tramp works only as often as he has to. 

The fruit-bum is lowest on this scale of migrant social value. He is a bum, 
often a "wino" or wine-alcoholic, who may travel via freight trains, often lives 
by himself, and is unreliable in work or companionship. 

Acceptance of these divisions might vary with individuals, but it is interesting 
to note that many of the camp residents referred to themselves as fruit-tramps 
in unguarded moments of self-conscious jocularity or passing bitterness. AH 
recognized the assiduousness of some of the camp residents in working, includ- 
ing the older man and his extended family mentioned above. The camp residents 
were quite aware when a fruit-bum came into camp. Generally, these did not 
last very long, since they usually could not pay the weekly rent, or equally often 
were told to leave because of the shambles they made of their cabins. 

The basic daily cycle began between 4 :00 and 5 :00 a.m., when approximately 
one-third of the camp would rise, eat light breakfasts and leave for the orchards 
by 5 :00 or 5 :30. Their plan was to get in five or six hours of picking before the 
sun got too hot ; during one August week the temperature was over 100° F. by 
early afternoon. People often returned to camp at noon and did not go back to 
the orchards until later in the afternoon (if at all) when the heat of the day 
subsided. Then they worked for several more hours. 

Because of the realities of the weather, fruit-tramps also went out that early, 
but usually quit by noon, having "filled a bin or two" and earned five to ten 
dollars. Generally speaking, the distinction between the fruit-picker and the 
fruit-tramp is one of assiduousness for a daily spread of work. The real picker, 
as mentioned, went out with his group as often as he could, while the fruit- 
tramp went out only as often as he had to to make ends meet. This usually meant 
one working day for every three days of passing ; however, the hot summer 
weather forced almost everyone to take time oflE every four or five days. It is 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-11 


a rudimentary truth that all fruit picking is hot, hard, and heavy work, making 
little discrimination in its demands on those who do it. 

Weekends were not particularly distinguished from week days and people 
often worked on Saturdays and Sundays. As one camp resident said, "The fruit 
don't wait for us people, you know." Everyone who could worked at least part 
of the time, for a certain conviviality existed during the early hours, when the 
orchards were still cool and moist and the heat had not yet made its inroads 
on temperament. Men, women, and often children, unless too small, went to the 

The matter of child care was a serious one for parents with young children, 
since baby-sitters were not readily available. Often, some ad hoc exchange was 
worked out among the women remaining in the camp. Occasionally the children 
were taken into the orchards. Cases of heat prostration and dehydration were 
not unusual, esi>ecially for larger families with small children. 

The nuclear or extended families and the childless couples are important social 
units of migrant life. The family is the unit which provides companionship and 
protection against the considerable uncertainty of daily migrant life, and is con- 
venient for the consolidation of whatever resources may be available. There 
were two units within Loop Camp which may be considered as extended families ; 
one included eight individuals living in two cabins, centered about an older man, 
his children and stepchildren ; the other included nine individuals bonded by 
sibling ties between three adults, two brothers and a sister. The latter group 
occupied three living units ; normally, two cabins and one trailer. Husband/wife 
couples or two men living together were also common in the camp. 

Recreation was on a rather haphazard basis. One might truly con.sider the tav- 
ern as the focal point for social recreation. It was located immediately north of 
the camp, and since it was the only tavern in the general vicinity, it enjoyed a 
fairly brisk business, es-pecially during the harvest. Here occurred whatever min- 
gling took place between social cla.<!ses, for local residents and growers also fre- 
quented the tavern. In the course of a day, during the tavern's hours (10 :00-2 :00 
a.m. ) individuals often stopped for a beer or two, returning later on for additional 
brief refreshment. Business and politics were often discussed, interspersed with 
.shufBeboard and "country" music. Poker was also enjoyed. 

Some hiring of pickers occurred, and usually a definite air of camaraderie 
obtained across the social strata. Fights were not uncommon, but were usually 
among transients or between transients and "local trash." However, the general 
air of bonhomie, whether aggressive or subdued, was not dispelled for long. 
Indeed, a fight usually occurred only after sufficient provocation, and might be 
observed or enjoyed by all, provided there were no serious injury. 

Definite camaraderie existed within the various social strata more than be- 
tween strata. It is probable that most Loop Camp residents visited the tavern 
at one time or another, or enjoyed its products via a discrete "brown bag." There 
were, however, a few avowed fundamentalists in the camp, and these people 
usually refrained from participating in tavern-oriented social activity. They 
would, on occasion, enjoy "just one beer" with friends outside their cabins, or 
perhaps inside after a day's work. 

Once an individual or family entered the camp, he became part of its loose 
membership by virtue of his purchased residence. He then became the subject 
of everyone else's scrutiny. Everyone in the camp was constantly under scrutiny, 
for that matter, and very little occurred, in terms of visible behavior, which was 
not noted or heard about, and then reported and discussed by the other camp 
residents. In spite of this, a very basic and strong ethic prevaileil of "mind your 
own business." If one were drunk and fought with a spouse, or had a fight late 
at night with a rival, for instance, these were "private" matters despite the fact 
that the entire camp knew about it. One did not interfere unless the altercation, 
whatever it might l)e, continued interminable or someone were injured. 

Generally speaking, one did not inquire directly about the personal details of 
a newcomer's life, unless the information were proferred, or a specific license 
plate or dialect prompted a very general query. Public fights were also subject to 
this operational laissez faire ; one might watch them closely and comment on 
their pro< (th\< happened more than once in the camp) but one usuall.v did 
not interfere unless someone "played dirty," e.g. pulled a knife on an unsuspecting 
opponent. The rules for private fights followed a different code, however. 

Automobiles were the .subject of much time and conversation, since a car is 
the keystone to the transient's valued and imperative mobility. Very few new cars 
were .seen, the average age of cars in Loop Camp being l>etween twelve and 


thirteen years. Cars were traded very much as horses probably were in this area 
fifty years ago, and one could usually get a serviceable car for twenty-five to 
fifty dollars. Cars were bought, traded, modified (the major conversion of a 1959 
Ford station-wagon into a camper for a family with five children was in process 
in the camp during the latter part of August), fixed, traded again, etc., in a 
never-ending cycle. Enjoyment was derived from the "deal," and from the new 
vehicle's characteristics, as much as from meeting the necessity for some sort of 

Schooling of the children was a complex matter, and usually received what 
might be termed a concerned indifference. Parents, seldom having finished second- 
ary or even elementary schooling themselves, were not predisposed toward 
structuring their lives around schooling, and had been conditioned to expect that 
their children were going to have to make it on their own. This did not mean 
that they were unconcerned, for many of them realized the hard necessity for 
continuing education today, particularly in the face of increasing mechanization. 
Yet, the deeply inculcated attitudes of a lifetime and the harsh realities of con- 
tinually maintaining an impoverished mobility do not lend themselves easily to 
structuring a pattern of life conducive to the education of children. 

Generally, children entered school when it opened in the fall according to the 
particular area of residence, and transferred to other schools as they went. The 
rigors of continually transferring and readjusting to new environments can 
well be imagined. If the family spent a winter in one spot, the children would 
be able to attend school fairly regularly, but the family usually moved every 
few weeks or months. One recent survey estimated that migrant children in 
Washington averaged little more than half the normal attendance time for the 
full school year. 

Child-training in Anglo families tends to be characterized by extremes ; much 
impulsive love and much impulsive discipline. Kinship ties are strong and em- 
phasized, as was implied earlier. It is probable that the high separation and 
divorce rate among migrants, judging from those at the Camp, has considerable 
effect on child raising, personality formation and the maintenance of continuous, 
if diffuse, ties with the extended family, of the forty-six adults who resided 
in Loop Camp for more than two weeks during the fildwork, at least thirty per- 
cent had had a marital liaison which no longer existed. A number of these 
individuals had entered into another relation.ship and several had experienced 
three or more such situations. Terminology and the variability of information 
cause diflSculty in an area such as this. Terms such as "marriage," "divorce," 
"wife," "husband," "child," "separation," etc., are used in broader context than 
their specific legal meanings. This is another index of the greater casualness of 
transient society, yet it is also true that by far the bulk of these relations were 
characterized by strong, if not intense, bonds. It is, rather, that the pressures of 
this kind of life appear to mitigate against the viability of many such relation- 
ships. This is not, however, unique to transient life-styles. 

Religious aflSliation at Loop Camp tended to be fundamentalist Protestant, 
except for two Mexican-American wives and their children. There were few 
who professed no faith at all when this subject was probed, yet a highly per- 
sonal and idiosyncratic ethic seemed to prevail within Judaeo-Christian tradi- 
tions with Calvinist overtones. Some few individuals occasionally went to a 
Sunday service in or near Buena, but the bulk of the Camp chose to believe 
and live in their own way. This included one resident who was reported to be 
a "preacher" during his winters south (most likely, a self-appointed minister 
for tent revival meetings). As one elder resident put it: "If a feller follow the 
Bible hisself, he won't go wrong ; it'll come out right when the time comes" ; 
to which another, younger man added "Well, I believe in things, but believin' 
things and doin' 'em is two different things." 


It is possible to describe a general cycle for the annual sequence of transient 
'life. This cycle primarily reflects the seasonality of the migrant's work. It brings 
ithem to the Northwest during June for early plums and peaches, through a 
quiescent period in July, gradually into the peak season in late July and August 
and finally into September and part of October for apples. The cycle follows 
climatic patterns, and as the weather grows colder the people begin to head 
south for warmer regions. Some winter in the southwestern states, where they 
may pick up part-time employment in the citrus and tropical fruit industries. 


others follow the citrus and winter crops in the far southeastern states, espe- 
cially Florida. As the next year comes they will again follow the cycle, slowly 
heading up the eastern seaboard into the north-central states, or working their 
way in a northwest vector. Within this larger cycle are a host of smaller ones, 
and it is important to emphasize the local variability and element of choice in- 
volved in these patterns of mobility. But the larger cycle, taken as an index 
of congruent life-patterns, will hold as a basic generality. 

The particular cycle for the West Coast, of which the Yakima Valley is part, 
has been in operation for many years, at least forty in the Yakima area. It has 
established a pattern of life into which people are born, live, and die, with very 
little fanfare, even among themselves. It is a cycle with its own rewards and its 
own particular harshness, for the wear and tear of such a life-style is physically 
noticeable. Few seem to benetit from what might conceivably be a healthful regi- 
men. Some few of the older fruit-pickers were in good health, but psychological 
pressures and the "escape" of the tavern seem hard to avoid. 

There is much of an American Gothic aura among Anglo migrants, and coupled 
with this condition caution and conservatism goes a finely developed sense of 
humor, understated and dry, rapid and sharp, all of this against a love of music, 
or the "gitar-man" in camp who could play "country." 

Most importantly, the cycle and sub-cycles for migrant life, as mentioned, do 
not contact the rest of American life except at the minimal, tangential or periph- 
eral points. Insofar as the migrant fails to realize that he can assert himself and 
take advantage of those rights and privileges which are his as a citizen, the cycle 
is indeed de facto a separate one which continuously generates an efficient and 
functional alienation. Furthermore, this alienation is now self-fulfilling. Realizing 
tht no one is very much interested in his dilemma, because very few know about 
him, the migrant perceives his way of life as an inevitable one which must be 
followed, either assiduously (as the fruit-picker) haphazardly (as the fruit- 
tramp) or by sheer momentum (as the fruit-bum). The way is hard and does 
not tolerate much weakness, but it is one which, especially because of its mobility, 
can provide certain unique satisfactions, for "once fruit pickin' gets in your 
blood, it stays" ; it is a "free life" where one can come and go at will. Migrants 
are the "last of the real individualists" ; "they's born with nothin' so they don't 
ever want nothin' . . ." ; "they's free." Each man is free to follow, or to believe 
that he can follow, "his own choosin' and his own business," in a life which is 
filled with the violent exhilirations and violent immediacy of direct expression 
and raw emotions. If this perception reflects some pervasive rationalizations, it 
is under.standable, for statements of ethos u.sually reflect the exigencies of daily 
life as well as wishful desires. 

Hand in hand with these attitudes goes an open friendliness once initial sus- 
picions and reserve have been removed. In fact, a general air of mutual assist- 
ance and reciprocity obtains in the camp. The transient tends to see issues in 
fairly clear-cut terras, when they are a part of his daily environment, and he 
speaks his mind openly within the limits of his personality and the mutual intra- 
camp tolerance mentioned above. Of the couple who "put on airs" it was said, 
"They're our wealthy fruit tramps, you see, and they received considerable 
ostracism in daily camp interaction. 

The separation which the migrant experiences as a basic condition of his life 
and a context for his life-cycle, is exacerbated by the continuous flux of his life. 
He is always on the move, or oriented toward that inevitable activity, which will 
sooner or later occur. At the very least, his life is oriented towards continuous 
mobility, for the work he does is geared to the transience of a fruit crop. Migrants 
may stay in one area for a month or two, and work on various farms around their 
camp. In Buena, one could work plums, pears and peaches, and then apples in 
sequence, and the two extended families mentionwl earlier .spent over a month in 
Loop Camp. There was a differential in ripening time of several weeks between 
the Upper Valley and the Lower Valley, due to somewhat higher elevations and 
lower average temperatures in the northern .section. 

It is not surprising then that a utilitarian, ad hoc. day-to-day sort of ethic thus 
arises, which legitimizes a highly individualistic, independent pattern of behavior 
for ego : he does what he wants to, when he wants to, and his needs are minimal, 
provided he has some food and shelter. The transient is a pracmat'st of the first 
order, and his freedom is usually phrased in realistic contexts. For him, "free- 
dom" is not a philosophical abstraction of human potential and rights ; clearly, 
the very condition of his life makes him suspicious of that. Freedom, rather, is 
the particular right and knowledge to tell a boss to "get lost" ; of quitting a job 


or a camp (or even a wife, if need be) on the spot; of "pulling up stakes" on a 
whim to go to another locale ; of getting drunk in the afternoon if one feels like 
it ; or not going to work if one just doesn't feel like it. 

For these reasons, then, the Anglo transient does not think highly of steady 
•"wage-labor," for it is restricting and cramps his style. Most will maintain this 
attitude in principle, even though work may be available (e.g. in fruit-packing 
and cold-storage houses) and they may, in fact, be working there — temporarily, 
of course. Correlatively, the migrant's work habits are not highly thought of by 
the grower, who must have immediate labor for his perishable crops — when they 
are ripening, and no later. There are individual exceptions : the grower who will 
swear by his pickers, or the pickers who will praise a particular grower. But in 
general, a state of truce prevails because there is usually more labor available 
than demand for it. Everyone knows that the grower is in the power position. 

The migrant will state that wage-labor pays less (even though he may make 
more in the long run because of the regularity of the work) and that it is tedious. 
Yet much effort is spent in lining up "the best deal" in picking, and in determin- 
ing who is paying the most for what crop. Hence, a very strong word-of -mouth 
information system exists which almost all newcomers into a camp are quick to 
tap. This system can usually supply the information and leads which are needed : 
where the best and cheapest cabins are, where the best prices and stores can be 
found, what the going rates for fruit picking are, and where the jobs are. Conse- 
quently, friends and contacts are important in the competitive and often secretive 
business of lining up work. This statement made by a transient pertains to friend- 
ships in both principle and utility, "If a man hasn't got friends, he ain' got 


In making recommendations for remedial and creative programs which could 
be of real benefit and interest to the transient, it is necessary to realize the per- 
vasiveness of that separation which we have described. Their perception of life 
is intimately tied to their pattern of life, the migrant cycle which we have 
described. Their ethos is in part derived from, and in part contributes to, the 
continuation of that pattern as long as health lasts (and health is defined much 
less rigorously than by usual medical standards) . 

One should recognize the sub-cultural differences which cross-cut the larger 
migrant culture. These are differences which draw upon extremely varied pat- 
terns of living and belief; Mexican-American, Negro, American Indian (with its 
congery of tribal variations), Anglos from the south, southwest or south-central 
parts of the United States, disaflSliated urban residents, unemployed, semi-skilled 
laborers of almost all ethnic backgrounds, vagabonds and bums. The cycle tends 
to distinguish these groups, partly through preferred sorts of work, as mentioned. 
Such separations are more evident in the larger labor camps described elsewhere 
in this report series. Some stereotyped prejudices are carried, to be sure, yet 
these were curiously minimized or muted in the daily behavior and interaction 
which was observed. Certainly, prejudicial or biased attitudes were present, yet 
the pressures and demands of each day seemed to mitigate them — "Fruit pickin' 
is hard for whoever i)erson does it;" "Well, we're all in this together, you know." 

One should also realize that after so many years of conditioning, very little is 
achieved by simply offering a packaged program to them. The onus of the task 
falls clearly on those wishing to help, for they must convince the transients that 
such participation is in their own best interests. Conditioning over the years has 
tended to produce a situation which might be termed "induced anomie" for tran- 
sients in relation to their larger cultural setting, the affluent United States of 
the 1960's. They are aware of this affluence, but only indirectly, through hearsay 
and some observation. Television is not common ; radio is used when available, 
mainly for music ; newspapers and magazines are read hardly at all. 
"' Migrants, Anglo migrants in particular, are known as proud people, "inde- 
pendent as all get-out" by growers and other Valley residents, speaking with 
more-than-grudging admiration. And the migrant views this as part of his 
heritage ; "If a man ain't got his pride, he ain't got nothin." Accustomed to 
ignoring and being ignored, he sees little reason to extend himself in a situation 
which would, moreover, appear to be demeaning because of "bein' helped." 

Medical service would, again, call for a reassessment of the normal mode of 
contact with the professional for most Americans, by which the individual 
initiates the contact with the doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc. The transient tends to 
think of these services as not applying to him, and since they are (1) expensive 


and (2) part of the outside system, he dogs not seek them out unless absolutely 
forced to do so. When he does, the response is hardly reassuring to him. Blame 
cannot be cast purely on the conditioned respectability of the professional, for 
something akin to a psychological (if not an actual) confrontation occurs when a 
migrant family enters the waiting room of a private doctor or descends upon 
an emergency room at a hospital. So, they attend to their own illnesses and only 
when the situation becomes acute go, to a professional, or more likely, to a hos- 
pital facility. 

Consequently, our underlying thesis emerges here again ; contact would be 
initiated by the outside agency and, more specifically, by empathetic individuals 
on a personal, one-to-one basis. Particular attention should be directed toward 
encouraging any of those from the migrant stream who appear interested in 
these efforts, for whatever reasons at first. Something akin to political/philo- 
sophical sensitivity enters here, too, for the transient Anglo thinks of himself 
as a man unfettered by the restrictions of bureaucracy and bureaucrats. 

A surprise visit to Loop Camp by some extremely sympathetic state oflBcials 
confirmed this point ; once the identification was made in the minds of the camp 
people the communication was minimal. It was only later, when one prominent 
state oflBcial used his good oflBces to allow stranded transients to continue camp- 
ing by a nearby river that the impasse was broken. But the contact was not 
followed up and its effect was lost. There are many who will remember the act 
and gesture, however, for migrants forget very little that happens to them. 

Medical aid could be particularly effective when directed toward infant care, 
intake-and-referral for emergency needs, and long-range diagnostic care, par- 
ticularly for older transients. There were ample indications of upper respiratory 
aflBictions among the older camp members and also of industrial poisoning 
through long exposure to fruit .sprays. The anticipatory use of medical diagnoses 
is very minimal among transients ; again, expense, lack of knowledge and nega- 
tive conditioning tend to minimize this aspect of preventive care as a viable 
alternative for him. 

The psychological dimensions of the transient's life and personality formation 
is, in itself, a fascinating subject, and one more appropriate for another report. 
Such a topic would, of course, reflect larger ethnic differences ; here, primarily 
Mexican American, Negro, Indian and that complex we have termed Anglo. We 
have concerned ourselves primarily with the Anglo group, since Loop Camp con- 
tained only Anglos, except for two Mexican-American wives, a sister of one and 
three children (one wife was a member of one of the extended families men- 
tioned, of whom the senior male member came from the Southwest). It seems 
possible, however, that a kind of basic anomie might exist as part of the Anglo 
transient's personality. For the most part he is born into this transient and in- 
secure pattern, and gradually is enculturated into full membership. With mem- 
bership comes participation, on survival terms at least, and rationalization of 
membership as compared to rather accurate and valid criticisms of the settled, 
outside (i.e. middle-class) world from which he is increasingly estranged. 

[With certain pressures, i>erhaps severe illness, old age or a strong, if 
idiosyncratic, desire to have a better life, via the promptings of a spouse, he 
may settle out. But it is clear from our observations, at least, that such 
settling out brings much stress; more stress, possibly, than his earlier, 
impoverished transience. And so, most "get a hankerin' to go" and sooner or 
later they do. It is noteworthy that several migrants who had settled out (for 
over a year at the time of fieldwork) and did orchard maintenance work in the 
Valley, did so through association with various OflJce of Economic Opportunity 
personnel. These individuals were engaged in various projects with the Yakima 
Valley Council for Community Action sponsored throughout the Valley. Time 
will determine the efficacy of these efforts, but it is significant that contact 
was made by personal approaches to individual migrants via VISTA Volunteers, 
Grass-roots and CAP personnel. 

r' Yet the anomie seems to prevail and it is particularly telling for the Anglo 
as he matures, since of all the ethnic groups within the migrant stream, he 
alone cannot fall back upon the explanation of his failure by appeal to color. 
He is white, he knows it and feels it, and for whom he works are white. 
It is difficult to admit to some basic and pervasive inferiority, nor would this 
be accurate. Nevertheless, he must continually cope with the inequity of his 
position in respect to other middle-class whites, for despite his pride and 
indepence. he is by far the on the status totem-pole. Moreover, it is 
improbable, by virtue of his usually minimal education, that he will be able 


to sumarize and comprehend the complex conditioning system and processes 
which put him where he is. 

So, by and large, he feigns indifference, has another beer and looks forward 
!to that next fruit crop, where he will "really make it." And after that? "It's 
too late now * * * i ain't never thought about it much." Younger ones might 
think about it, and some few finish high school through this fearful impetus, 
perhaps confronted by some particularly telling experience or television 
advertisement. But the improbability of such a major shift into a different 
life-style leaves most of them still in the camp, with a separatist expectancy 
and a bittersweet satisfaction with the admitted freedom of their twentieth 
century nomadism. 

' In summary, education, medical service, citizen-information programs and 
the like must bridge the barrier of separateness which exists. It is probable 
that ten years will see considerable technological change in the orchard indus- 
try. Since the bulk of the transient population will continue in that nominal 
classification known as agricultural workers, and since the average age of 
adult members in Loop Camp was estimated at between thirty and forty years, 
one would expect that the population of this migrant aggregation would hardly 
decrease, even though more dispersed. 

If anything, the degree of alienation may intensify. It seems possible, though, 
that a program of contact by individuals willing to make the effort of living 
in the migrant stream, could produce a network for the introduction of more 
specific programs. In other words, a process of gradual re-education, by which 
transients are made realistically aware of their practical rights as citizens 
and members of our affluent society, with reasonable, minimal expectations 
about health, educational and economic levels and longevity, might be success- 
ful. Driving into a migrant camp with a first-aid truck or a pick-up with free 
food rations would hardly appear to be a real solution, and would only maintain 
the veiled paternalism which can underlie such efforts. Indeed, even mobile 
trailer schools which could follow the stream, would find the constantly 
changing patterns of residence, and particularly of group composition, some^ 
thing of a nightmare. 

The transient stream is, in certain respects, a social network, albeit an 
extremely fluid one. Therefore, it contains the possibility for directed informa- 
tion flow. By using selected geographical locations (e.g. key camps) as nodes 
or disseminating points for information, separate from local governmental and 
pressure interests, major shifts in awareness and interest for more specific 
programs might be successfully initiated. The critical areas seems to be as 
much one of finding a point to initiate awareness, as it is of introducing a 
specific program to people who are not sure what a program is or why it is being 
brought to them. Such a comprehensive effort seems as reasonable as multiple, 
varied (and confusing) piece-meal efforts. 

This report has presented some information derived from fieldwork in a 
primarily Anglo camp. Subsequent analysis of the ethnographic data may 
follow, yet the basic data and commentary are presented here. An exhaustive 
social/statistical survey is of profound importance for administrators and 
followers of migrant problems, but it has very little meaning, one fears, for 
the migrant him.self. He is an individualist who sees things in his own im- 
mediate and pragmatic way. The fact that he may have been the subject of 
intensive governmental concern and surveyors is peripheral unless he has 
proof positive to convince him of the reality of the concern and of the programs 
offered — and always the fruit remains to be picked tomorrow morning. 

Consequently, we have emphasized the use of a communications network 
which could gradually say the right things in the right way (to the migrant), 
in the right place, at the right time. If such a network were achieved, then 
perhaps this people's tragiromantic style of life might be affected with ultimate 
benefit to all of American society. The issue is particularly pressing today, for 
it appears that our ethical position is only as valuable as we are aware of the 
least fortunate among us ; and awareness is only a first, small step toward 


Brooks, Melvin S. The Social Problems of Migrant Farm Laborers, (Department 
of Sociology, Southern Illinois University, 1960) 

Consulting Services Corporation. "Migrant Farm Workers in the State of Wash- 
ington," Vol. II, Economic and Social Characteristics of Migrant Workers in 


Washington State) ; Vol. Ill, An Analysis of Migrant Agricultural Workers in 
Washington State, (Seattle, 1967) 

Curtis, James, Pataki, Patterson. The Yakima Valley Grass Roots/Community 
Center Study, (Bureau of Community Development, University of Washing- 
ton, 1967) 

Landis. P. H. and Brooks. M. S. Farm Labor in the Yakima Valley, Washington, 
(State College of Washington, 1936) 

Pataki, K. J. with Pataki, K. R. The Yakima Valley VISTA: A Report, (Bureau 
of Community Development, University of Washington, 1966) 

Excerpts From Crewport Farm Labor Camp, Yakima Valley, Washington — 

Summer 1967 

(By Jean and Thomas Langdon) 


This report was conceived as a preliminary ethnographic study. The research 
period was only seven weeks ; thus, real depth and scope was impossible. Our 
method of study was to live and work with migrant laborers. We learned quite 
early in our study that it was necessary for us to work as the migrants them- 
selves worked, in order not to arouse antipathy or suspicion and in order to 
experience and observe what happens in the orchards and fields. 

All our comments are based on our own observations and experiences, and on 
conversations with migrant workers, except for the demographic data. Most of 
these data were compiled from the records and remembrances of the camp man- 
ager, Mr. Lloyd Haney, whom we thank for his kind cooperation. 


In this section we attempt to discuss our impressions of (1) the personal and 
social factors which tend to keep migrants in the migrant stream; (2) the per- 
sonal and cultural commitments of migrants to their way of life; (3) their con- 
nections with the society at large outside the migrant stream; and (4) the 
views and attitudes of migrants toward the world outside their present way 
of life and toward settling and leaving the migrant stream. 

-4. Mexican-Americans 

(1) The Mexican-American migrant often is strongly tied to the life of a 
seasonal farm worker because the language barrier makes it very difficult for 
him to take a job that would require him to communicate with those who do not 
speak In seasonal agricultural work there is more often a Spanish- 
speaking foreman. Also, other workers will usually interpret for the one who 
cannot speak English. The lack of education and training for any job accompanies 
the inability to speak English. Without language facility, on-the-job training for 
even unskilled labor is difficult, but by working in a group, as in seasonal farm 
work, a man can learn the work quickly from other workers who speak his 

In addition, with some non-agricultural jobs language may constitute a barrier the employer makes it so. even though language may not be vital to 
doing the work. But when the workers are needed, a fruit grower will generally 
hire any man who asks for work. We heard rumors but could find no actual 
evidence of cases of discrimination against Mexican-Americans in hiring for 
agricultural jobs. 

It is probably quite accurate to say that in many cases, even though a Mexican- 
American speaks English well and has the experience or ability to be trained, 
discrimination in hiring is much greater when it comes to getting a permanent 
job, agricultural or otherwise. Also, there may be factors of prejudice and dis- 
crimination which discourage the Mexican-American from renting or buying a 
home in which to settle. From our discussions with these migrants we learned 
that discrimination and prejudice are much more extreme in the Southwest than 
in the Northwest, but our guess is that nearly everywhere it is more difficult 
for a Mexican-American to get permanent housing and jobs. 


Another factor which may take the Mexican-American to the migratory life 
involves a mixture of economic and family values. Often the Mexican-American 
feels he cannot make enough money the year round in the Southwest and is 
economically compelled to migrate to other seasonal work paying much higher 
wages. Also, he may have relatives and friends in the Yakima Valley and 
migrates there partly for that reason. But he may feel compelled to return every 
year (to Texas for instance) because his closest relatives and friends are there, 
as well as for the economic reason of few agricultural jobs in the valley during 
the winter. These economic and family factors often tie Mexican-American 
migrants to a two-based migration pattern, although many say they would like 
to settle in one of the two areas, usually the Southwest home base, were they 
able to get a permanent job. Until they can manage this, however, their migra- 
tion movements are patterned and probably reinforced by social connections 
with family and friends. 

In general, the Mexican-American migrant has a number of outside social and 
economic factors tieing him to the existence of the seasonal farm worker. Quite 
often he has voluntary social ties which bind him to one or more Mexican- 
American communities, or to the Mexican-American community-at-large centered 
in the Southwest. A combination of these factors and ties patterns the way in 
which he migrates to earn a living. 

(2) Mexican- Americans rarely appeared to us to have any positive personal 
or cultural committments to the life of the migrant or agricultural worker. That 
is to say, it was rare to hear a Mexican-American speak of this way of life 
having any advantages over being settled and having a permanent job, and we 
did not find a system of values, standards and attitudes common to most of 
them which would be particularly well-accommodated to the transient life of 
the migrant worker. In their family values, work values and attitudes, and in 
their religious and folk beliefs there is little to set them apart as having a 
special migrant subculture differing significantly from that of Mexican-Ameri- 
cans in general. 

Parts of the Mexican-American sub-culture do come into conflict with indi- 
vidual attempts to settle out of the migrant stream, when such settling involves 
a steady job, or saving enough money to see the family through slack months 
before permanent or semi-permanent jobs begin to provide a fairly regular in- 
come. But these are problems common to many Mexican-Americans who are not 
migrants. To be more specific, it appears that often the small earnings of the 
Mexican-American are not managed as well as they could be. The husband may 
indulge himself in spending large amounts of money on drinking, gambling and 
women. For a settled Mexican-American family this means hardships, but if 
there is a job the year round it doesn't necessitate migration. For the Mexican- 
American who migrates, partially because of off-season job scarcity, these habits 
are an additional impediment to settling out of the migrant stream. 

It is not entirely fair, perhaps, to cite these habits or vices as a unique part of 
the Mexican-American culture, for they are as surely found among many groups. 
But it appears that often they are consistent with and probably encouraged by 
the Mexican-American culture's view of the husband as the unquestioned head 
of the family, whose extramarital entertainment activities are an expected and 
romanticized part of life. Where a family has managed to settle and accumu- 
late a houseful of furnishings, and sometimes save money for lean months, there 
is often a drastic difference shown in the family roles played by both the hus- 
band and wife. 

(3) As we have indicated, Mexican-American migrants have many social 
connections (strong ties to family and friends) with the Mexican-American socio- 
cultural world and some of these can be considered connections with a non- 
migrant world. But there were almost no Mexican-American migrants who spoke 
of formerly working at jobs outside of agriculture. From our estimation, those 
who came from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas formerly were relatively 
permanent residents engaged in agriculture. In general, the Mexican-American 
migrant has many strong ties to his sub-culture, which is not just a migrant 
sulb-culture, and seldom has social or job connections outside of it. 

(4) The manner in which the Mexican-American views the world outside of 
the migrant stream is fairly clear in most cases. Most of them would prefer to 
settle, usually in their Texas or California bases, getting jobs and homes that 
would be permanent and provide a better living than they now have. Many of 
these migrants, as well as many Anglos, realize that their children cannot get an 


adequate education if they are constantly on the move. Thev also complain that 
they have fewer friends, because they make friends and then have to leave them 
and that they would like to live year round where their relatives live. In most 
cases they prefer to settle in an area where they can maintain close family and 
friendship ties, retaining most of their subculture's customs and values This 
estimate is based on the observation that those ties thev have are quite strong 
and that their sub-cultural values .seem to be held quite firmly. 

We have no good field data concerning the attitudes of the Mexican-American 
migrant to Anglo-American society and culture. We do know that in some cases 
Mexican-American migrants feel that as a group they have been the recipients 
of prejudice and discrimination from Anglos, especially in Texas. Some would 
remark that in the Yakima Valley they are treated much more as equals. Also, 
from their questions about our religion and from their remarks when talking 
about their own religion, folk beliefs, food, etc., it would seem that they recognize 
Anglo culture as different from theirs and that it contains some values which are 
contrary to theirs. 

B. The Anglos 

(1) We turn now to the Anglo migrant, and those personal and social factors 
which appear to have a tendency to keep him in the migrant stream. 

In common with some Mexican-Americans, some Anglos have personal prob- 
lems which seem to make it difficult for them to retain a steady job. Of course, 
being a migrant worker is not the only alternative available for most of those 
we met. However, in the case of a person already in the migrant stream, who has 
an alcohol problem for instance, he may have experienced considerable difficulty 
in changing his occupation significantly to better paying or more permanent 
work, so that this experience becomes, at least in his own eyes, an obstacle to 
leaving the migrant stream. 

Other ties are of a similar nature. Often, lack of education and training experi- 
ence seriously limit the jobs available to the Anglo migrant. Although these prob- 
lems do not necessitate his choosing to do seasonal farm labor, they do contribute 
to his doing so. Success at farm labor does require some real skill, judgment and 
experience. But the fact remains that entry into the migrant stream, is much 
easier than entry into most other occupations. 

The Anglo migrant differs from the Mexican-American in not having the more 
general and visible ties to the migrant stream of language barrier, pre- 
judice and discrimination. We will, at this point, however, decline from making 
the judgement that the Anglo is tied to the migrant existence by problems which 
are more individual or personal, and from stating broad formulae such as that 
the Mexican-American is there because of his skin, the Anglo because of his 
lack of brains and motivation. This .sort of conclusion would have to be backed 
up by extensive and intensive research, to say the least. But we will conclude 
later that this kind of consideration could be important in a different way. 

We feel that the Anglo also differs in having fewer social ties to other people 
in the migrant stream. In Crewport. at any rate, there are many Mexican- 
Americans who maintain ties with close friends and relatives at various points 
in their particular migratory routes — at Crewport itself, in the surrounding 
communities, in Texas, California or Mexico, and sometimes in the Midwest. 
This is not true for nearly as great a proportion of Anglo migrants, many of 
whom have loosened or broken ties with their families. The Anglo migrant 
speaks more often of another kind of connection in the migrant stream, the 
job connection. Anglo fruit pickers, more often than Mexican-Americans, make 
mention of employers and camps in other areas that they know of and some- 
times have made arrangements with. 

(2). This brings us to a consideration of the personal and cultural commit- 
ments of Anglo migrants to their way of life. In the section entitled "Ethnic 
Groups" we noted the various advantages cited by some Anglos when speaking 
of the migrant life. These are not universal, even among Anglos, but with .some 
they appear to be part of a special, organized way of looking at and valuing the 
migrant life. Superficially, at least, this has some of the appearances of a sub- 

Accompanying the values concerned with per.sonal liberty and independence, 
a few individual Anglos sometimes held elaborated views of the migrant stream 
as a great geographical and sea.sonal system that can provide a good income 
and good life to the fruit picker who hustles. We only know one person, a single 
Anglo, who was a really outspoken advocate of mastering this system, "follow- 


ing the fruit." He talked of having many connections in California, Oregon, 
Washington and Arizona, and said that the only way to do it was to have 
connections, know the seasons and move fast ; not to waste any time in moving 
on from areas where the crop was bad or the pay too low. This person claimed 
that one could make the seasons just right, and by working the system come out 
earning more than $1,000 during each four or five week season of cherries, 
peaches, citrus fruit, apples, and olives. He claimed that by working long hours 
and moving often at the right time one could earn $10,000 a year. But he ex- 
plained that though he knew the right places, and seasons, and techniques of 
picking, and had contacts, for himself he preferred to take it easy, work half- 
days, spend a little money on liquor and not pursue the occupation to its fullest. 
He, in fact, presented himself as a house painter, saying that he picked fruit 
because the fresh air was better for him than painting. 

There were a few other Anglo migrants who apparently believed that good 
money can be made by following the fruit, but few of them seemed to be con- 
sistent in holding it to be a desirable way of life. In almost every case, when a 
migrant talked of the advantages of being a fruit picker or of ways one can 
work the system and make a great deal of money, at least one or two other 
factors were also present to make us suspect that these were rationalizations 
and not expressions of the person's willing participation in a viable, valued and 
public sub-culture. That is, most who gave this sort of rationale were either 
very slow to identify themselves with the professional, life-long fruit picker, 
or were not themselves making nearly as much money as can be made by a 
reasonably steady and regular worker at fruit picking. 

Some who spoke of the freedom and independence afiforded by the life of a 
fruit picker nevertheless expressed the wish to settle out of the migrant stream 
and were making some half-hopeful plans to do so. Others, perhaps speaking less 
frankly because of being tied by personal problems to temporary work, talked 
as though they could at any time return to one of their former occupations and 
work at it permanently. These migrants seemed especially eager to let it be 
known that they "don't have to do work like this," and that they have their 
own personal, usually individualistic reasons for doing so for the time being. 
It was impossible for us to judge, on the basis of brief acquantance, whether 
the migrants who talked this way really could obtain and hold steady jobs. 

Likewise, many of those who talked about the advantages of being a fruit 
picker, such as freedom, independence, and financial gain, were those who were 
not doing very well economically at their chosen occupation. This was the case 
with the person mentioned above, the voluble supporter of following the fruit 
and of knowing how to work the system. In his case it seemed that most of 
what he said was either rationalization or wishful thinking. 

Another group of Anglos (mentioned in the section on "Social Organization 
and Camp Interaction") claimed to have recently quit their jobs in a furniture 
factory in the South, but were not over-anxious to impress this on us, or to let 
us know they could go back if they chose. They were, on the whole, regular and 
steady workers and were doing as well economically as could be done at fruit 
picking. They claimed to enjoy what they were doing and to be glad they were 
not working at the factory. But they were not particularly outspoken on the 
life of a fruit picker as affording great advantages and rewards. They did not 
have the romantic picture of the fruit follower who can "clean-up" if he hustles 
and who is his own boss wherever he goes. These considerations suggest, at 
least, that many of those who speak often of the advantages of the migrant life 
are those who wish they could settle out of that sort of existence, and perhaps 
fear they never can do so. 

There were also some Anglo migrants more like the Mexican-Americans in 
that they did not have a great deal to say about the advantages (or even the 
disadvantages) of the migrant worker's life. 

(3). We have seen from the preceding discussion that Anglo migrants often 
mention jobs they have had in the past which were more permanent than those 
they now have. In fact, when the subject came up, the Anglo migrant almost 
always mentioned more than one non-agricultural job he had held for over a 
year. This is in contrast to the Mexican-Americans who appeared to have had 
agricultural, if not .seasonal, jobs all of their lives. There was some evidence 
that Anglos as a group have more training and skills in such trades as me- 
chanics and carpentry. The only thing we can say for certain is that there ap- 
pears to be a greater past connection to the non-migrant world in the Anglo 


We cannot estimate in most cases, whether this means that an Anglo is likely 
to have a greater chance of returning to the outside or non-migrant world, but 
it probably means that in terms of viewing and evaluating his own social posi- 
tion and his chances of changing it, the Anglo migrant orients himself to the 
"outside" in a different way than the Mexican-American. We will discuss this in 
the following. 

(4). Considering the attitudes of Anglos to the world outside the migrant 
stream, we would say it is probable that a majority of them desire to settle 
down and get a permanent job and residence. We have already indicated that 
more Anglos mention specific jobs they say they could get at any time and that 
they seem to be especially eager to make it known ; this in spite of the fact 
that more Anglos cite reasons or rationalizations for their valuing the life of 
the migrant. It is from these considerations that we would say that the cognitive 
orientation of many Anglos to the outside world is one in which they see it as 
the and most important of all worlds and one that includes as a lesser 
part the migrant stream. Contrasting with this is the possible manner in which 
the Mexican-American migrant sees the outside, mostly Anglo world — as other 
than his world and not necessarily a more important other. In a sense, the Anglo 
may feel more like an exile from a world that is his own, while the Mexican- 
American may feel that his world — the world of the Mexican-American sub- 
culture, with its large migratory portion — and not just himself, is a separate 
category from the outside, Anglo w'orld. 

Thus,' the Anglo migrant, who sees his present situation as undesirable because 
of low income, low social prestige, or whatever, may be more inclined to blame 
himself for it, than is the Mexican-American migrant who can point to prejudice, 
discrimination and language or cultural barriers as contributing to his situation. 
And as the Anglo migrant thinks of the view of the outside Anglo world holds 
toward him he may feel that its reasons for placing him in an inferior social 
category are more individual and personal than because of ethnic discrimina- 
tion. These are only guesses about what may be a common orientation among 
Anglo migrants. We have no way of substantiating them from the limited data 
we obtained. 


The most obvious conclusion that can be made from our observations is that 
migrant workers in general form a diverse group, lacking cohesion. Considered 
as a whole, they display important differences in ethnic and geographic origins, 
in migration routes and degree of mobility, in social and occupational back- 
ground and connections, in family and friend.ship ties, in values and goals, in 
language, religion and folklore, and in work attitudes and orientations to the 
migrant and non-migrant world.s. Social organization and interaction are gen- 
erally simple and temporary, and there is a social division between the two 
major ethnic groups. 

Many of the differences mentioned above are, in fact, differences between the 
Mexican-American migrants, taken as a group, and Anglo migrants. It was our 
general impression that Mexican-American migrants, considered by themselves, 
are less diverse. Most of those whom we met had in common a set of values, 
attitudes, etc., which are derived from the Mexican-American sub-culture of this 
country. This sub-culture is centered in the Southwest, but throughout the United 
States there are small communities, or neighborhoods within communities, which 
are composed of Mexican-Americans. Most of the members of communities 
can be characterized by a general set of values, attitudes, goals, etc.. which make 
a Mexican-American sub-culture and which can be distinguished from those 
held by most members of the Anglo-American culture. Our point is that Mexican- 
American migrants, in general, can be identified with this sub-culture, because 
they embrace most of its particular values, attitudes, goals and so forth. 

It is also our impression that most Mexican-American migrants identify them- 
selves with their sub-culture and that being a part of it is important to them. 
Also, we think that Mexican-American migrants identify with this sub-culture to 
such an extent that we are justified in .saying it is public and standardized. 
That is, in general they hold it and value it as individuals and because each 
recognizes that most other Mexican-Americans hold and value it, it is standard- 
ized ; it is a set of publicly recognized .standards by which individuals judge 
themselves and other members of the sub-culture. Thus we conclude that the 
Mexican-American sub-culture is held strongly enough and is elaborated enough 
to help produce cohesiveness in any group of Mexican-Americans living together. 


In other words, Mexican-American migrants seem to come closer to having the 
characteristics of a community than Anglo migrants. Of course, the Mexican- 
American migrants do not form a community in the usual sense of the term 
because of their highly mobile pattern of life. But we can summarize here sev- 
eral factors which make them appear to be more like members of a community 
than do Anglo migrants. 

First, we have noted what appears to be a small community of former migrants 
settled at Crewport, which is made up mostly of Mexican-Americans. Our re- 
search did not focus on this group but we can conclude that in some sense they 
probably form a community at Crewport, or are a part of a Mexican-American 
community encompassing Crewport and the towns in the surrounding area. 

The two-based migrants who spend their winters at a Texas location are prob- 
ably also partial members of this community, as well as being community members 
at their other home base. They have family and friendship ties at both bases and 
these to some extent contribute to their specific migratory pattern. Those migrants 
who are more mobile have no definite pattern of migration, and thus have fewer 
if any previous ties to other Mexican-Americans at Crewport or in the area. But, 
as we have seen, compared to the Anglo migrants, only a few of these seem to 
have no home base at all. Thus, Mexican-American migrants, even though mobile, 
are to a greater extent tied to communities. 

We did not get any indication that Mexican-American migrants consider them- 
selves in a special category, separate from Mexican-Americans in general ; nor do 
we know whether settled Mexican-Americans place migrant Mexican-Americans 
in a special category. 

There is perhaps another sense in which Mexican- American migrants form more 
of a community. As we mentioned above, Mexican-Americans seem to hold in 
common a public and standardized sub-culture, and this probably lends cohesive- 
ness to any group of Mexican-American migrants, so that they come closer to 
being a community even at a labor camp than does a group of people who have no 
strongly-held, common sub-culture. This is only a partial, impressionistic con- 
clusion, but it is based on our recognition that culture and social interaction and 
organization are intimately related. A public sub-culture that is a valued part of 
its members' identities provides many formulae or standards which facilitate 
social interaction and organization. Though they may all be strangers, a group 
of Mexican-Americans coming together in a labor camp have at their disposal a 
number of sub-cultural standards which allow them to form inter-relationships 
with one another more quickly and more comfortably than would be the case were 
there no sub-culture. For the same reasons, such a group would probably be able 
to exert more social control over its members through the use of shame and 

We might judge that when it comes to settling out of the migrant stream, Mexi- 
can-Americans could feel more at ease about joining a permanent community 
than would be the case if they did not have in common, as with many permanent 
communities, a public sub-culture. They probably do not feel they would have 
difliculty in a permanent community living down their former image as migrants, 
because there are settled communities which have a sub-culture the same as their 

Among Anglo migrants there is much less evidence and fewer impressions to 
make us believe that such a sense of community exists with them. There is no set 
of distinctly migrant values, attitudes, cognitions, goals, etc., widespread among 
the Anglos at the camp. If there is a set of values, attitudes, goals, etc. common 
to many Anglo migrants, these probably belong to the sub-culture, if it can be 
so called, of the lower and lower-middle classes of the United States. But we feel 
that among these migrants this is not a sub-culture that is part of a community, 
even in a loose sense of the term. 

We think these values, attitudes, etc., are not part of a public sub-culture and 
that for the most part they are not recognized as being standards for self and 
others. An exception to this is the attitude towards works, but this is a rather 
general attitude. There were no widespread and strongly held values or attitudes 
concerning specific aspects of life, or of the migrant life, which were also values 
or attitudes held as standards for self and for the group. It does not appear to 
us that in most cases the cognitions, values, attitudes, etc., of the Anglo migrant 
form a distinct and coherent sub-culture which gives its members an identity they 

Another reason for our impression that there is a greater lack of community 
among the Anglo migrants is that Anglos have fewer strong family and friendship 


ties. There is a much higher rate of both separation and divorce, and Anglos as a 
group are more mobile than Mexican-Americans. Comparing the social interaction 
of women in the camp, that of the Mexican-American group is more highly elab- 
orate and possibly more fequent than that of the Anglo women. In addition to 
this, we can add that there is no elaboration of the public sub-culture among the 
Anglos which would provide standards for the formation of inter-action groups 
as is probable among the Mexican-Americans. 

We have mentioned in some of the preceding material cognitions, values, atti- 
tudes and goals among some of the Anglos which may possibly form an Anglo 
migrant sub-culture. We will briefly conclude here on that possibility. 

This possible sub-culture would include a world-view which focuses upon the 
migrant stream as a shifting, risky but adventurous world. Its values center 
around individualism, personal freedom and independence. A man with hustle, 
skill and good judgment can make good earnings in this shifty world. A man 
should work hard, but allow himself to play hard. too. The religion of this sub- 
culture emphasizes the Bible and individual interpretation, and de-emphasizes 
ritual and symbols. A man who has many contacts, knows the system — the right 
places and right season — and who hustles enough to earn good money while still 
retaining his freedom and independence achieves the goals of the sub-culture. 
He is admired by others and feels a sense of pride. 

This description could be elaborated into a complete, imaginary sub-culture, 
made up of elonipnts from the American-Anglo lower class sub-culture and some 
uniquely migrant components. But, for a number of reasons, this sub-culture 
does not exist within what could be called an Anglo migrant community. At least, 
this is the conclusion indicated by our field work at the Crewport labor camp. 

As we have already indicated, in our experience this seeming sub-culture was 
strongly articulated by only a few Anglo migrants. We also indicate some reasons 
for guessing that these articulations represent rationalizations or wishful think- 
ing, rather than a true sub-culture which is actualized and accommodated by the 
social and economic system of the migrant stream, here were no cases in which 
this image of a subculture was strongly held by migrants who identified them- 
selves firmly with the migrant life, showing no signs of wanting to leave it, and 
who were, themselves, actually hustling enough to earn as much as can be 
earned at fruit picking. 

It seems quite possible, then, that this system of values, attitudes, goals, etc.. is 
an image of a migrant world and of an ideal migrant — the hustling fruit fol- 
lower — which is created by a few individuals who need a sub-culture with which 
to identify in a positive, valued way. But very few identify themselves with it in 
a permanent way, or commit themselves to it willingly for a long period of time, 
or for a lifetime. 

This is perhaps a cultural indicator of the lack of economic opportunity in the 
migrant stream. It is easy to see the probability of a sub-culture and a loose-knit 
community existing among Anglo migrants, if there were actually the possibility 
of achieving the ei^nnomic goals and the i>ossibility of actualizing the values and 
goals of personal fredom and independence that some migrants have articulated. 
But from what we know of the migrant stream as it now operates as a socio- 
economic system, the task of the fruit follower who wants to have his freedom 
and earn a good income seems almost superhuman. Considering the reality of the 
migrant stream, a hypothetical super-migrant would have to maintain an in- 
exhaustible supply of contacts with growers and foremen, and with migrant 
camns. spropd pcrhnns acros'j thousands of miles separating different agricul- 
tural areas. He would need reliable information concerning up-coming harvests 
as well, and a reliable way of making predictions al)out the degree of saturation 
of the labor markets in all areas. He would also need some way of out-maneuver- 
ing the wage control tactics of agri-business grower/processor/marketers. 

If the romantic figure, the professional fruit follower who makes good money 
and has freedom does exist, he is rare, gauged by our experience and by the 
average income figures for migrants in Washington. But purely economic reali- 
ties or frequent moving are perhaps not the most important reasons for the lack 
of community. The Mexican-American migrant, we believe, maintains much of 
his sub-culture and his social ties although moving within the migrant stream. 
While they may not constitute a community, they come much closer than the 
Anglo group does. Their sub-culture is more public, they identify more with it, 
and position and inter-action within the Mexican-American social system imple- 
ments and actualizes this sub-culture to a greater extent. 


The Anglo migrants do not have a public sub-culture, we believe, because 
though they may have many sub-culture components in common, they do not 
have a distinctly migrant system of standards to which they commit not only 
themselves but each other, as well. We judge, rather, that Anglo migrants are 
marginal members of a wider, public, Anglo culture, that of the non-migrating 
lower and lower-middle classes of Anglo America. This would perhaps explain 
the fact that apparently rationalized advantages of the migrant life are often 
accompanied by a great emphasis on one's ability to re-enter a non-migrant 

Earlier we avoided the judgment that Anglos have more personal or individual 
problems than Mexican-Americans, tieing them to the migrant existence, but we 
later alluded to the supposition that many Anglo migrants may feel that they 
are a rejected or self-exiled part of their own culture and society. This seems 
more likely than the supposition that they hold the standards of and identify 
with a distinct migrant offshoot of the lower class or lower middle-class cultural 

Of course, not all Anglo migrants feel exiled or rejected. Some of them, doubt- 
less, are not rationalizing, and not fooling themselves in feeling that they are, 
by their own free choice, getting away from an undesired, settled existence, for 
a time or permanently. But as nearly as can be seen from our brief research, 
even these do not api>ear to form a particiUar, self-contained socio-cultural 
system or community. 

Excerpts Fkom Ahtanum : Yakima Farmwobkeks Camp Summer, 1967 
(By Lynn Patterson and Karen James) 


This study was conducted at the request of the Yakima Valley Council for 
Community Action, more commonly known as YVCCA, through the Bureau of 
Community Development at the University of Washington. The YVCCA has 
been funded by the OfBce of Economic Opportunity since 1965, with the express 
purpose of formulating programs designed to benefit the low-income population 
of Yakima County and to organize groups through which low-income persons 
will gain a voice in community and county affairs. 

The history of interest in migrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley roughly 
parallels that of any other agricultural area in the United States. Agricultural 
crops require immediate harvesting; any delay results in loss of crop, hence 
loss of revenue. Agriculture, therefore, requires a labor force which is willing 
to work when needed, with the full knowledge that work will be terminated 
when the crop has been harvested. Small farms often rely on the labor of family 
members and neighbors for the harvest season ; larger farms traditionally have 
relied on transient labor. 

The origins of transient farm laborers are manifold. In the South and on the 
east coast of the United States. Negroes constitute the majority of migrant farm 
laborers. Mexicans supply equally cheap labor for the southwestern states, in- 
cluding Texas and California. During the Depression and Dust Bowl eras, whites 
(Anglos) entered the agricultural migrant streams by the thousands. 

The people who compose the migrant farm labor population in this country 
have been aptly described as invisible men. When their seiTices are needed, they 
are contracted by every means possible. State farm labor oflSces attempt to co- 
ordinate information on crops and to channel laborers into areas in which they 
will be needed, but these efforts are often not enough. Growers who can afford 
it invest in advertising; others rely on the services of labor contractors. 

All too often, promises are made to the laborers resrarding conditions which 
do not exist, e.g. "adequate" housing, "good" crops, "high" pay. Crops may not 
be ready for harvest when the laborers arrive. In such instances, the laborer has 
little choice than to wait. He does not have the money necessary to move on. 
Often he must acquire credit at a grocery store in order to buy necessary food 
and must secure loans from growers or contractors in order to pay his rent. 

When the harvest season ends, the farm laborer is left to his own devices. If 
he is lucky, he has accumulated enough funds to tide him over to the next job. If 
he has no money, he may be forced to remain dependent on a community that no 
longer needs or wants him. 


While workers in other industries and businesses have steadily acquired rights 
and benefits through unions (even nonunion employers are forced by competi- 
tion for lal>or to offer comparable wages, insurance ix>licies, etc.) and have been 
afforded guarantees of minimum wage, workmen's compensation and social 
security through federal law, agricultural farmworkers are working today under 
conditions that are comparable to those of thirty years ago. 

In 1942, Carey McWilliams described Yakima County as the worst area in 
the nation in terms of housing conditions and general treatment of migrant 
farm labor. When attempts were made to organize farm laborers during the 
thirtie.s. Yakima made new.**; the organizers and farm laborers who dared to 
listen to them were rounded up, beaten (or worse) and sent packing out of the 

General treatment, at least on a large scale, has not been as brutal since that 
time. Many growers and farmers have made substantial efforts to provide sani- 
tary housing and improve working conditions, but on the basis of a study con- 
cerning Yakima Valley migrant farm labor in 1936, many conditions have re- 
mained unchanged. Recommendations for improved housing in 1967 could be 
practically quoted verbatim from recommendations made in 1936. Wages have 
increased considerably, but so has cost of living. Farm laborers are still not 
provided with the securities that are now taken for granted by laborers in other 
kinds of work. 

The following statement on working conditions in 1936 is equally applicable to 
working conditions in 1967 : 

"The farm laborer from the standpoint of economic security and legal protec- 
tion, occupies a very hazardous position. In spite of his low income he is un- 
protected by working compensation laws and has no part in the present provi- 
sions for economic security. His only security apparently lies in work or relief." 

Agriculture, which is rapidly entering the ranks of big business and industry, 
has remained strangely immune from legislative and popular pressure to bet- 
ter the lot of its laborers. The increasing use of mechanized means to harvest 
crops has introduced an era of corporation farming. Small, privately-owned 
farms are finding it more and more difficult to survive on an economic basis, 
and the need for farm laborers is rapidly diminishing. 

The fact of diminishing need introduces a form of logic into arguments resist- 
ing efforts to improve conditions for migrant farm labor, i.e. there is little use 
in improving temporary housing because people will not be needed in five 
or ten years. In other words, money spent at this late date to improve housing 
is money wasted. Legislation requiring stricter enforcement of federal migrant 
labor housing standards was put into effect as of July 1, 1967. Efforts to im- 
plement the law have, so far, resulted not in improved conditions, but simply 
closure of camps. 

As will be discussed later in this report, mere improvement of housing con- 
ditions for migrant farm labor is not a long-range solution to what is termed 
the migrant problem (i.e.. how to reintegrate a people into society whose present 
skills are no longer needed). At present, however, several thousand migrants 
do exist. Denying these people adequate housing (or minimum wage, workmen's 
compensation, right to organize, etc.) is asking that they quietly disappear 
when the time is right. They will not disappear. They will be forced to "settle 
out" in urban or rural areas where, lacking occupational and mainstream social 
.skills, they will in all likelihood increase slum populations and welfare rolls. 

If, however, efforts are to be made now to re-train and re-orient migrant farm 
laborers, farm labor camps provide a location in which to begin these efforts. 

This report is the result of a study with some distinct limitations. The time 
duration for field work was only six weeks, from August 1 to September 9, 1967. 
The location of field work and focus for the study was the Yakima Farm Work- 
ers Camp, known as Ahtanum or the "Farm Labor Camp," located just 
south of the town of T'nion Gap in Yakima County. 

The Yakima Farm Workers Camp is one of two camps owned and operated 
by a public non-profit corporation knows as the "Housing Authority." It was 
difficult to obtain specific information on either the Housing Authority or the 
history of the camps. The camps were constructed in 1939 and opened in 1940. 
One source indicated that the land for the camps was donated by an unknown 
individual so "there would be better housing for transients." Ahtanum was u.sed 
in the late 1940's by the federal government as a military training center and 
then turned over to the county on a twenty-year lease, specificall.v for of 
agricultural laborers. An organization called Yakima Valley Farm Labor Camps, 


Inc., composed of representatives from Yakima County towns, was dissolved In 
1952 and operation of the two camps was turned over to the newly formed Hous- 
ing Authority. Contrary to public opinion, the camps are under the direct con- 
trol of the Housing Authority and not the County Commissioner's office, although 
the Housing Authority is said to be in considerable debt to the county for opera- 
tion of the camps. The camps are operated on a self-sustaining basis, i.e. costs 
of maintenance are derived from rent monies. 

Data for the report were gathered mainly from study within the confines of 
the Yakima Farm Workers Camp, but supplementary information was gathered 
from "outsiders," from ex-migrants who have "settled out" in Yakima, and 
from Public Assistance, hospitals, grocery stores, and Employment Security. 

It is important to note that shortly after our arrival in camp, "Operation 
Neighbor to Neighbor" headquarters were established in the camp's community 
hall. The activity and controversy generated by Operation Neighbor to 
Neighbor, the barrage of photographers, reporters and visits by government 
officials and sightseers, disrutped what might be termed the normal routine of 
activity of the camp residents, if there is a normal routine in such a fluid 
society. We feel, however, that despite this disruption, so far as our study 
was concerned, the situation provided a unique opportunity to directly observe 
camp resident's reactions and response to outside help and, to some degree, the 
attitudes expressed by those people who were involved in giving the help. Such 
observations are important in assessing effectiveness of the Yakima C.A.P. 
and similar community action programs in their dealing with migrant farm 

In this connection, it should be of interest to compare this report with the 
other reports of the study, keeping the Operation Neighbor to Neighbor factor 
in mind. The other three camps where the study was conducted were visited by 
officials assessing the migrant plight and in some instances received donations, 
but the degree of activity was far less than in Ahtanum. 

It is essential to remind the reader at this juncture that this study is 
concerned with a group of people called migrants who happened to be in a 
particular place at a specific point in time. While the authors were in Ahtanum, 
more than six hundred people occupied cabins for varying lengths of time. We 
were able to gather some data on all six hundred, and much information 
from selected families and individuals nearest our cabin who were representa- 
tive of the larger group. ( See tables. Appendix. ) 

For the purposes of this report, the authors have made generalizations 
concerning migrant farm laborers. The validity of these generalizations, when 
applied to migrant farm laborers outside of the Yakima Farm Workers Camp, 
can only be proved through further comparative study. It is hoped that 
comparison of the four reports included in this study will be a step in this 

This report will make several assumptions : 

1. There are aspects of the way of life of those who follow the migrant 
stream which are disturbing to parts of mainstream society — disturbing 
enough so that these parts would like to change the migrant way of 

2. There are factors in the way of life of those who follow the migrant 
stream which effectively limit the biological and psychological develop- 
ment of one who follows or is born into the migrant stream (see Robert 
Coles, Children of Crisis and "The Lives of Migrant Farmers"); 

3. There is no one migrant way of life or life style, nor migrant type, 
but the environment in which the migrant moves or lives effectively sets 
limitations upon the styles of life available to him, resulting in a limited 
number of distinct patterns which are most successful in exploiting the 
given environment. As a corollary to this point, there is no single reason 
for one being in the migrant stream ; 

4. Any attempt to change or improve the life of those who follow the 
migrant stream must at all times take into consideration not only the 
limitations of the environmental system as it exists, but the limitations of 
the life styles which are both a result of the system and effective within 
the system. It must also take into account the values produced by this 
life way, and the aspects of the environmental system and life styles which 
have accorded these values : it must be able to assess the effect of any 
change on the social organization and values of the human beings who 
follow the migrant stream. 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-12 


It is suggested that simply offering new and better housing, or making new 
careers available is not necessarily an answer to the migrant problem, which is 
defined here as what to do with several thousand Americans whose skills are 
rapidly becoming passe. In an attempt to define the wants and needs of the 
migrants, let us assume he does want a share of that life he views as available 
to the few. What is necessary to achieve this want may vary, but money is a 
very real and constant need. 

The money can be earned in a variety of ways when one is on the fringe of 
society ; one can work hard at a job that is temporary in nature, e.g. fruit pick- 
ing, baling hay, planting trees, working in a cannery, etc. (temporary work 
meaning that one may have two or three or more jobs during the course of a 
year) ; or he may seek permanent employment, which all too often is restricted 
to jobs typical of those allotted to teenagers and/or deviants, deviant by reason 
of race, religion, background, failure to qualify, etc. One may also take a chance 
on robbing banks, cashing bad checks, bootlegging, gambling, and so forth. 

The opportunity to gain employment which offers the high pay, good hours, 
prestige and opportunity for advancement so highly valued by mainstream 
society, is seldom encountered. If it is encountered, there are few who are pre- 
pared by social training and experience to accept it. Given the type of employ- 
ment made available to the migrant, a single job is rarely the end means in 
itself ; it is merely one of many such means, and it would take many to earn 
the money that makes possible the good life. 

A few individuals do make it. They become known as, and often espouse them- 
selves as, "Horatio Algers." The majority of migrants, however, remain sub- 
missive and deal with the variables that are made available to them. 

In the same manner, it can be argued that money in itself does not allow 
entrance to the good life (a la noveau riche). The good life available to a mi- 
grant is extremely limited when compared to mainstream good life, but it is 
what is possible, i.e. freedom to pick and choose jobs, gamble, drink, buy a new 
car, go to a drive-in, etc. This has certain implications for the kind of job training 
or new career concept which must be considered by those who would change 
migrant life by means of job or career placement. 

Critics of this delineation of possible employment for the migrant would do 
well to recall that mainstream society places very real criteria on who is allowed 
into the good life. Education is often seen by those outside as being what is 
necessary for the migrant to achieve a good life, but is seldom mentioned by 
the migrants as a need. The poor do not necessarily see it that way. To the poor, 
education belongs to the few. To those who earn a living by piecework, education 
is expensive in at least two ways: (1) education requires money and is a drain 
on already meager resources needed to purchase items necessary for survival ; 
and (2) education deprives the family of wage-earners. The education ethic is 
so strong in American life that if questioned closely virtually every member of 
American society recognizes the need for education "if you're going to get ahead." 

Those who place education on the list of life's primary requisites and have the 
means, or the availability to means, seldom under.stand that there are multi- 
factored pressures in certain ways of life, e.g. hard-core poverty or migrant exist- 
ence, which literally prohibit focusing on education as a necessity. Not only do 
the demnnds of these particular life styles overpower the wish for education, 
but the life .style in itself denies individuals the right to accumulate the pre- 
requisites that are currently demanded by educators, e.g. good grades or school 
records. A child of a family following the crops rarely begins and completes a 
school year at the same school. The school record of migrant children is 
notorious ; the habits and attitudes they must acquire in order to survive in the 
migrant community are not acceptable in institutions geared to dealing with the 
average child. 

This report focuses on the environment with which any migrant farm worker 
must deal, the variables which are available to the individual and the usual 
manner in which these variable are manipulated. There are a great many vari- 
ables in the migrant environment, as indicated throushout the report. It is 
throush these interdependent variables that one could construct a general frame- 
work of reference typical of migrants. 

However, for an over-all view, the most important variable is the migrant 
farm laborer himself. As there is no typical migrant family or group, so there is 
no typical migrant individual. The individual who adenuately deals with all these 
variables, considers them and makes conscious decisions concerning those vari- 


ables over which he might be said to have some control, is the "successful" fruit 

Exchange is one way to improve an individual's ability to manipulate the 
variables, hence environment, and become a more successful migrant laborer, 
and also is an especially useful way to increase the number of individuals from 
whom one can expect help in manipulating the variables. The professional and 
most successful laborers and those with large extended-family groups are least 
likely to need an exchange relationship with other less successful families or 
groups. They have become adept at manipulating the variables, either because 
they have made following the crops a career (apparent are many similarities 
with what it takes to be a successful businessman) , or in the case of large families 
or groups there are a sufficient number of individuals to cope with the variables. 
These professionals and extended groups will exploit the outside to a degree, 
e.g. free food distributions, but rarely exploit each other. They will not beg and 
are quick to condemn those whom they perceive to be begging (begging includes 
reliance on welfare agencies). The less successful migrant laborers, many of 
whom state they are not fruit tramps by profession, are those most likely to 
need help from the exchange system which develops in a camp setting, and are 
most likely to exploit every possible outside agency, as well as their fellow 

While there is no typical migrant family and the kinds of social organization 
utilized by migrant farm laborers run the gamut of organization possible to hu- 
man beings, the way the migrant organizes himself, either in a family or with 
a group of unrelated individuals, may directly affect how well he is able to manip- 
ulate the variables for success. 

During the course of this study, three racial or ethnic groups were represented 
in the Ahtanum camp: Negro, Anglo and Mexican- American. Within each group 
were to be found representatives of all forms of individual behavior ranging 
from those who were seen by camp residents as chronic alcoholics and loafers, 
to those who work hard at whatever job is available and diligently seek to make 
their lives as meaningful as possible within the confines of environment and 
know-how. At the end of the study, Indians fx'om Montana, Canada and western 
Washington were beginning to move into the camp. There is indication that at 
least some of these people had been in western Washington for the berry seasons, 
moving to Yakima for the apple picking. 

In moving from the individual level to that of ethnic or racial groups, there 
appear some differences that are worth noting. Anglo migrant farm laborers can 
be roughly divided into two groups. The first group is made up of the profession- 
als who have followed the fruit run for generations. The professionals often orig- 
inate from the southwest and midwest states. They are the survivors of the 
Dust Bowl and Depression eras, who moved westward during the twenties and 
thirties to either settle in agricultural areas or join the migrant stream. Profes- 
sionals may also be permanent residents. For instance, a man may be employed as 
a fisherman, logger or carpenter in western Washington where he maintains a 
home. During the harvest season he travels to Yakima and picks apples as a sup- 
plement to his income. The professional regards his work as a skill. Although he 
may have a feeling of dissent because of lack of working benefits, e.g. workman's 
compensation, minimum wage controls and because of bad housing conditions, 
he rarely sees anything demeaning about working in the fields or orchards. He 
is confident of his position and personal worth. 

The second group of Anglo misrrant laborers is composed of individuals and 
groups who generate a definite attitude of displacement. In talking about their 
work as fruit pickers, they often indicate that fruit picking is not their usual 
occupation. They make it clear that they are capable of better employment, but 
that for a variety of reasons they are temporarily following the fruit run. They 
are not confident of their position and seek to justify their presence in farm labor 

This second group often includes the alcoholic, the exconvict and the psycho- 
logically disturbed. It is interesting to note that in the Ahtanum camp, members 
of this group sometimes had a higher formal education than the professional. 
Some had had college trainins:. but certain events in their lives, e.g. a prison 
sentence, effectivelv excluded them from participation in mainstream society. 

While it can be generally stated that the Anglo is in the fruit run either be- 
cause of choice and/or custom, or because he has or sees that he has no choice, 
the Mexican-American and the Negro migrant farm laborers evidence a rather 
different situation. Like the professional Anglo, the Mexican and Negro are in 


farm labor because of tradition, but it is a tradition which includes the factor 
of prejudice. 

A large number of Mexican people were urged to come to this country for the 
purpose of farm labor. Unlike Negroes, Mexicans were not brought into the 
United States under the label of slave, but their treatment has not been much 
better. Both Negroes and Mexicans have brought with them or evolved in this 
country a steady and continuing culture. In the same sense, professional Anglo 
migrants could be said to have evolved a form of culture or are sufficiently a 
part of mainstream culture to have a sense of belonging and dignity. It is the 
second group of Anglo migrants, the people who could be someplace else than 
here, who seem to be cut off from any culture at all. 

In the same sense that there are at least two groups of Anglo farm workers, 
so there are different groups to be found among Negro and Mexican-American 
workers. Perhaps the most important of these groups is the one which is knowl- 
edgeable on the concepts of the current civil rights movement and its meaning 
for their particular race. This interest in civil rights is not as apparent in the 
migrant as in the resident Mexican-American and Negro communities, but some 
individuals were encountered in the camp who talked readily on the subject. 

The above generalizations are intended as indication that there are differ- 
ences between the ethnic and racial groupings which constitute the migrant 
population. It is important that any program designed to improve the lot of 
migrant farm workers be aware of these differences and integrate such knowl- 
edge into meaningful planning. In given areas, e.g. the Ahtanum camp, such a 
program would do well to not only be aware of how the given migrant popula- 
tion classifies its members on an individual basis, but also be alert to the possi- 
bilities of differences in attitude on the more general level of racial and ethnic 


The accommodations provided by the camp fall into three categories : "houses," 
"bachelors' cabins," and "migrants' cabins." The salient characteristic of all 
three types of accommodation within each category is similarity. Only the house 
are visible from the road which goes by the camp. These are shaded by tall trees 
and surrounded by lawns kept green by constant sprinkling during the hot, dry 
summer. The houses are on the style of bungalows, each painted white on the 
outside with green trim. Features differentiating them from other housing in the 
camp are bathrooms with showers, toilets and washbasins ; kitchen areas with 
cupboards, sinks, drainboards and outlets for stoves ; hot and cold running 
water ; living room areas, one or more bedrooms i>er home and electrical outlets 
in each room. 

The houses are in varying need of repair. The camp management's policy for 
repairing the houses, as with other accommodations in the camp, is to repair 
imits in turn. Consequently, if a unit needs repairs when a tenant moves in, 
these will not be made out of turn unless classified as urgent. The cost of repairs 
made by tenants is not covered by the Housing Authority, i.e. if a tenant paints 
a house on his own camp management will not pay for the paint. 

Most of the houses are occupied by year-round tenants who are not necessarily 
employed in agriculture ; the camp manager and one of his assistants live in 
houses. Another assistant lives in a bachelor cabin. House residents are generally 
older people who have retired from jobs in Yakima or have settled out from the 
fruit run. There are also a few younger families that have settled out. As in the 
other accommodations, there is no typical resident who elects to live in a house. 
However, migrant farm laborers who arrive in Yakima for the harvest season 
and choose to live in a house rather than a cabin set themselves apart, at least 
in terms of economics (rent for the houses runs approximately $45.00 a month). 
There is very little .socializing between tenants of houses and those of cabins. 

The bachelors' cabins are located directly behind the houses and form a imit 
separate from the migrant cabins. Ten units form a horseshoe pattern around a 
building containing separate lavatories and showers with hot and cold running 
water, and a laundry room with a washing machine. The doors to the building, 
to which each tenant of a bachelor cabin has a key, are kept locked at all times. 

The bachelors' cabins had been painted at one time. The paint is now so worn 
that it is impossible to tell the original color, but the peeled, weatherbeaten hue 
distinguishes the units from the unpainted. weather-darkened cedar planking of 
the migrant cabins. Trees shade the units and a drainage ditch curves in a .semi- 
circle between the cabins and the wash house. A narrow foot-bridge leads over the 


ditch to each unit, and grass, unkempt but green, grows along the sides of the 
ditch and between the cabins. 

Each bachelor cabin is a single room containing a sink with a cold water tap, 
drainboards, cupboards and a few shelves. The windows have glass panes. Like 
the migrant cabins, each unit has one electrical outlet hanging from the center of 
the ceiling and a small wood-burning stove located by the doorway. 

A few of the bachelor cabins are rented year-round. Their walls and ceilings 
are lined with plywood, making them more amenable to living comfort in both 
the hot summer and cold winter months. Children are not allowed in these units ; 
consequently, the renters are either single men or childless couples. The rent runs 
approximately $7.00 per week or $21.00 per month. 

The migrant cabins are arranged in four concentric semi-circles around a large 
building housing lavatories, showers and clothes washing facilities. They are 
built of cedar planking with wood-shingled roofs and board floors. Most of the 
cabins have an interior dado of plywood ; a few have been completely paneled with 
plywood on the interior walls and roof. They are all one room, measuring approxi- 
mately fourteen by sixteen feet. Housing Authority regulations specify that no 
more than five people can occupy a single cabin. 

There are window openings on all four sides of a cabin. Plywood shutters lower 
over each window from the top and can be propped up to let in light and air (and 
dust). The front and back windows have glass panes in frames that are hinged 
at the top (some can be propped open, some cannot). These windows and two 
others have screens. There is one door. 

Each cabin is furnished with a small wood-burning stove located next to the 
door, two desk-size tables and two or three shelves. There is a single electrical 
outlet hanging from the middle of the room. When a tenant moves into a cabin 
he is supplied with a number of wooden or metal chairs and metal bed frames with 
Army-type springs ; these are allotted according to the number of people occupying 
a cabin. 

More than twenty-five years of exposure to elements and people have taken a 
toll on the cabins. It is not uncommon to see daylight through cracks and holes 
in the walls and floors. Cabin walls are often lined with newspaper and masking 
tape, poignant reminders of efforts by past tenants to minimize the effects of wind 
and cold. Glass window panes are often broken and seldom replaced. Torn window 
screens, also rarely replaced, offer little protection from insects. 

There is about five feet of space between cabins in each row. A few trees shade 
the cabins on the east side of the camp and an occasional tree on the west side, 
but most of the cabins are completely expo.sed to the weather. Straw-grass and 
weeds grow around the cabins, but there is no greenery except in patches where 
washwater has been sloshed. The grass is cut and burned in piles once or twice a 
year by the camp management. 

Fire hydrants are located throughout the camp, but the cabins are obviously 
firetraps. The cedar walls are like tinder ; under the hot summer sun they 
become too hot to touch. Should one cabin catch fire with a strong wind blowing, 
it is conceivable that the whole camp would burn in a matter of minutes. The 
location of the wood stove near the door may have been planned with ventila- 
tion in mind, but if a fire were to start near the stove, thus blocking the door 
as an exit, the only retreat would be to rip out screens and crawl through a 
window. The windows are far too high to provide a small child with escape. 

Water is obtained from cold water taps spaced at intervals throughout the 
cabin area. The spigots are about three feet off the ground but share the same 
enclosure as garbage cans. The ground surface of the water and garbage areas 
is lined with a shallow cement drainage ditch. Corrugated tin is used to fence 
in the area. The camp management indicated that garbage is collected daily. 
We noted that garbage often went uncollected for two to three days. At one 
time it accumulated for five days before it was hauled away. Each installation 
of one water faucet and four garbage cans serves approximately fourteen cabins. 

Three buildings which house separate toilet and sink facilities for men and 
women are located at the back of the camp. The main washhouse has two toilet 
and sink facilities for women and two for men. There is a men's shower and 
a women's shower. The showers are divided into stalls with an anteroom for 
dressing ; there are no doors on the stalls. Women often tack scarves or towels 
over the shower stall entrances in an effort to have a semblance of privacy. A 
room in the center of the building houses coin-operated washing machines and 
wa.shtubs. All of these areas have hot and cold running water. Toilet paper 
and soap are not provided. 


The lavatories are open twenty-four hours a day, but the clothes-washing 
room is closed at H :30 p.m. each day of the week. The shower rooms are closed by 
6:30 p.m. and are not reopened in the mornins until after they have been cleaned. 
Cleaning often did not take place until well after S :00 a.m. The reason given 
for closure of the washroom and showers was that children might hurt them- 
selves playing in those areas. It was apparent that tenants were often incon- 
venienced by the early closure. The usual hour for departing for the orchards 
is G .00 a.m. Return to the camp varies according to the type of work being done, 
the hours one chooses to work and the distance of the orchards or fields from 
the camp. People returning from work by 6 :00 or 6 :30 p.m. would not be able 
to use the washing machines and they would be lucky to get a shower. 

Cleaning of these facilities is undertaken by the two camp management as- 
sistants. The usual procedure is a daily hosing, using a strong disinfectant. There 
is little or no scrubbing. The shower floors are slimy and the sink and toilet 
bowls always look dirty. All of the facilities are in varying need of repair. Pipe 
leaks are common ; toilets are diflicult to flush or do not flush at all. There is 
no cleaning on Sunday. By Monday morning, a time lapse of forty-eight hours 
from the Saturday morning cleaning, the facilities are diflScult to use. 

Only one road leads into the camp. It is blacktopped as far as the camp oflSce. 
The roads within the camp are of dirt and deeply rutted. Each time a car passes 
through the camp, clouds of dust ix'rmeate the cabins. The roads were oiled once 
during the summer — coincidentally, just as the flow of official visits began. The 
oil did keep the dust down for a time, but created additional problems for bare- 
foot children. A speed limit of fifteen miles per hour is posted in the camp, but 
there are no speed-bumps to prevent speeding. 

Outsiders visiting the camp for the first time are often shocked and only rarely 
unmoved by the living conditions. There are some who rationalize that the camps 
are only temporary housing, or that there are not sufficient funds to keep the 
camps in good repair, or that migrants are dirty. 

As to temporary conditions, the camp, as an environment, represents the most 
constant variable in the life of a migrant farm worker and his family. Ahtanum 
is not unlike camps and other housing conditions up and down the entire fruit 
run, where many professional migrant farm workers live out their existence. Few 
migrant farm workers own permanent homes they can return to once the harvest 
season has ended. In this environment, men must provide support and women 
must raise and care for families. 

Migrant farm laborers are no more dirty than people in general are dirty. 
Efforts to maintain personal hygiene and health are impressive considering the 
available resources. On returning from work, people immediately shower and 
change into clean clothes. Men are rarely unshaven. Children are bathed regu- 
larly. It is no easy task to keep oneself and one's family clean in such an un- 
clean environment. One of the most impressive things about these camps is that 
everything is geared to push a person down. There is little incentive to try, yet 
people do try in the best way they know. The efforts made may not measure up 
to middle-class standards, but they are all that is possible given their economic 
status, amount of education, material belongings, and so on. 

The gap that exists between the outside and the migrant life-style has to be 
experienced to be fully understood. It serves to isolate both sides from each other 
to a degree that practically eliminates communication. Yet, the people on both 
sides are not so different. The standards and mores espoused by the middle 
class are equally if not more important to the average farm worker. However, 
the environment he lives in and the existing variables which allow for decision- 
making and choice limit him and differ from what is available to middle-class 
.society. . . 

Anyone who would earn a living at migratory farm labor wdl find it is not 
a simple life. It requires a great deal of weighing of variables and decision mak- 
ing expressed by the laborer as knowing when to move, knowing how to pick 
your farm, and knowing how to make money. There is very little one can do about 
one's physical givens. One can learn, however, which fruits or vegetables one is 
best suited to work. A tall, long-armed Anglo, for example, might be better suited 
for fruit picking than for working in ground crops as a stoop laborer. A fairly 
short Mexican-American may find a ten-foot ladder used in tree crops very 
unwieldy and dec'de that he can best earn his money in stoop labor. 

Those\ariables labeled natural are again l)eyond the actual control of laborers, 
but the professional will assess the fruit in which he has a chance to work, talk 
to laborers who have worked there and decide how nearly optimum the condi- 
tions are before accepting a job. 


A grower, realizing that it will be diflBcult to get labor for some orchards, may 
offer higher wages if conditions warrant them. For example, harvesters may be 
offered premium wages for working in orchards on hillsides, in areas where the 
trees are difficult to pick by reason of age, lack of pruning, height, etc., and where 
the ground is eoveretl with high grass, weeds or irrigation ditches. The important 
factor, however, is abundance of fruit. If the fruit is plentiful and of good size, 
higher wages may not be offered, even if picking conditions are bad. 

A laborer under contract has little choice in where he is going to work, especi- 
ally if he is in debt to the contractor for transportation expenses, free housing, 
etc., but if he is a professional or free agent, he will rarely elect to work in a 
bad orchard if the fruit is also poor. It is generally the novice who is attracted 
by high wages. 

The decision to work in a bad orchard, whether it is made because the fruit is 
good or the wages are high, assumes a higher risk of possible injury. If a worker 
should fall and break an arm or back there is no insurance or unemployment 
compensation. The injured farm worker is out of commission for the rest of the 
harvest season. If he is not a member of a group or family that can absorb his 
loss as a wage-earner, he and his family often have no choice but to depend on 
welfare agencies. 

Those variables listed under "Farm" are ones to which the professional, as well 
as the amateur, pays particular attention. The grower may stand upon his reputa- 
tion from season to season as either a good employer, who treats his laborers 
fairly and pays well, or a bad employer, who makes work and collecting pay dif- 
ficult for the laborer. In an occupation where there are so many variables and 
in which the laborer, including the professional, is living so close to subsistence 
level, what may seem to the grower to be an insignificant injustice or oversight 
will be seen as a major disaster by the farm laborer ; hence the often highly 
personal and vituperative response to grower policy on the part of the farm 

Some policies established by growers, e.g. payment by the bin or crate 
(piecework) vis-a-vis hourly pay, are neither especially good or bad policies 
in the eyes of the laborer, but rather, a matter of preference ; how can he 
make the most money? Most professionals choose to do piecework. If a laborer 
can pick a bin of pears in two hours and the grower is paying $4.50 per bin or 
else $1.25 per hour, the decision to do piecework is logical, given that the 
laborer is able to manipulate all other variables so as to maximize his time 
and energy in the field. 

Inexperienced or slow laborers tend to choose an hourly wage, if such option 
is given, which undoubtedly reinforces the grower's belief that laborers do 
less work if paid by the hour. "We noted some particularly self-conscious 
workers who chose piece work so as not to feel guilty if they were not able to 
work well. They expressed concern that they would be cheating the grower if 
paid by the hour. This attitude, however, is not typical of the professional, 
who would not be cheating in any case byvirtueofhisskill, nor is it the usual 
attitude of anyone who has picked fruit for even one day. The demands of 
the work completely outweigh the monetary value that is assigned to it. If, 
however, it is the only work one can do, or has chosen to do no matter how 
temporarily, the main goal is to make the right choices to bring in the maximum 

Arguments that the work is healthy — "all that sunshine and fresh air," 
etc. — reflect attitudes of people who have never had personal experience with 
fruit labor or have been away from farm labor long enough to dull their 
memories of sunstroke, allergies, bee .stings, spray poisoning, the suffocating 
heat of the orchards in the afternoon, and a multitude of other conditions. 

Most laborers at Ahtanum owned their own automobiles (or pick-up trucks, 
delivery vans, station wagons). Access to transportation is a necessity. AVheels 
are needed in order to find a job. .to get to that job, to go shopping, and to be ready 
to move on to the next harvest area when the time is right. Good traders are 
able to make mone.v by trading one car for another almost weekly. If an individual 
does not have a car, he, perhaps more than anyone else, is least likely to become 
professional or to make money as a farm laborer. He is also least likely to be 
independent of his fellow laborers in the exchange system and to be more depend- 
ent upon welfare agencies. With the exception of some hayfields, there are no 
orchards or produce fields within walking distance of the Ahtanum farm labor 

Once hired, if a farm laborer should miss a da.v's work in the orchards or 
fields, or in some cases not appear by a certain hour, he is automatically laid 


ofif. His chances of getting his job back are dependent upon the supply of labor 
in the area. When harvest is at a peak, many orchards and farms operate seven 
days a week, in the case of hops twenty-four hours a day; the fruit will not wait. 
From the point of view of the laborer, top physical condition along with other 
factors is required to maintain such a pace for a two or three week period (some- 
times longer.) If a laborer has a reputation with a grower for being a good 
worker, he may be able to take a day off by picking a bin of apples or i)ears. etc. 
in the morning and still not "lose his ladder" when he leaves for the rest of the 
day. If his car should break down and no other transportation is available, the 
laborer is unable to make even this token effort and loss of job is inevitable. 

There is a small market across the road from Ahtanum, but the meat is bad, 
the vegetables are poor and prices on canned goods are high. The nearest super- 
market is on the main highway, about two miles from camp. The intense heat 
during the summer and lack of refrigeration in the cabins make daily shopping 
for food a necessity. Some tenants purchase second-hand refrigerators, others 
make use of the ice boxes designed for picnics and car travelling. Refrigerators, 
however, even when second-hand are farily expensive. Ice boxes hold very little 
food and the ice block must be replaced every two or three days, depending on the 
heat. The nearest ice machine is two miles from camp. Small blocks of ice or 
bags of ice cubes cost fifty cents. 

The considerable distance from stores of any kind is not uncommon ; there 
are no stores within walking distance of Crewport farm labor camp in the 
Lower Valley, or of most privately operated camps. If there is a store nearby, 
as in the case of Ahtanum, the prices are generally a few cents higher than 
would be i^aid for the same product in the city of Yakima. The merchant may 
show evidence that the extra few cents are necessary to cover costs of delivery 
to an out-of-the-way location. Whatever the reason, if a camp resident has no 
means of transportation he constitutes a captive market, and the poor pay more. 

Migrant farm laborers elect to live in Yakima Housing Authority camps for a 
variety of reasons, but the primary rea.son is a monetary one. Rent at the Hous- 
ing Authority camps is considerably less than rent in private camps. In a few 
instances, Housing Authority camps, grim as they are, provide plea.santer li\ing 

Laborers come into the camp who have been there during past harvest seasons. 
Others who are new to the area are referred to the camp by friends or employers. 
As indicated before, there are instances of employers paying rent for tenants at 
the camp. Some families and individuals come into the camp after being run off 
the river banks by local authorities. Negroes, Mexican-Americans or Indians 
may not be able to find housing anywhere else. 

One group of unmarried men left the river bank because "it was no way to 
live." They had only their cars to live in. Another group,. compo.sed of two 
families, had chosen the river bank because "it w'as cleaner than this place 
(Ahtanum) ; there were trees and grass and they could "fish from their door- 
step." They lived in a converted school bus, equipped with stove, sink, beds and 
table. When they moved into Ahtanum, after being ousted from the river bank 
by the sheriff, they were require<l to rent cabins which they did not need or use. 
The families .soon left, because they ow'ned dogs and also disliked living in the 

Reasons for leaving the camp are varied and interesting. Some people leave 
because they own dogs. Others move to the Crewport farm labor camp to be 
near jobs in the Lower Valley. A few move to on-farm housing because of free 
rent provided w'ith a job. There was indication that a few families and indi- 
viduals, mainly Anglos, left camp because they found it undesirable to live next 
door to "niggers, wetbacks and bums." It was obvious that all the migrant 
laborers who became our sample group for analysis of the exchange system, pat- 
terns of behavior, etc., had chosen to live for at least i>art of the .summer in 

As indicated earlier, there is great variety in the kinds of groups in which 
the farm laborer travels, with respect to number of individuals and their rela- 
tion.ship to one another. Certain groups, however, seem to be unsuccessful in ex- 
ploiting the kind of environment in which the migrant laborer finds himself. For 
instance, there were only eighteen single men living in Ahtanum. Eleven of these 
men came into camp as laborers following the fruit run. The others had settled 
in the camp a year or more ago. 


There was only one single woman in the camp and only one single woman 
with children. The two authors constituted the only group of women with no 
cliildren. It is likely that single women with or without children would find the 
farm laborer's life extremely difficult, if not impossible. This might vary with 
the kind of work undertaken, but it would be a rare occurrence to find a woman 
making a living by picking tree fruit on her own. Usually a man and a woman 
pick in pairs. The woman "skirts" the trees, picking fruit within her reach from 
the groimd, while the man "tops" the trees and picks fruit from the higher 

There were no groups composed of a single man with one or more children. 
It seems reasonable to assume that a single man or woman would find it difficult 
to assume the role of laborer-provider and at the same time care for a household 
which included children. 

In theory, the living groups to be found in the migrant farm labor population 
which fulfill all the functions normally assigned to a family are the more success- 
ful, and the most successful are those groups which also establish a wide range 
of relationships with individuals who can provide help in time of need. 

It is hypothesized that a group of two or more men does not meet the require- 
ments of successful grouping, because time and/or money must be spent on house- 
hold care, food preparation and sex. A man and woman and one child may be 
fairly successful, but if the child is young, the woman is handicapped in her 
contribution to family income. On the other hand, a group of men and women 
without children can be quite successful. This type of relationship was seen in 
the following groupings : 

Man and wife and brother-in-law. 

Five men and two women. 

Man and wife and male friend. 

Woman and daughter and woman friend. 

Man and wife and nephew. 

Two men and one woman. 

Man and wife, brother-in-law and male friend. 

Man and wife and father. 

Man and wife and brother. 

Man and wife, brother and sister-in-law. 
A man and woman with two or more children have the possibility of forging 
a real working unit with helpful division of labor. As the children mature in 
such units, they become less and less dependent upon the parent-child relation- 
ship and more and more dependent upon sibling relationships. Children are 
utilized as workers in the field, message carriers, errand runners and are put 
in complete charge of younger brothers and sisters. This kind of group, the 
nuclear family, was by far the most common type of group living in Ahtanum. 
There were seventy-two such groups out of a total of one hundred and seventy 
one living groups in the camp. 

Four groups consisted of a man and wife, three or more children and a friend. 
In all four of them the friend was an adult and capable of work. The decision 
to include a friend or not while following the crops is frequently encountered 
by farm laborers. A friend may be an asset to the group's survival, e.g. he may 
provide an extra car and if he is a good worker he will add to the group's wage- 
earning capacity. If, however, the friend is a hinderance and takes more than 
he gives, the group is faced with the problem of getting rid of him. 

One family, the T's, are relatively unsuccessful and unprofessional migrants 
who had allowed a friend of their teen-age son to accompany them on the fruit 
run. The boy's major contribution seemed to be that he had a car and helped 
provide transportation for the family from Butte, Montana, to Yakima. Once 
in Yakima, the boy shared the family's meals and living quarters but contributed 
very little to its support. The T's could not or would not rid themselves of the 
obvious burden of an extra consumer. They, in fact, took pity also on their 
daughter's friend, who had left her sister and brother-in-law's cabin after a 
difference of opinion. This girl, also a non-contributor, lived with the T's for 
several days. The T's generosity, coupled with their lack of organization and 
professional know-how and their continued and pervasive ill health, made them 
among the dimmest prospects for survival as farm laborers. 

The last and perhaps most successful group is the extended family. It is 
probably no accident that the four extended families encountered in Ahtanum 
were professional fruit tramps, all Anglos originating from Arkansas or Okla- 


homa. They are sucessful traders and have followed the west coast fruit run 
from Phoenix to Yakima and back for generations. 

It makes no sense to talk about rules of residence for extended families with- 
in the migrant population. Bona tide residence rarely exists. One or more sons 
or daughters, with or without spouses and children, may travel with a single 
parent, one set of parents or two sets of parents for all or part of a year. The 
family may winter separately or together. They may travel in one car or in 
several. The style of living is adapted to the demands of the work and to 

The first group broadly defined as an extended family for purposes of this 
study, consists of a man and wife, their children, and a parent of either the man 
or wife who cannot contribute actively to the income of the family but can par- 
ticipate in child care and household activities. It is to the benefit of that parent 
to be able to travel with the couple and their children. Meager subsistence funds 
do not allow for separate maintenance support of a relative. Inclusion of a rela- 
tive who is not able to provide for his or her own support can be interpreted as 
evidence of strong family ties and/or expedient adaptation to the environment. 

The second group defined as extended is composed of a man and wife, their 
children, and a brother, sister or other relative of one or the other spouse. 

The third group, the largest social group present in Ahtanum, represents the 
true extended family. One such extended family was composed of as many as 
nineteen individuals, related consanguineously and through marriage. That each 
of the four extended families included in the sample were united for different 
rea.sons, reinforces our opinion that there is no typical migrant family ; there are 
only varied groups which are more or less successful in exploiting the migrant 
environment. There is a single, common factor, however. These groups are all 
formed on an economic basis. 

It is interesting to note that of twenty-six Mexican-American groups registered 
in Ahtanum as of September 1, eleven were composed of a man, wife and two 
or more children, and ten were extended families. Among the Mexican-Americans 
there was only one single male registered in the camp. There were also two 
groups compo.sed of a man and wife with no children and two groups of two or 
more males without children. No Mexican-Americans registered in Ahtanum 
traveled as : 

A single w'oman 

Single men and women with no children 

Two or more single women with no children 

A single woman with one or more children 

A single man with one or more children 

Man and wife and one child 

Man and wife and children and friend. 

This is hardly surprising, given the traditional Mexican-American life-style, 
but it is intere.sting by way of contrast with the wider range of acceptable social 
groupings utilized by Anglos. More than 37% of Anglo units registered in Ah- 
taum were either single men and women or couples without children ; another 
10% were composed of a man and woman and one child. Less than 20% of Mexi- 
can-American groups were childless and none were composed of a man and wife 
and only one child. 

Although extended family groups accounted for only about 9% of reg- 
istered in camp, the number of individuals involved in extended families ac- 
counted for a full 20% of the camp's total population. 

There are three means by which the migrant farm worker living in a camp can 
extend his own group so as to provide a wider basis of help : 

1. Exchange with neighbors; 

2. Exchange with those from home (i.e. individuals met in previous loca- 
tions on the fruit run or from the same home town) or from similar 
ethnic or racial groups ; 

3. Outside agencies, e.g. Farm Labor Offices, Welfare Agencies, Employ- 
ment Security, or community action programs. 

The first two means of extending a nuclear group are participated in to some 
degree by nearly all migrants. The characteristics of aloofness and .self-sufllciency, 
generally ascribed by the outside to Oakie and Arkie families, does not apply 
within the migrant environment. Exchange between neighbors and between those 
from one's home, ethnic or racial group recognizes the importance of society. 
Exchange binds people together in mutual problems, needs and solution finding. 


It builds and recognizes a leadership and hierarchy, albeit a temporary hierarchy. 
To exchange with one's neighbors is honorable, respectable and economically 
useful, so long as the exchange remains reciprocal ( reciprocal in value, not neces- 
sarily in kind). 

The third method available to the migrant farm laborer as an extension for 
his basis of help does not often promote the feeling of community. Outside agen- 
cies generally do not build leadership or recognize a hierarchy in the migrant 
community nor do they allow people to come together to solve problems. It is not 
considered respectable or honorable by most migrant farm laborers to get help 
from public welfare, though many if not most farm workers must resort to wel- 
fare at some time during each year. It is felt by many professionals and old- 
timers that there is always work and money available for the man who is willing 
to work, hence, that those who use welfare are lazy and give the hard workers a 
bad name. 

Exchange is a very human, very personal way of getting help. One is treated 
as an equal by neighbors, at least in comparison to the kind of treatment afforded 
by public welfare agencies, and there is some hope of i>aying for help. In a 
welfare office, the client/agent relationship is reserved and delineated by seem- 
ingly endless forms and long waits. The amount of help received is insignificant 
when weighed against the indignities one is felt to suffer. The man who will suffer 
these indignities regularly is a creature of contempt to the man whose pride will 
not allow him to beg. 

On the other hand, the unfortunate who is forced to turn to welfare agencies 
for assistance feels the indignities just as keenly. This is an area of psychologi- 
cal study, but observation of behavior indicates that even the frequenter of the 
welfare rolls suffers a debilitating reaction, which he becomes accustomed to 
and accepts because he feels he has no other alternative. It is diflScult to mis- 
interpret the bleak look of a man waiting two hours for a public assistance 
emergency check when you have been waiting with him, or the embarrassment 
of a woman shopping for groceries with a food voucher when the clerk tells her 
she must return forty-seven cent's worth of groceries because the total is that 
much over the amount of the voucher. 

The entire camp could be represented in terms of exchange systems constituting 
"neighborhoods." No one neighborhood or exchange system was exclusive ; ex- 
change overlapped all the neighborhood boundaries. 

The authors were a part of a neighborhood exchange system. The seven living- 
groups involved in this particular neighborhood and the kinds of exchange in 
which the groups participated are representative of the kinds of exchange sys- 
tems and neighborhoods which existed throughout the camp. Within this neigh- 
borhood were living groups which could accurately be described as givers and 
living groups which could be described as receivers. These extremes are repre- 
sented by the "A'.s" (who were givers) and the "B's" (receivers). This not to 
imply that givers are never receivers and vice versa. If such were the case there 
would be no exchange. There are people, however, who stand out as material 
givers and whose return is more often of an abstract nature. 

"A," his wife and daughter occupied a single cabin. They are Negro, and their 
home town is Jonesboro, Louisiana. "A," age sixty one, has been coming to Yakima 
for about fifteen years, usually leaving his wife and daughter in Louisiana. "A" 
has achieved a certain amount of status among his acquaintances in Jonesboro 
and among migrant farm laborers who visit the Valley year after year. He has 
been employed each year by one large fruit corporation. The corporation has paid 
"A" by the head for contracting laborers in Jonesboro. In some instances, "A" 
has advanced money to drivers to bring laborers from Louisiana to Yakima. In 
addition, "A" contracts his own crew in the camp for fruit picking and has a 
corner on the camp bootlegging operations. His name, to all who know or know 
of him in camp, is, aptly enough, "Bossman." Bossman or his wife helped their 
neighbors get jobs, helped haul wood, gave food, rendered child care and baby sit- 
ting, and provided transportation. 

"B", age forty-seven, and his wife, age twenty-two, are Anglos. They came into 
camp without an automobile, which immediately placed them in the poorest of 
the poor brackets as farm laborers. "B" and his wife had four children with 
them at all times, and one or more of "B's" children by a deceased wife were 
also usually present. The "B" family had taken a train to Yakima from Ken- 
tucky. They had been in the camp in past years and had worked in the fruit be- 
fore, but they claimed not to be pickers. "B" said he had been a minister, had 
received engineering training from General Motors, had served in the army dur- 


ing World War II and was living in the camp to gather material for a book he 
was writing. "B" worked sporadically as a card dealer in a tavern near the 
camp and claimed to make a good salary, but he was totally dependent upon his 
neighbors or employer to get to and from work. Hoth he and his wife were de- 
pendent upon neighbors for transportation to the grocery store or to a hospital 
or doctor for medical care. 

During August, Bossman ("A") placed "B" and his two older boys in at least 
two jobs. They quit one job within a week. The second job, picking pears, was 
even shorter-lived. "B" picked for about two hours and then said that plastic 
discs in his back prevented him from doing such work. ( It was noted by the 
authors that "B's" ability to fend for himself or his family decreased as the 
amount of welfare available to him increased.) His sons were on the job the next 
day but worked too slowly and were asked to leave by the foreman at noon. Even 
piece workers are given subtle hints by foremen to produce at top speed, as if 
they were being paid by the hour. 

In spite of the "B's" very poor status in the camp, they did attempt to pay for 
services rendered by their neighbors. Interestingly enough, the only payment 
they could or did offer was cash. In an attempt to demonstrate their solvency, 
they often spent more money for services rendered by neighbors than the service 
was worth. Among services which the "B's" received from neighbors were food, 
transportation and child care. 

Bossman ("A") can be cited as a pivot man for the second type of exchange 
noted in Ahtanum, that between persons of the same race, ethnic or "home" 
identity. Bossman, in his role as a labor contractor, had arranged jobs and trans- 
portation from Jonesboro, Louisiana, for the majority of the Negroes living in 
Ahtanum. These people shared a racial/ethnic identity as well as a common 
home, exceptions being a young Negro college graduate from North Carolina and 
a Negro man with an Indian wife from California. Most had been in the camp 
before and most had worked for the same growers over the past several years. 

The beginnings of the yearly move from Jonesboro to Yakima can be traced 
to one man's experience in Yakima. Shortly after AVorld War II this man found 
work with Cahodas, Lancaster and Frank, and after a few seasons returned to 
his home town, Jonesboro, told friends of employment opportunities in Yakima 
and began contracting for CLF. They pay the man ten dollars for every worker 
he delivers. Drivers are given loans, which the loaner collects from the driver's 
pay checks. Drivers charge passengers for transportation, which they in turn 
collect from the passengers' pay checks. At some point in the past, Sick's 
hop ranch made an agreement with CLF, which has apples, pears, peaches and 
prunes, to employe the Jonesboro workers during hop sea.son. Hence, most 
Negroes in the Valley are from one Louisiana town and are employed by two 
corporations, CLF and Sicks. They are guaranteed employment before coming 
to the Valley and are housed by their employers either in company camps or 
in the Housing Authority camps. CLF has, at times, guaranteed rent for Negro 
families in Ahtanum. 

These Negroes from Jonesboro constituted a separate exchange system in- 
volving tran.sportation, food, child care, companionship, and so on, but there 
was a great deal of overlapping exchange with their neighbors, whether Mexican- 
American or Anglo. As indicated before, the "A's" and the "B's" represent the 
extremes of this active exchange system involving a nucleus of seven living 
groups. Between the twenty-four individual members of these groups flowed a 
variety of exchange items prescribed only by that whcih is important, or per- 
ceived to be important, to the given social and physical environment. 

Outside agencies are seldom equipped, either in attitude or structural design, 
to play a reciprocal role in the migrant farm laborer's life. As a source of help, 
welfare agencies in particular offer no opportunity for exchange. This is not to 
imply that welfare agencies, as they now exist, can play a reciprocal role. 
Ideally, they are to be used on an emergency basis or, in the case of Farm Labor 
Offices, etc., as sources of information. However, a tremendous gap exists between 
mainstream society and migrant farm laborers and, aside from occasional rela- 
tion.shlps between individuals, outside agencies have traditionally provided the 
only bridge across this gap. ("Outside agency" is the authors' term, but it comes 
closest to describing the attitude evidenced by migrant farm laborers toward 
Welfare, Employment Security, Farm Labor Offices and even community action 



It has been observed that an individual or group often finds litlte reason to 
respect a law or laws which are perceived to work only against and never for 
him. The migrant, as is the case for most other members of low-income popula- 
tion in the United States, is vertually denied access to legal counsel, has little 
and often inaccurate knowledge of his rights as a citizen, does not or cannot 
exercise his right to vote, and is the silent recipient of often arbitrary decisions 
regarding his life-style. 

One could write at length on the non-assertive nature of most migrant farm 
laborers and the apparent arbitrariness of many decisions that are made by wel- 
fare, medical, employment and law enforcement oflBcials regarding the migrant 
farm laborer in Yakima County. To question the legality of certain procedures 
on an individual basis requires money, time, and investigation by an attorney, 
none of which are available to the individual migrant farm laborer. Perhaps in 
the end, legality, at least with regard to welfare and health services, is not so 
Important a consideration as the attitude conveyed by welfare and health em- 
ployees toward the migrant farm laborer, which, in its impersonal and often harsh 
delivery, generates an aura of arbitrariness that tends to keep the client in a 
dependent, unassertive role and reinforces his resentment of authority, law and 
the middle class. 

Legality of procedure as regards housing, and encounters with law enforcement 
officers of Yakima County, is another matter. Migrant farm laborers are definitely 
denied due process of law with regard to termination of housing occupancy in 
the Housing Authority camps. 

Housing in the Ahtanum farm labor camp exists in spite of violations of Wash- 
ington state codes established for the operation of farm labor camps. Ahtanum 
is one of only two public camps in Yakima County where migrant farm laborers 
can live. Growers, county commissioners and camp operators claim that the camps 
"aren't really needed that much any more," but they have failed to offer or suggest 
alternative housing for the more than six hundred individuals who occupied 
Ahtanum before the peak of harvest season. Migrant farm laborers live in Housing 
Authority camps because they are (a) cheaper than private camps, and (b) do 
not now discriminate against Mexican-Americans and Negroes, though each regis- 
tration of a Negro is so marked on a file card in the camp office, and there is no 
evidence to show that Negroes were allowed in the camp earlier than 1965. 

There is some indication that people who live in private camps consider them- 
selves to be a little higher class because they have better facilities (sometimes), 
pay more rent, can keep dogs and do not have to mix with Mexicans or Negroes. 

Despite the fact that the camp is public, there is evidence to show that the 
camp manager can and does select among families who request to rent a cabin. 
He has definite opinions about the people occupying the cabins. An almost obses- 
sive account is kept by him of the condition of cabins at the end of each tenant's 
occupancy. Registration cards are marked "dirty" or "hogs are cleaner" and 
other more-or-less colorful descriptions. Towards the end of this study the man- 
ager was actually taking pictures of cabin interiors to prove his statements. 

The manager may choose to evict a renter and mark his card "Do Not Admit" 
on the basis of hearsay or his own i)ersonal observations of the renter's work 
habits, cleanliness, or drinking and fighting habits. The irony and arbitrariness 
of the kinds of decisions the manager is allowed to make, given his criteria, seem 
clear in view of the generally unsound, unsanitary conditions of the camp, the 
almost complete lack of any kind of privacy and the total lack of provision for 
any other kind of activity but drinking and fighting. 

We are not implying that all or most migrant farm laborers fight and drink ; 
they do not. It is generally agreed that human beings need some form of recre- 
ation and entertainment. Recreation and entertainment as understood by main- 
stream society is virtually non-existent in a migrant camp. People play cards, 
visit, trade automobiles, fish (if they have $15 for a license) ; and some drink and 
fight, the same as people in any other segment of society. Many forms of enter- 
tainment are not accessible because of economics and social barriers. Other forms 
of entertainment may as well not exist because there has been no acquaintance 
with them. 

The Housing Authority's "Revocable Occupancy Clause," which is signed by the 
renter prior to occupancy, stipulates that in cases of eviction, written notice will 
be served three days before termination of occupancy. In Ahtanum, however, 


written notice of eviction was not served on the tenants. Tenants were threatened 
with arrest if they were not gone by a certain date. If thev did not leave, they 
were arrested for trespassing. Tenants had occupancy terminated on the man- 
ager's decision not to accept further rent payments. Certain families were denied 
entrance to the camp. 

No tenants threatened with eviction were given a hearing, given right to legal 
counsel or allowed to face accusers and offer rebuttal except in instances where 
the Yakima Valley Council for Community Action intervened. Non-desirability of 
tenants was determined by the camp manager alone, with no burden of proof 
placed upon the Housing Authority. 

There seems to be precedent in law to test the Yakima County Housing Au- 
thority procedures as they now exist and bring about meaningful change which 
will make the law an instrument of the migrant farm worker, as well as an in- 
strument of the enigmatic Housing Authority. 

Most migrant farm laborers do not have' the right to vote in any state. Resi- 
dence and language requirements, failure to pass literacy tests or file for citizen- 
ship, ignorance of the procedure for registering and the potential power of their 
vote all tend to keep migrant farm workers as a largely disenfranchised 

Yakima Valley farm workers, primarily those who have settled out from the 
fruit run and are year-round residents of the Valley, have established a co-op 
in the Lower Valley that offers membership to migrant farm workers. The co-op 
is organized around grocery buying but hopes to expand so as to provide insur- 
ance for farm workers and gasoline and garage services. There is some talk of a 

Unionizing influence comes to the Yakima Valley by way of the United Farm 
Workers Organizing Committee, AFLr-CIO, and independent organizers. The 
only active organizer, an independent, in the Ahtanum camp attemptetl to rally 
farm workers for a meeting late in the summer but succeeded in attracting very 
few people. His next move was to solicit a dollar from farm workers to pay for 
a petition which would be signed by farm workers and sent to the President 
and Congress requesting legislation for higher wages. By the end of this study, 
the organizer had succeeded in interesting only a few people in his petition. It is 
interesting to note that petitioning was used by camp residents to express their 
opinions about the camp manager and Operation Neighbor to Neighbor. This pe- 
titioning was cheap, grass-roots petitioning and did not require the legal peti- 
tion forms which the union organizer seemed to feel necessary. 

The initial success of the co-op in the Lower Valley, and hopes for an eventual 
union and higher wages are largely unheard of in the Upi>er Valley, at least in 
Ahtanum. There was only one instance of spontaneous talk of union and higher 
wages in the camp during the time of this study. A group of men, including one 
who had heard of "Delano," painted large signs to hang on the Ahtanum water 
tower. The signs, though feverishly executed, failed to hang on the tower prop- 
erly and were rendered illegible by heavy dew. 

Legislation which would protect a farm laborer's union is now pending in 

The Fair Labor Standards Acts, as amended effective February 1, 1067, ex- 
tended coverage to farm workers in the form of minimum wage for farm work 
beginning with $1.00 per hour on February 1, 1967, $1.15 on February 1, 1968, 
and $1.30 on February 1, 1969. Overtime standards do not apply to farm workers. 
Farm workers now protected by these wage standards are those employed by 
farmers who "have an annual gross volume of sales made or business done, ex- 
clusive of certain excise taxes, of at least $.500,000." (18) 

Child labor provisions of the "Fair Labor Standards Act" do not apply to chil- 
dren employed in agriculture outside of school hours for the school district where 
such children are living while they are so employed." However, a "16-year old 
minimum age applies in agricultural employment during school hours for the 
school district where children are living while so employed." 

Assuring the migrant fann worker due process of law, good wages, decent 
hou.sing and the right to organize and petition are not unreasonable objectives 
for a Yakima County migrant farm labor program. 

A committee should be formed to investigate practices and procedures of 
Yakima County social services, county courts and law enforcement agencies in 
their dealings with migrant farm laborers. The committee should thoroughly 
investigate the practices and procedures of the Housing Authority concerning 
its tenants whether they are migrant farm workers or year-round occupants. 


The committee should petition for that reform in the county which would posi- 
tively assure every low-income person in Yakima County the right to counsel, 
hearing and due process of law, as well as guarantee the migrant farm laborer 
his right to be treated as a human being. 

Such a committee could also keep informed of pending farm labor legislation 
and work to show support for tho.-e measures which would directly benefit farm 
laborers in the Yakima Valley. The committee could initiate legislation for more 
stringent standards in housing and more protection for farm laborers and for 
their children who are illegally engaged in farm work during the school year. 

An office of the committee could be established in the labor camps, which would 
be staffed from June through October for the purpose of advising the migrant 
farm laborer of his rights and available resources in the community. Office staff 
could advise the migrant farm laborers of laws that protect him and offer pro- 
fessional assistance in legal, health, welfare and employment problems. Through 
such an office, migrant iaboi'ers who plan to settle out in Yakima County could 
be channeled into such programs as Adult Education, MDTA and On-the-Job- 

In a given community, resistance to such a committee could conceivably be 
formidable. The tasks for such a committee, as outlined above, are not easily 
accomplished. However, precedent has been set in Yakima Valley by the events 
of this past summer. The publicity generated by Operation Neighbor to Neigh- 
bor, controversial or not, served to inform not only the local population, but 
much of Washington state, that migrant laborers exist and have problems. As 
the need for migrant labor decreases, these problems will affect communities 
where the migrant laborer elects to settle out. 


Certain tenets of community development appear inapplicable to the migrant 
farm worker population. For example, in his book Cooperation in Change. Ward 
C. Goodenough has delineated three objectives of community development. Briefly, 
he conceives (a) community development as legislated change from the outside, 
to which the target community must adjust Itself — little attention is paid to the 
target community's wants or felt needs; (b) community development in which 
hoiv the target community adjusts to change is important to the development's 
success — in which case the target community's wants and needs become an im- 
portant part of the planning; and (c) community devlopment in which the 
change activity must come from within the target community with the outside 
agent acting only as a catalyst, the community's own wants and needs being 
given top priority. 

It is to be hoped that a change for those in the migrant farm labor population 
would involve the migrant farm laborers themselves in the planning and decision- 
making processes of change ; that the values and felt needs of the migrant com- 
munities would be taken into account and given priority in planning. However, 
the very nature of the migrant population, viz. that which prevents its full par- 
ticipation in mainstream society today, seems to preclude its involvement in the 
kind of long-range community development required to improve the migrant 
population's condition. How can a mobile (it moves) and fluid (people move 
in and out of it) population be involved in any long-range community devlopment 

It is suggested that in the end, real change (significant returns on investment) 
in the m grm*^ population cm come alwut only by maximum investment on the 
part of: (1) the growers or farmers who employ migrant labor ; and (2) the state 
and federal government. 

For the growers and farmers this would mean maximum investment in me- 
chanized agriculture, which would alleviate the need for migrant farm labor. As 
indicated before, such investment is already occurring. For the government, this 
would mean maximum investment in management programs designed specifically 
for migrant farm laborers. 

A committee of citizens actively concerned with remedying the migrant situa- 
tion in Yakima County could take it upon themselves to plan and direct the in- 
vestment of government resources so as to provide alternative modes of living 
to the migrant farm laborer, while not coercing him into programs, nor allowing 
the usual degrading relationships in which migrants have found themselves 
when dealing with institutions and agencies in the community. 

The Yakima Valley Council for Community Action and its related programs are 
logical progenitors of a migrant farm labor program in Yakima County. How- 


erer. it must be a primary goal of Community Action Programs to promote, in 
their dealings with the migrant population, a respective and honorable recogni- 
tion of their society. The agent/client relationship typical of welfare must not 
be allowed to develop. Community Action Programs in their dealings \\ith migrant 
farm laborers must also attempt to work toward more than ad hoc answers to 
long-range problems. 

Specifically, the migrant farm laborer, in order to enter into mainstream 
society and ready his children for a future when migrant farm laborers are no 
longer needed, requires the opportunity to from a number of new alterna- 
tives, all of which offer security and support for his family while he is learning 
the ropes of a new occupation. 

The migrant farm laborer needs alternatives for occupation and alternatives 
for housing. His children need alternative forms of schooling. Offering alterna- 
tives in these areas would provide the migrant with the opportunity to vastly 
change his environment. 

As an alternative form of housing, self-help housing project.s have been 
successfully tried in some areas. FHA has provided loans for .self-help housing 
in Visalia, California, and in Arizona. International Self-Help Housing Associ- 
ates has published the following figures for an FHA-funded dwelling, housing 
a family of seven or eight : 

House $5, 800 

Land 1, 000 

Title insurance 80 

1st year's interest 344 

Total 7,224 

The total sum is financed at 5% for a 30-year ix^riod ($36.42 a month ; $437.09 
a year). 

An environmental change program should actively involve migrant farm 
laborers in solving their own problems, but there should also be provision for 
the services of full-time resource people such as home management experts, job 
counsellors, legal advisers and community development si>ecialists. 

Schools are a special problem. The migrant child, so long as he remains a 
migrant, is in and out of a number of schools during the year, and always 
behind in education. The pro.spects for his completing high .school are very poor. 
Some elementary schools are beginning to .solve the problem of the child who 
does not quite fit into the traditional school system by allowing the child to 
participate in a variety of activities, such as gardening, which may eventually 
lead him to see the importance of at least learning to read. These schools treat 
reading as the most important key to education. Children are given intensive 
reading units, two children to a session, with an abundance of creative visual 
and audio aides. Perhaps, as these methods of education are encouraged in 
Yakima schools, and are offered as intensive summer supplement programs for 
migrant youth, more migrant children will make an effort to .stay in .school and 
will begin to acquire the education needed to move them into jobs other than 
farm labot*. 

Building new camps which meet governhient specification and health stand- 
ards, providing day-care for children and improving employment communi- 
cations are only temporary solutions for minute areas of a larger problem. 
These stop-gap measures, in effect, prolong the problem while solving it at a 
local level, ignoring the fact that what is local to Yakima one week is the fol- 
lowing week local to McMinneville, Oregon. 

Our proposal is to offer to the migrant farm laborer new alternatives for 
behavior incorporated into his present invironment, thus giving him the op- 
portunity to choose among these alternatives. Our proposal does not suggest 
revolution, but neither does it imply that evolution is the answer to the migrant 
farm worker's plight, except in-so-far as he to manipulate the variables 
offered by a new environment. To quote E. R. Leach : "The over-all process of 
.structural change comes about through the manipulation of . . . alternatives as 
a means of social advancement. P]very individual of a society, each in his own 
interest, endeavors to exploit the situation an he perceives it and in so doing 
the collectivity of individuals alters the structure of society itself (20)." 

The more alternative "good lives" the migrant sees as available, and the more 
means he sees of achieving these good lives, the more likely he is to alter his 
perceptions of his life and the direction which it can take, to the benefit of 
himself, his family and his society. 


Rambler's Park— Yakima Valley,, Washington— Summer 1967 
(By Steven S. Webster) 


Oscar Lewis has described a "culture of poverty" in which certain of the poor 
of the world live, and pass on to succeeding generations, a special way of life. 
Besides heterogeneity, abject economic deprivation, and disorganized detach- 
ment from the surrounding society, the culture of poverty also manifests certain 
positive characteristics. There are distinctive aspects of social structure, life 
rationale, and values, which distinguish it somewhat from the greater society in 
which it is submerged. A substantal part of the migrant agricultural labor force 
of the United States is an example par excellence of the culture of poverty, occu- 
pying a niche at the bottom of the vast social and economic structure of a 
modern nation. 

Migrant farm labor, then, is not simply a problem necessitating organized 
assistance and guidance into the benefits of a wealthy society; it poses a 
dilemma. On the one hand, the striking poverty of many of its participants, all 
the more urgent due to the obscurity and namelessness of constant transience, 
demands remedial action from a morally responsible society. Yet, as prime ex- 
amples of a distinctive sub-culture, this culture of poverty, the migrant farm 
laborer is often bought up in an extremely stable and persistent way of life. 
He shares a tradition of intrinsic value, as well as the heritage of the poor. 
The tradition is an adjustment to persistent poverty, and has acquired intrinsic 
value through its efficacy in enabling one to meet the routine problems endemic 
to that way of life. 

As with many other components of the culture of poverty, it is necessary to 
appreciate and respect the unique values of a way of life somewhat different 
from our own, as well as seek to ameliorate its shortcomings. In fact, the real 
problems become visible only once the assumptions and values of middle class 
affluence are suspended, and the subjective point of view of the culture of poverty 
taken up. 

Furthermore, an unprejudiced understanding and appreciation of the mi- 
grant's life is itself a solution to what the migrant farm laborer himself sees 
as part of his life situation. The communities to whose affluence he contributes 
usually regard him with a mixture of patronizing tolerance, pity, contempt, and 
indifference. The migrants are visualized by resident town-folk, community lead- 
ers, and school children alike, in terms of a few, preconceived stereotypes con- 
structed from a selection of incidents. 

Meanwhile, the great bulk of migrants remains walled off from the \'iew of 
the community and insulated from its activities. When the current of life of 
the migrant farm laborer surfaces from its submergence, it is in the form of 
a dilapidated, dirty and overloaded car on the main street or at a grocery store, 
a ghost-like and unpredictable coming and going in the growers' orchards, or a 
California license plate weaving drunkenly down the highway at night. A pri- 
mary problem, in-so-far as the migrant laborer is concerned, is that the farmers 
and town-folk along his route act toward him as though this were the sum 
total of his way of life. But the culture of poverty is far more complex and 
deserving of understanding. 

On the other hand, the life-style of the migrant farm laborer or, as they know 
themselves, the fruit tramp, hop picker, or harvester, is not totally strange to 
the greater American culture of which it is a part, bu)t rather a modification of 
it to suit the syndrome of economic and social exigencies under which it must 
function. Only the most self-insulated and naive of the middle and upper classes 
will experience real cultural shock in their contacts with the migrant. 

Steve Allen in ''The Ground is Our Table" relates an incident in which a lady, 
representing a sincerely concerned community organization, called to announce 
that the organization had decided to furnish Christmas dinner to the occupants 
of a migrant camp, but "wondered what kind of food they liked." (2) Of course 
they like the same kind of food as the greater culture of which they are a part, 
and on the whole .share a quite similar system of values, or at least one readily 
recognized in most of its aspects by a participant of that culture. 

The stability and persistence of the migrant culture of poverty is due to a 
combination of internal structures, effectively but marginally adjusted to insure 
survival ; and the external forces of a more powerful surrounding society, whose 

36-513 O - 70 - pt. 2-13 


Immediate ends are often served to the disadvantage of the poor and who tend to 
socially discriminate against them. This is a grim fact entailed by the nature of 
a modern industrial economy, and is particularly clear in the typical peasant 
way of life, elucidated by E. R. Wolf (3). 

The internal structure of values which enables the migrant labor sub-culture to 
more or less successfully survive, in a society which basically challenges its exist- 
ence, is often disparaged by the members of the outside community as the cause 
of the migrant's abject existence. Lack of ambition, drunkenness, slovenliness 
and irresponsibility are typical charges. Some of these apparent failings are fail- 
ings only from the point of view of those who subscribe to their own values as 
the only valid ones, as has already been pointed out. Many of the behavior pat- 
terns of the migrant way of life ought, indeed, to be changed, but of these only 
a few are a matter of choice for the migrant. 

Because his way of life is a precarious adjustment to the threatening powers 
of a dominant socio-economic structure, changes for the better must often first 
be initiated in that dominant structure. In the case of the migrant farm laborer, 
this does not necessarily mean state and government intervention, but more im- 
portantly a readjustment of relations between the migrant and the growers and 
communities along his way. „ 

Steinbeck has remarked, that in the thirty years since the writing of Grapes 
of Wrath, (4) the conditions of the transient poor have not substantially changed. 
By this he primarily means the relationship between migrant laborer and the 
community. As a matter of fact, the material way of life of migrant farm labor 
has benefited, but mainly from the replacement of wood fires by coleman stoves, 
and of tents by shanties or old trailers. Aside from this and grocery moderniza- 
tions, which are the only monetary advantage without refrigerators, the migrant 
shares little of the opulence of modernization since the 1930's. Dirty faced 
freight-riders, "bindle-stifEs," and "stumble-bums" are still as much a part of 
the river-thicket reality (and migrant terminology) as they were in Steinbeck's 

McWilliams', in III Fares the Land, (5) describes the situation in the Yakima 
Valley during the depression and drought years of the thirties : "The living 
conditions of migratory workers in the Yakima Valley [had] long been regarded 
as about the worst to be found in the entire West." (p. G2) Most of the reasons 
for the situation in the thirties are now things of the past. Typhoid is much 
more effectively controlled, the huge hop picker tent-cities have been replaced 
by mechanization of many phases of the hop harvest. Partly as a result of this 
mechanization, the number of non-local hands needed in peak farm-work pe- 
riods, June, and September-October, has decreased from thirty-five thousand 
to six or eight thousand. Furthermore, whereas only forty-one percent of the 
migrant labor of the thirties spent the winter outside the state, seventy-five 
percent now winter elsewhere. (6) Consequently, only the late-winter camps of 
Arizona and California are now the really apparent warrens of abject destitu- 
tion, possibly because the migrant does not attempt to spend the winter in the 

While he is in the Northwest, then, he is able to earn income fairly regularly, 
depending on the quality of crops and his skill in the farm labor circuit strategy. 
On the other hand, the migrant's wipter season, confined mostly to the southern 
states by crops and limited clothing and shelter re.sources, is characterized by 
rare or nominal wage employment in a market saturated with hungry labor. 
He must painfully stretch every penny, in spite of which he usually ends in 
desperate poverty by late winter, just prior to the first ripening of crops near 
Phoenix and in the Imperial Valley of Califronia. Nevertheless, as far as im- 
provement of harvest season accommodations and community acceptance of the 
labor is concerned, Califronia. and for that matter Oregon and Arizona, has out- 
stripped Washington in efforts to ameliorate the migrant's lot. 

Perhai)s, because migrant farm labor is. from the community's point of view, 
only a .seasonal though nece.ssary evil, disappearing when the crops are in. 
attitudes between grower, community member, and migrant in many of the 
Northwest's harvest regions have remained as they were in the in.SO's. The sit- 
uation in peak farmwork seasons is still good material for scandal in naive city 
newspapers : the seasonal normalcy of the migrant struggle is perceived by the 
thoroughly insulated city-dweller as an unusual social injustice. Normalcy, how- 
ever, must not be taken by the agricultural community to be a charter of 


The community which hosts the migrant farm laborer during harvest periods 
must realize that the dilapidated-shanty, two-meals-a-day, drive-in-theater and 
tavern-diversion way of life which they witness, is to the migrant a relatively 
bountiful way of life which he can enjoy only during the plenty of a harvest. 
It is the season of well-being to the migrant, a temporary but necessary incon- 
venience to be ended as quickly and as painlessly as possible to the agricultural 

The Yakima Valley, because it is the agricultural heart of Washington and 
specializes in some crops which require a particularly unequal seasonal distri- 
bution of hand labor, is the locus of a great part of the migrant farm labor in 
the state. In preharvest and harvest seasons the situation of the migrant laborer 
in the Valley is prehaps qualitatively no worse than elsewhere in the Northwest, 
but it is greatly more focused and apparent to the eyes of the passing public. 

It is possible that for rea.sons which will become more apparent in later pages 
of this report, the irresponsibility of growers and indifference of the community 
is contributive to the ugliness of migratory living conditions to a greater degree 
here than elsewhere. In one respect, at least, the Valley situation differs signfi- 
cantly from the rest of Washing and most of Oregon ; the typical migrant hous- 
ing, with a few exceptions, is off the farm and supplied at a rate by either the 
County Housing Authority, as in the two cases of county labor camps, or by 
private enterprise. On the other hand, typical housing elsewhere in the state is 
provided rent-free by the farmer on his own land, near his crops. (7) Whether 
this Valley housing situation is due to proximity of urbanized areas, the nature 
of the crops, of whatever, the fact remains that most of the Yakima Valley 
farmers have tended to avoid the responsibility, assumed by most of the growers 
of other counties in the Northwest, to provide reasonable, temporary, on-farm 
housing on a private basis for their workers. 

However, the lack of on-farm housing per se is certainly not the cause of the 
migrant problem in the Yakima Valley. Indeed, many of those migrants who 
reside in privately operated camps at least claim to greatly prefer an indepen- 
dence from the grower which the situation permits. But the lack of on-farm 
housing is symptomatic of the detrimental alienation of the migrant from the 
community and the grower, and tends to lead to circumstances that further 
increase the residents' and farmers' essential attitudes of helplessness, indif- 
ference, and irresponsibility regarding the migrant farm laborers. It also in- 
creases the migrants' antipathy and defensive attitude regarding grower and 

As a consequence of the rarity of on-farm housing, more than sixty and per- 
haps as many as one hundred small, privatel.v operated camps, obscured behind 
taverns, gas stations, and junkyards, have sprung up to offer roofs but little 
else to those migrants who either find no room or will not stay in the two-county 
operated labor camps. These private camps are iisually operated on a part-time 
ba.sis or. by lease from absentee owners, by managers who have no direct con- 
cern with the agriculture of the Valley, and consequently little sympathy with 
or vested interest in the welfare of the migrant. 

The business is neither lucrative nor pleasant, and operators generally cannot 
afford to improve or even maintain the housing they rent to the migrants. The 
result is a proliferation of delapidated shanties in obscure locations, shame and 
contempt from the community resident who "cannot understand how people 
can live that way." and resentful shame and antipathy on the part of the walled- 
off migrant. All of these consequences tend to confirm projudices of both com- 
munity and migrant, and solidify the status quo. 

Nor does the migrant benefit, in this situation, from any residual feeling of 
responsibility on the part of his employer, who simply, has his fruit bins filled 
by people who come before dawn, collect their pay and depart before the midday 
heat or by dusk, and beyond this are no moral concern of his. The onus of his 
point of view, none of his affair. 

On the other hand, operators of the private and county camps are doing the 
best they can in offering temporary shelter at only marginal profit, and beyond 
this bare essential similarly feel no responsibility toward the migrant. 

The migrant remains a stranger in the community, unacquainted with facilities 
beyond a dingy market, drive-in theater, and perhaps a tavern in his immediate 
vicinity, and unable to find assistance when it is needed. Physical isolation sup- 
ports psychological isolation. Few community residents know what the insides 
of the county labor camps look like ; and the many small private camps as well 


as Front Street in downtown Yakima, are successfully avoided in one's everyday 
middle-class round of existence. Growers who know the camps may come through 
them quickly on harvest mornings to recruit hands, but shrug off the matter of 
living conditions because they bear no direct responsibility for them. In this way 
it comes about that no one individual is to blame for the isolation and squalor 
of the Valleys myriad off-farm camps, hidden in so many ways from the eyes and 
consciences of the community even when full of migrants, and shut down between 
peak farm-work seasons. 

It is this situation of general alienation from the community and grower, and 
an attitude of reciprocal contempt generated by resulting appearances, which the 
migrant farm laborer himself most wants to remedy. He does not seek the as- 
sistance or intervention of government powers; he does not expect a modem 
bungalow with middle-class conveniences, nor does he desire full participation in 
the conmiunity's church activities or social events. Indeed, as will be seen, a good 
deal of autonomy and independence from such involvement is necessary in the 
migrant way of life. He only wants a modicum of sanitation and livableness in 
his cabin sufficient to maintain self-respect, and from the community unpre- 
judiced appreciation of himself as a bearer of a unique sub-culture, rather than 
being judged a pariah by residents who consider themselves more rightful recipi- 
ents of privilege and the county which the migrant himself helps to harvest. 

The roadways between cabins are posted with five mile per hour speed limit 
signs, and most of the many cars that cruise through the camp on their way out 
or in drive with care. On the periphery of Rambler's Park is a trailer-park area, 
with which I never became very familiar, also operated as part of the camp by 

Across the road were a variety of minor or deserted buildings : Jesse Shannon's 
small grocery store, of great longevity, and Victor's nice one-story, three-room 
home, which effectively blocks the camp from the view of the well-watered and 
verdant lawn of the middle-class private home behind it. Next to Victor's home 
is the sagging frame of a burned-out gas station, and adjacent to it the air-con- 
ditioned Rambler's Park Tavern, which is patronized by a variety of golfers, 
growers, janitors, and local small-businessmen, but only rarely by the migrant 
laborers of the camp itself. On up the Old Naches Road about three hundred 
yards are a series of four bridges across the Naches River, serving this road, the 
freeway, and the railway which runs from Yakima to Auburn. Washington. Un- 
der these bridges, which furnish shade from the August sun and are naturally 
air-conditioned by the stream's cold waters, live a variety of "leather-tramps," 
fruit pickers and their families, always coming and going during and immediately 
before harvests. 

All in all. Rambler's Park accommodations and atmosphere fairly represent the 
average off-farm migrant camp of the Yakima Valley, including the two county 
labor camps, which differ primarily in their much greater size, their ethnic com- 
position, and their exclusion of the mongrel dogs which infest most private camps. 

Victor and Ruth I do not believe to be representative of the average off-farm 
private camp operators. Unlike most such operators, they .shared at one time 
the migrant's way of life, and now primarily earn their living in the same kind 
of seasonal work. Consequently, they understand their clientele, neither pitying, 
adhoring, nor avoiding them, and even practice a limited kind of responsible 
concern for those of them whom they have come to know in their repeated annual 

Like the majority of privately operated off-farm camps of the county. Rambler's 
Park admits no Mexicans or Negroes, as a rule, requires rent on a weekly or 
monthly basis in advance, tolerates any number of dogs and children, and re- 
frains from interference or concern with any of the affairs of its residents which 
do not constitute a disturbance. The dingy .shabbiness and prevalence of 
unsanitary conditions are standard. Coping with the continual encroachment of 
dirt in the orchards, dilapidated cabins, community showers and gasoline-station 
toilets of the migrants way of life is automatic and incurs none of the revulsion 
which would be experienced by anyone used to the amenities of a permanent home 
and familiar daily place of employment. Nevertheless, it results in a constant 
expenditure of energy : for instance, in the continual fetching of water for wash- 
ing of workclothes and children, neither of which can be kept clean for any time 
at all in the given environment. Little or no effort is made to clean the cabins, 
which have, under old linoleum and on stained and torn mattresses, the accumu- 


lated offal of several years and hundred of inhabitants, and which will not be 
"stayed in very much longer, anyway." 

The migrant is numbed to dirt and refuse, as was I after about two weeks. At 
times the cabins would be referred to as "hogpens," and bitter complaints voiced 
against the society which operated in such a way — "that human bein's should 
have t' live in a place like this !" My impression is that most migrants are dis- 
contented with the living conditions of the Yakima Valley camps as compared 
to those of the other western states, but this could be a permanent attitude of the 
migrant, no matter where he temporarily resides. 

In order to establish an impression of immediacy and reality, and to illustrate 
the type of data from which my generalizations are drawn, the following section 
will, by brief sketches, follow the successive occupancy of most of the cabins in 
Rambler's Park. I will give here at some length the biography, recent movement, 
economic commitment, social relations and so on of only a few individuals, whom 
I came to know fairly well. I believe them to be fairly representative, however, 
of the white migrant farm laborer encountered in the Yakima Valley. The balance 
of the camp's individual's can be only partially sketched, and some, whom I never 
came to know, must remain in obscurity. The series of sketches, oriented by resi- 
dence, will also serve to adumbrate the striking, instability and transience typical 
of the migrant's way of life. 


The purpose of this section is to draw generalizations concerning this aspect 
of the culture of poverty from the preceding accounts of personalities, families 
and places. Primarily, my objective is to indicate the complexity, integrated co- 
herence and uniqueness of the migrant farm laborer's way of life ; secondarily, 
to make apparent the nature of adjustment to and alienation from the outside 
world, and some of the inadequacies and indignities suffered by the migrant. The 
prime objective is to enlighten the views of an affluent society, which often man- 
ages to thoroughly insulate itself from this way of life, while condemning it 
because of ignorance. The latter objective may suggest ways to alleviate some 
of the problems of the migrant, without pressing upon him values which he does 
not share with the larger society of which he is, nonetheless, a part. 

The world of the fruit tramp and hop picker will be approached from the out- 
side, first with a discussion of their place in the mechanism of a modern society ; 
secondly, with a brief examination of their relationship to surrounding society ; 
thirdly, by considering some aspects of their particular mode of subsistence and 
economic strategy ; and finally, by discussing certain aspects of migrant social 

7. Socio-economic Ecology 

Apart from the distinguishing characteristics of transience and lack of prop- 
erty, the migrant farm labor sub-culture is one of the few surviving aspects of 
peasantry in the United States. Eric Wolf depicts the peasant of any society as 
an agrarian laborer who manages by a traditional strategy to maintain a 
marginal existence in a surrounding urban society, which seeks to maximize his 
production for the sake of its own profit and power. (8) 

The peasant manages a complex adaptation involving attitudes and activities 
designed to maintain him in a greater social order which basically threatens his 
existence. In the case of the migrant farm laborer, the minimal requirements 
of family subsistence, travel, and rudimentary social relations, all necessary to 
a continuation of his way of life, are constantly jeopardized by an income level 
which barely sufficies to fulfill these requirements. Big-business agriculture and 
industry, in the complex interplay of supply and demand of labor force, equi- 
librates his profits at the point where he is able barely to maintain his austere 
existence and still produce efficiently but is left no capital whereby he can become 
independent of the cycle. 

A surprising number of agricultural and industrial businesses are directly or 
indirectly dependent on a seasonal or part-time labor force of this nature. The 
struggle of the migrant to maintain his marginal existence is attributable to no 
one of them, e.g. to fisheries, agriculture, forestry, road and dam construction, 
etc., but is a consequence of the whole economic complex. There are innumerable 
jobs in the economy, usually forms of private enterprise such as painting, crab- 
trapping, fern picking, junking and so forth, which must be supplemented by 
seasonal or temporary employment in agriculture or industry in order to make 
a living. 


The economic forces which maintain the migrant laborer in his marginal way 
of life are not only those of business enterprise. Federal and state public assist- 
ance, in effort, subsidize businesses which depend on seasonal and temporary 
labor by contributing to the support of this labor when between jobs. In this 
way, the public assistance agencies of California and Arizona help to subsidize 
Washington agriculture by contributing to the winter support of migrant labor, 
which Washington growers support only while utilizing it. Similarly, the local 
Public Assistance Agency of the Yakima Valley supports through the winter a 
number of migrant families who have settled out of the run, and thereby have 
become less self-supporting during non-agricultural seasons. 

On the other hand, the great majority of migrants who come to the Valley 
for the agricultural season never apply for assistance even though they might 
be from this state and therefore eligible. Winter is the only period that migrant 
farm labor is largely dependent upon public welfare and many are able to avoid 
it even then. Nevertheless, this agency is one of the primary economic supports 
which enables the migrant to maintain his marginal existence, offering the factor 
of flexibility which his income does not provide. 

From a historical point of view, this complex of temporary and seasonal jobs 
in agriculture and industry has developed in the economy only because there has 
always been an available force of uncommitted labor. Part-time and seasonal 
employment is not the result, but rather one of the causes of the periodic and 
intermittent aspects of the modern economy. Now, despite modernization of 
processes and mechanization of jobs heretofore requiring manual labor, our 
economy tends to keep in existence a transient or fluid force of part-time and 
seasonal laborers. In the case of migrant farm labor, at least, this persistence 
exists because this way of life has taken on the attributes of a coherent 

This sub-culture is well adapted to its marginal and economic niche and the 
cycle of seasons and crops, and has been successful insofar as its intra system 
of attitudes and activities preserves it from the force of external pressures. 

In prognosis, it is doubtful that mechanization will overcome the problems of 
migrant farm labor by rendering seasonal hand labor obsolete. This vague hope, 
often repeated by growers confronted by the situation, overlooks the fact that 
the competition of machines will not cause the migrant labor force to evaporate, 
but rather will cause it to press further its marginal existence and to subsist 
on lower wages. Meanwhile, only the largest farms will mechanize their harvest- 
ing operations because the hungry migrant labor force will continue to be readily 

Furthernjore, who are held in this position by a combination of economic 
straits, conservative intrinsic values, and external prejudices, the hard core of 
the migrant culture of poverty, are surrounded by a substantial number of 
optional migrant laborers who either are not wedded to this way of life or 
have a genuine economic flexibility. These individuals are a buffer component 
which will absorb for a long time to come, as it has for the last thirty years, the 
effects of mechanization and leave the hard-core situation qualitatively 

Mechanization and modernization offer no partial solution to the immediate 
problem. In fact they may constitute an aggravation of it, instead. On the other 
hand, the public welfare programs of a wealthy and affluent society and a 
shallow faith in social justice by fiat cannot ameliorate the culture of poverty 
simply by lessening its poverty. Migrant farm labor is perpetuated not only by 
economic exigency, but by external rigidities and prejudices of the total socio- 
economic .system and by an internal .structure of integrated values which 
constitute a tradition. Although migrants have no love for their poverty, they 
will defend the way of life by which they have come to adapt themselves to this 

//. External Relationships 

Lewis characterizes those in the cuture of poverty as "aliens in their own 
country," oppressed by a feeling of dependency and helplessness, and either 
unaware of or unable to participate in the established institutions of the sur- 
rounding society. (9) He has reference primarily to the greater part of the 
culture of poverty which shares these characteristics, even though its members 
have more-or-less permanent residences in the poor rural areas or in urban 
ghettos. The cultural isolation and alineation of the migrant is greater than this 
norm because he is never in any communit.v long enough to establish stable ties 


of any kind outside of a few vague friendships with camp managers, cafe opera- 
tors, growers or crew leaders. Any intensive and sustained social interaction is 
virtually limited to his own family, if he has one. 

Aside from the characteristic sort of interaction which takes place in the 
migrant camp, which will be examined more closely in the following sections, his 
few points of contact with the outside community are simple, impersonal and 
stereotyped. His major contacts are with the closest and cheapest grocery store 
and gas station, or perhaps a tavern, although this is usually an off-brand liquor 
store. Sometimes he may visit a nearby drive-in theater. The momentous influence 
of this constriction on normal points of integration with the outside world can 
only be appreciated from the inside point of view. 

The average non-migrant citizen is not fully aware of the multiplicity of ways 
in which his life is interwoven with that of his culture. Virtually absent from the 
migrant way of life are the postoflSce, telephone, newspaper, police station, bus- 
line, bank, school, or church, and associated activities, while clubs and friends 
across town are unknown to him. Along with these conspicuous absences from 
the migrant way of life is the complex of more subtle social interrelations which 
accompanies them, and serves to give the individual a sense of identity, a 
repertoire of roles and self-satisfying statuses which can be assumed under 
different situations. The migrant, unlike the permanent resident, has the dis- 
advantage of simple confusions and ignorances similar to those encountered by 
any traveler in a strange land. His strangeness, however, is qualitatively 
different because he is not a tourist, he is dirty and uneducated and driving a 
battered car, and he knows all this. His strangeness is chronic, unlike a tourist's, 
and aggravated by a sense of self-consciousness promoted by differential or 
special treatment, avoidance, or outright disdain on the part of community 

The 1966 Consulting Services Survey in Washington state found that forty-two 
percent of respondents had frankly unfavorable attitudes toward migrants in 
their community, fifty-three percent were noncommittal, and only four percent 
indicated favorable attitudes. (10) Consequently, the migrant confines his inter- 
action to those encounters necessary to satisfy his basic needs for food and 
fuel. To some extent, then, the neighbor, grower, department store, hospital, 
dentist and school are avoided by the migrant because involvement is uncomfort- 
able for both him and the other and calls forth to both minds the stereotype 
which neither likes of the shiftless and dirty wino. 

Furthermore, the idea of a home base, commonly a part of the community's 
image of the migrant, is usually a myth which is actively sustained by the 
migrant himself. A community's systematic exclusion of the migrant from com- 
munity acceptance and from most aspects of the local social stinicture is rational- 
ized by the assimiption that the migrant has elsewhere most of the simple 
everyday accesses to society which every normal citizen has. This assumption is 
perpetuated by the migrant himself, who shares most American values and 
always claims a home, giving the impression of full social integration elsewhere. 
He may, on occasion, defiantly claim another system of values and admit that his 
"home is where I hang my cap," however. 

The migrant's life must be closely adjusted to crops and seasons, and flexible 
in response to these two variables. He cannot afford nor does he really have the 
opportunity to develop anything but the most superficial relationships or de- 
pendencies, even in a comparatively stable winter home. His economic success, 
even to be marginal, implies a social disconnection. This is true of all the poor to 
some degree, but especially true of the migrant agricultural laborer by the very 
nature of his skill. He must forego the luxuries of social participation, or must 
find portable, functional replacements for them, conscious or unconscious. So 
whereas the community citizen establishes a selfhood through participation in a 
system of values which is oriented around a stable residence, including a re- 
spectable enterprise, a church and school, and a network of relatively unchanging 
friendships and economic agreements, the migrant establishes a self through par- 
ticipation in a similar but autonomous system of values. These are not oriented 
around a stable residence, but may be transplanted into the confines of any 
migrant camp and its nearby basic facilities. The resulting mobile isolation is 
the basis of the uniqueness of the migrant aspect of the culture of poverty. 

Detachment from formal or institutional relations of the national scene is nor- 
mal for the migrant. Political parties, elections, social security and medicare, 
labor unions or affiliations, and discussions concerning such things are usually 


matters of indifference to the migrant, as they are to most members of the culture 
of poverty. Elections are rarely participated in. and social security and income 
tax pay-deductions are carefully avoided by drawing' pay in small amounts di- 
rectly from the farmers for services rendered. The only realistic concerns for 
the mifrrant are those which have immediately tanjiibie results. This may in 
some degree be attributed to a cynical turn of mind, but more probably it is sheer 
pragmatism in a way of life which is preocupied with mundane daily exi.stence. 
The war is not a live issue, for instance, but is rather vague and irrelevant, 
although many are veterans. Others await the draft, and all are more or less 
patriotic. The issues concerning the war, and similar issues behind elections, 
referendums, i)ills and union activities, no nuitter what the actual relevancy for 
the migrant, stir an occasional opinion but will innnediately be dropped for the 
sake of more pressing practical concerns. 

In the idiom of migrant reality, union activists are usuafly thought to be 
peddlers without buyers, like vacuum cleaner salesmen on skid-row, distrusted in 
a stolid but naive conservatism. A small number of migrants recognize such ef- 
forts as one of the few routes to liberation from oppression, but feel the goal of 
organization is hopeless. 

Contributing to the .same kind of helplessness is the proclivity to blame work 
conditions in California, Arizona and Texas on the Mexican national or "spic" 
rather than on the growers who hire them and the government which underwrites 
their temporary admission to the states. The cause of the problem is interpreted 
in terms of "no-good crop followers who will work for nothing and live like 

In the idiom of migrant reality, public assistance (welfare) is, depending on 
where one stands in the migrant social structure, an integral part of one's an- 
nual budget, a source of periodic shame, or the of loafers and winos. 
In the Yakima Valley fruit tramps do not, in fact, public assistance 
even if eligible for it. but local farm labor and settled migrants who apply there 
enter with painful self-consciousness, the female doing all the taking and the 
man, if he is even present. i)reoccupying himself or Just looking defiantly around. 
Their whispered inquiries are met with overly-loud, though well-meant, replies, 
broadcasting their plight to all eai-s in the large waiting room. The check which 
is eventually received is endowed with such as.sooiated feelings, not with the 
essence of a benovelent socialism. 

The food and clothing distribution at a county labor camp sponsored by the 
local OEO Community Action Program and public spirited agencies, and precipi- 
tated by newspaper exposes of the migrant unemployment situation in the Valley, 
was looked upon either as an opportiuiity for free goods, or a wasted effort in 
behalf of free-loaders and winos. Similar efforts stennning from the war-on- 
poverty drive are tolerantly but skeptically accepted, and are rarely the object 
of sustained interest or enlightened cooperation. The poor have little faith in "the 
governor (any official) and his 'ifs.' 'ands.' and 'buts.' " Tlie photographers, re- 
porters, television newsmen and visits of the Governor's staff which followed the 
expose were seen as occasions for shame or indignity, or the prelude to further 
denigration from the coinnuuiity and growers. Some misrrants who were inter- 
viewed by new.smen at Rambler's I'ark i)acked up and left before dawn the next 
day because of what the other fruit tramps would be "saying in the orchards to- 
morrow." Others swore. "I'd let no damn photographer take a pitcher of me — 
the way we have to live is none o' their business !" 

In the followin'JT weeks local dailies ran editorials reemphasizing residents' 
opinions that migrant poverty was due to shiftlessness and drunkenness. Abuse 
was also renewed from Yakima teenagers who cruised through Rambler's Park 
at 2 :00 or .3 :00 a.m. calling insults and throwing rocks ; fruit-tramps sleeping 
beneath nearby bridges, winos or not. slept more closely in fear of renewed visits 
from young city toughs, who sometimes visited such locations to rough up a fruit 
tramp. The migrant knows full well that his recourse to local law enforcement 
is limited by bis reputation and situation. 

To sum up, the migrants, had not met with spontaneous public concern often 
enough to recognize it for what it was. and most of (hem i)erceived its various 
manifestations in the idiom of their own social values and previous everyday 

The isolation of the migrant way of life and the resulting self-contained 
ideology is further apparent in the defensive or suspicious attitude taken regard- 
ing "intruders" — any class of outside individuals with whom the migrant work- 
er has regular interchange. Although individual growers may he looked upon 


particularly as "good guys," authentically concerned with their harvesters, on the 
whole the growers are considered to be "out to play every angle every minute 
against the picker ; they are all tramp-skinners in the end." Likewise, although 
individual storeowners may be liked, on the whole "gas and stove fuel, an' maybe 
even eats goes up when we come to town, 'cause they know we don't have no- 
where else to go." 

Many community residents believe all migrants are shiftless winos. The mi- 
grants tend to think that all community residents consider them such — both are 
satisfied and feel confirmation when an unpleasant experience fulfills this pre- 
conception, and mutual enmity is perpetuated. "Intruders" in the migrant camp 
are seen immediately as outsiders because of their different dress or bearing. 
During my stay at Rambler's Park, the constantly changing population of the 
camp was at first unanimously agreed that I was either a "queer" (homosexual), 
a "fuzz" (law officer), or a "fed" (federal agent), and to the very end, when 
most had accepted me as either harmless, John Steinbeck, or actually the novel- 
ist-school teacher that I purported to be, some truculently implied that I was 
gathering federal income tax evidence, or was a nosey academic writing up a 
biased study and distorting, through naivete, what was neither my concern nor 
real interest. 

This pervasive attitude is to some small extent a paranoid psychological ad- 
justment, rationalizing the hardships of migrant life as the fault of others. As 
with any other social group in American society, the nameless force "they" is 
called to task to explain frustrations. It is apparent, for instance, that to the 
community the shifting migrant population, a nameless entity, is a handy scape- 
goat which it must use to harvest its crops ; in the migrant one can find a suffi- 
cient explanation of littered streets, drunks, full jails, slums, and delinquent 
civic standards in general, as though the migrant were an unwelcome, low- 
grade tourist, of whose efforts the community is ideally independent. 

But the nature of the migrant's attitude toward representatives of the non- 
migrant world is defensive and skeptical, primarily because such contacts are 
limited to a small spectrum of business and impersonal exchanges. These tend 
to be colored by covert attempts to place the migrant at an economic or social 
disadvantage. Wolf emphasizes (11) that by the very nature of the peasant's 
relationship to the dominant urban society, he is obliged to live a complex sys- 
tem of defensive strategies in order to survive in his situation. 

The entire dominant economy, quite normally, is directly or indirectly ori- 
ented toward maximizing his production with minimal expenditure in his behalf, 
and in the case of the poor, this renders a marginal subsistence even more pre- 
carious. The individuals with which the migrant carries on his simple and lim- 
ited economic exchanges happen, in fact, to be those whose margin of profit is 
dependent on cutting very close to the balance between dissatisfaction and dis- 
continued exchange. The migrant is vulnerable in these exchanges because, un- 
like most other workers and buyers, he has little flexibility of choice in employ- 
ment or purchase, and lacks the residential stability which encourages and en- 
ables organization for unified bargaining. He has learned to compensate to some 
degree by minimizing his own needs, forgoing many values held dear by more 
affluent members of society, and employing his own unique skill — a vast strategy 
in the systematic maximization of returns on the road of the harvest circuit and 
in the fields and orchards — which enables a marginal subsistence if worked 

Just as in economic exchange there are few instances in which the migrant 
has influential selective or bargaining power, there are few instances in his 
limited social contacts with the non-migrant world which are not disadvantaged 
by an assumed inequality. The migrant child often experiences special atten- 
tion, condescension, or rejection in school; the migrant purchaser usually 
senses a patronizing superiority in the measured civility of the shop-clerk or 
waitress who must serve him ; and the migrant offender, guilty or not. experi- 
ences treatment as a stereotype, rather than a person, from local authorities. 
These are social and economic disabilities shared by all the culture of poverty, 
but the migrant, through his transient, non-membership in any given community, 
and the inability to voice organized dissent also entailed by the nature of his 
mode of living, receives their full impact. 

From this point of view, the migrant's persistent cynicism and distrust is 
more understandable. He extends to unfamiliar kinds of outside contact the sort 
of expectations and defensive measures which he had learned to employ in re- 
gard to the circumscribed few exchanges of daily life in an unfamiliar com- 


munity. The migrant way of life is adjusted carefully to cope with potential 
threats to a marginal economy and affronts to one's self-respect. 

Lack of status is perhaps one of the most debilitating problems which the 
migrant faces. Although he operates to a great extent within a closed subcul- 
tural system, he nevertheless shares most of the values of the dominant society 
in which he operates, and constantly must face the consensus that his way of 
life is poor, dirty, imambitious and hopeless. 

Occasionally a grower or townsman will laud the "down-to-earth" vigor and 
health, the adventurous spirit of migrant harvesting, and occasionally a fruit- 
tramp will talce pride in the romance of the fruit run. But in both cases, these 
are weak affirmations which most often conceal an unspoken recognition that 
society values, rightly or wrongly, the stable home and homemaker, ambitious 
responsibility, steady employment, enterprise, education, a certain distance from 
the farmer image, material property, respectable clothing, and obvious hygienic 

The migrant, through economic exigency or choice, ranks low on all counts, 
and knows it. He is, as one fruit-picker quietly sipping a beer ironically put it, 
"away up there, all right ... on the fruit ladder, not the social one !" This pain- 
ful status consciousness is particularly apparent in any contact between migrant 
and representatives of the outside, but it is also constantly on operation within 
the migrant social structure itself, as will be dicussed in the last section of this 

Defensive tactics in protection of self-respect before outsiders most usually 
take the form of misrepresentation. A migrant will often claim that the harvest- 
ing of fruit or hops is undertaken only in the summer, i.e. in peak seasons when 
pay is highest, to supplement the income which is earned in a primary employ- 
ment at home, usually outside of agriculture. As a matter of fact, a small pro- 
portion of the migrant harvester population is composed of part-timers, e.g. 
college students, small farmers and businessmen, relatives from the city, and 
so on, and perhaps a majority return on an irregular annual basis to some other 
seasonal or marginal employment such as forestry or fishing. But the tendency 
to claim primary employment in another job, and subordinate one's dependence 
on the harvests and association with the way of life it entails, whether or not 
this is in fact the case, is often apparent in the maneuvers which a migrant 
undertakes before an outsider. 

The individual who is, in fact, joining in the fruit harvest to supplement wages 
elsewhere, or through preference rather than economic necessity goes out of his 
way to make the fact clear to the outsider. Riley (Cabin #7) reminded me 
several times that he could wire Modesto, California at any time for money, and 
Slim (under the bridges) went to great lengths to show me the bed.sheets and 
suits of clothing he kept under the bed in his remodeled milk truck, and to show 
me his painter's union card. 

On the other hand, the migrant who is in fact pursuing transient agricultural 
labor for the larger part of the year and unemployed in the main when not so 
employed, will seek to tactfully misrepresent him.self. This is done by emphasiz- 
ing into prominance a mode of employment one has had on occasion or in the 
past, prior to taking up the fruit run. or by inventing a vague alternate role 
in factory work, construction work, or in "business for myself." Sociological 
.survey studies must be often enough distorted by this harmless and well-meant 
misemphasis of the facts, but more sustained contact with migrants who have 
claimed a non-migrant role will often reveal the misrepresentation, usually 
through self-contradiction or contradiction by migrant friends. 

In Bud's case (Cabin #2) and that of a few others, the disclaimer of the 
fruit as a primary enterprise was made suspect by the intricacy of his knowl- 
edge of the trade and of the west coast migrant circuit, familiarity with its 
peculiar jargon, exchanges with friends which indicated long contact with a 
shared way of life, and a worried preoccupation with the local crop potential 
and employment situation. But in direct conversation with me. Bud was always 
a construction worker, and there is little doubt that he at times at at one time 
was. In other cases, yearly .seasonal return to Arizona would be admitted, imply- 
ing a dependence on winter hars^ests and mild weather characteristic of the 
fruit tramp, but not .so characteristic for example of the factory worker. 

Mrs. R., under the bridge, like Mike's young daughter in Cabin #3, represented 
their family's primary employment as not usually following the fruit, only to 
be contradicted by husband and father respectively, in later conversations, both 
of whom admitted candidly and ruefully that they were, at least in current years, 
either employed or unemployed in the fruit the year round. 


,.n^J^cfr-^^^J?*^*l°'' \o"ld become most apparent and maneuvers to repair it 
most strained, when tlie migrant worker would perceive me differently during 
our acquaintance and adjust his role to tit the new understanding or misunder- 
standing. If I were perceived as hostile or unsympathetic to the migrant way of 
Inhfi'''" -^""P^^;,^^ an outsider, fruit following would usually be disclaimed 
subtly or urgently, as did Slim and Mrs. R. under the bridge. However if I were 
perceived as authentically interested, as Riley perceived me, one's full-time and 
long-standing dedication to the fruit and the romance of it all would be the 
focus of emphasis. On the other hand, if I were momentarily mistaken to be 
mside the circle, sharing in the values, drudgery, and dirt of 'the migrant way 
of life, it was harder to detect an effort to assume particular roles. 

Fourcoats (Site "A") at first claimed to be primarily employed in factory 
work in Nebraska, where he had been born, but when" he accepted me as a 
writer concerned with the ways of the fruit tramp, he admitted a long devotion 
to this way of life and employment in the fruit and vegetable packing sheds in 
Phoenix most winters. Nebraska was tactfully mentioned no more by either of 
us, once this new understanding was achieved. Ironically, information "from other 
sources finally disclosed that Fourcoats was neither factory worker nor fruit- 
tramp, but a trader. The relationship of this role to that of the fruit tramp 
will be discussed in the last section. 

A similar shift in identity was undertaken by Leonard, whom I met in the 
shower room. At first Leonard simply accepted me as another migrant, and we 
talked idly of the unpromising apple crop in the Valley and the pros and cons 
of winter lemon picking in the vicinity of Phoenix, but my questioning aroused 
Leonard's suspicion, despite my naked innocence, and my admission of intent 
to write a book, along with the implied educational achievements and other 
marks of outsider status, prompted him to immediately claim primary employ- 
ment in mechanical work and a "business of my own." The fruit was not men- 
tioned again. 

These maneuvers are only examples of the kind of defenses and psychological 
protections which are brought into play by the migrant whenever he is con- 
fronted by social exchange with a nonmigrant, and even, albeit in different 
ways, when he is confronted by other migrants outside his immediate family. 
Rationalization can perform the same function within the family, as it apparent- 
ly did with the M. family (Cabin #22) who probably periodically formulated 
elaborate plans for settling in a steady non-agricultural employment, only to 
drop the plans and move on in the fruit run which had been their way of life 
for twenty-two years. 

The blending of roles and indulgence in gentle fantasy and misemphasis is a 
normal part of any social interaction, but it bears the marks of desperation and 
indignity among migrants, who find themselves in a primary role which is ut- 
terly devalued by society at large. Misrepresentation is only a minor symptom 
of the alienation from the outside social community which distinguishes the 
migrant's subculture. The conflict between the values dictated by greater Amer- 
ica, valid or not, and the values dictated by the migrant way of life, resorted 
to by habit or assigned by poverty, ends in convincing most migrants of their 
own abjection and inferior status. 

The resulting tendency to self -depreciation is often enough confirmed in the 
indignant glance of other drivers on the highway, the patronizing pity of the 
teacher, the calculated indifference of the grower, and the resigned prejudice 
of the policeman. It becomes, a sociologist would say, a self -realizing prediction. 
Occasionally, a fruit-tramp will defiantly embrace the deviant values of foot- 
loose homelessness, virtual lack of property, independence from daily and defined 
job responsibility, and reckless week-end drunkenness, but the round of dingy 
cabins and social prejudices will eventually convince him again, as it did annually 
with Riley, that he is an alienated non-member of society, rather than the bearer 
of a proud and unique tradition. 

III. Subsistence and economic strategy 

The migrant way of life is defined largely by the economics of poverty. Lewis 
outlines the characteristic economic traits of the culture of poverty in general 
as: ". . . the constant struggle for survival, unemployment and under-employ- 
ment, low wages, a miscellany of unskilled occupations, child labor, the absence of 
savings, a chronic shortage of cash, the absence of food reserves in the home, 
the pattern of frequent buying of small quantities of food many times a day as 
the need arises, the pawning of personal goods, borrowing from local money 
lenders at usurious rates of interest, spontaneous informal credit devices, . . . 
and the use of second-hand clothing and furniture." (12) 


Because of their unique mobility, relative lack of property, and even greater 
social isolation, the migrant farm labor aspect of the culture of poverty has cer- 
tain distinctive subsistence and economic patterns. This distinctiveness will best 
be outlined by discussion of the assets, budget and dailv and seasonal strategy of 
the migrant farm labor, whether the enterprise is taken up by preference or 
forced by poverty and the skills one has at hand, entails a diminu'tion in personal 
property which is even greater than that of the resident poor of urban ghettos. 
The one exception to this is the automobile, which for the migrant takes the place 
of the lower-class city-dweller's busline, basement, precarious bank account, back 
hallway, limited symbols of accomplishment, and perhaps even bed. However, the 
range of assets controlled by migrants varies greatly with the range of affluence 
in migrant social structure. This extends from the "leather tramp." who moves 
on foot or "rides the rods," lives in river bottoms and under overpasses or bridges, 
and carries a jar of instant coffee and perhaps a blanket, to the professional har- 
vester, who travels by trailer, has acquired considerable living equipment, includ- 
ing perhaps linen, good clothing, a refrigerator, television set and range, and can 
keep it all because he is never broke and always has a trailer to carry it in and 
maintains a more or less stable bank account somewhere. 

In between these two extreme types is a range of migrants including the "rub- 
ber tramp," who can "hang on to a car, even if he has to sell the tires sometimes," 
and many who cycle periodically from penniless winters on a city skid-row to 
temporary well-being which may even include the rental of a small bouse in 
some central location of the fruit run. The average migrant's household effects, 
representing the entire property of the family or individual, are often limited to 
a car, a few accessories and tools for its maintenance, a few blankets and limited 
changes of clothing, u.sually loose, or packed hurriedly in cartons, a few cooking 
pans, a carton of staples such as coffee, sugar, bread, potatoes, and cigarette mak- 
ings, a styrofoam ice-box, two or three water bottles, and some cash. The amount 
of cash varies greatly depending on the season and recency of employment, from 
almost none to several hundred dollars. This is what middle-class America might 
call a rudimentary camping outfit, and indeed the average migrant farm laborer 
is. in terms of mobility and property, an ill-equipped, perpetual camper. 

But even when considerable property is held, the migrant, unlike his poor- 
resident counterpart, must maintain an essential independence from that prop- 
erty insofar as he is dependent on the vagaries of seasons and crops. The liquid- 
ity of the migrants property, just like the impermanence and shallowness of his 
social ties, is a prerequisite of the mobility and flexibility demanded by the en- 
terprise. Material property, although it certainly functions to confer prestige, 
e.g. Bud's polished 1957 Chevrolet or the battered TV console which the M. 
family transferred with great pomp and display from their overloaded station- 
wagon to their tiny shanty, is primarily a source of security, an asset, which 
may be readily turned into cash when jobs become short, crops are bad, or budg- 
eting proves shortsighted. Because property is not primarily a .symbol of .status, 
the migrant way of life is. throughout, a network of second-hand exchange, in- 
stitutionalized in varying degrees. 

Every community depending on migrant labor has a greater than usual num- 
ber of used car lots, automobile junk and parts yards, pawn shops, and St. 
Vincent de Paul type second-hand stores. Automobiles, especially, being the 
most common material property and of high symbolic value, have a very rapid 
turnover. They are constantly sold for anything from $12.50 (junk) to a few 
hundred dollars, exchanged "title for title." They often pass through several 
hands without title. A common ploy is to acquire one on credit, drive it into 
another .state, and leave it with a junk dealer, who does not notify its lien- 
holder until storage charges are high enough to encourage surrender of the lien. 

Every migrant engages in barter and trade, and certain members of any 
migrant camp seem to make their living primarily by doing this. In Rambler's 
Park, Bill and Fourcoats never worked in the fruit or hops, and .seemed always 
to have an impressive array of spare auto parts, tools, tires, hou.sehold equip- 
ment, television .sets in various states of repair, dogs, trailer.s, pick-ups and 
campers, and even extra automobiles around their temporary living sites. Both 
ranged widely over the camp from dawn to midnight, engaging in casual con- 
versation with all its occupants, and the contents and quantity of their array 
of property seemed to undergo continual change. 

The cowboy. Slim (Cabin #9), carried on a similar business on a smaller 
scale, while working in the orchards as well. In addition, there was a small 
second-hand shop, set up for a perpetual rummage sale in a deserted barn, 


across the street from the trailer section of Rambler's Park. The operators of 
this shop were later evicted by the local owner, who did not like their dealing 
with "those fruit tramps and their junk." 

Bill admitted to me and Fourcoats implied that a profit was best realized by 
buying or trading goods between crops or when employment was off, and selling 
or trading the goods when migrant income was high, exploiting the internal 
cycle of deflation and inflation inherent in the migrant economy. Fourcoats was 
said to buy and sell automobile tools by the pound "an' make hundreds of 
dollars" in Phoenix during the winter. 

The professional trader fringe of migrant society is clearly parasitic on the 
migrant economy, then, realizing a profit generally at the fruit-tramp's expense. 
On the other hand, the trader functions as a kind of portable pawnbroker, re- 
taining within the migrant subculture a portion of the small surplus which the 
enterprise manages to acquire during peak harvest seasons, and preventing its 
dissipation into outside society through city pawnbrokers, second-hand shops, 
and taverns. In this function he is a ready source of goods when money is 
pdentiful, and a ready source of when goods must be sacrificed. Similarly, 
through no intentions of his own, he facilitates the mobility so crucial to the 
effective exploitation of the harvest circuit, by handily converting immobile 
goods into travel funds, even if the conversion represents a small loss for the 

The relative lack and impermanence of property entailed by the migrant way 
of life has several consequences which shape the habits and values of the sub- 
culture. In the first place, a great deal of time is taken up in a continual effort 
simply to subsist and maintain oneself and one's family, time which is utilized for 
higher objectives in non-migrant society which enjoys the situated convenience 
of a home, washing machines and electric or gas stoves, handy tools and labor- 
saving devices in their proper places, a store of miscellaneous items not immedi- 
ately useful, familiar supporting facilities such as milk delivery, and so on. The 
best middle-class parallel for the exhausting drudgery of migrant life is camping, 
but even this is qualitatively different, because the camper has a home in which 
to store, select and organize his gear, and to go back to. 

Lacking these practical and other psychological comforts, the migrant devotes 
the greater part of every waking hour not actually employed in his business to 
fetching groceries, water and what-not, hand-washing clothing (often in cold 
water), fire building (stoves are often wood-burning), preparing raw foods (re- 
frigerators are not often available in migrant shanties) , washing pans, dishes and 
children in a bucket, unpacking and repacking, and so on. 

Furthermore, the value orientations of the migrant subculture are shifted away 
from the acquisitive materialism and encumbered responsibility characteristic of 
sedentary American society. The migrant, although he tends to identify status 
with material possessions as does the greater culture of which he is a part, can- 
not himself participate in the competitive acquisition of this society. He accepts 
the lowest social status for himself and foregoes material symbols of his success, 
excepting perhaps a lai'ge automobile, rarely less than five years old and having 
roadability, thus earning from those who do not understand his apparent dis- 
regard of accepted values the epithet of "shiftless." 

In addition, apparently random arrivals and disappearances in community and 
orchard, at odd hours and with unclear reasons, have branded him as irresponsi- 
ble. But the migrant's responsibilities are simply very mobile and unencumbered. 
He cannot afford to be tied to a residence by the sheer weight of material posses- 
sions and capital investments, scheduled activities, maintenance efforts, and a 
vast network of agreements aimed at decreasing the inconveniences of everyday 
residential life. 

The day-by-day impermanence and austerity of migrant life has led to the 
development of characteristic spending patterns which often do not coincide with 
those of community living, and have been similarly criticized. Inactive or saved 
money is usually of far less value to him than the satisfying of pressing needs 
such as food for the family, or travel, or the achievement of pleasure through 
eating sumptuously, drinking, trading, or taking a day off from the orchards. As 
a rule, money is immediately converted into one of its normal ends, rather than 
held in reserve as a means for no particular goal or a deferred goal. As a matter 
of fact, the fruit-tramp usually does budget as he picks, and knows where each 
dime is going to go. Aside from a small stockpile of funds usually set aside for 
the slim winter season, all that is earned is spent within a few days. 


A family working together may earn over ten dollars and as much as twenty 
dollars each per day as long as a job lasts in peak harvest, often only four or 
five days, and when income is high a great deal of it is spent immediately, espe- 
cially if there is no family to support. The fruit-tramps luider the bridge re- 
iterated that "money means nothing to us," and went directly to the clean and 
social surroundings of the tavern as soon as they found a job and drew a pay- 
check. But the same is often true of the family. The M. family all agreed that 
the thing to do with a paycheck was to "get lots of good eats," and when 
they arrived from the Montana cherries, despite a bad croj). Clara had an auto 
which she called her own, and Chris was indulged in buying a motorcycle, which 
was carried on the back of the second car, both temporary properties which 
were clearly supertlous to the family needs. On the other hand, Clara made it 
clear that prudence was absolutely necessary on the road, and that ".ver crazy 
if you get caught with no 'scratch' at all." 

A migrant living group tends to pool their earnings into a shared kitty for 
living expenses. This is so not only for a family such as the ten-member F. clan 
or the M. family, but also for individuals living together for reasons of .sex. 
economy, friendship, or all three. Houston. Ernie and Ernie's consort. Helen. 
(Cabin #11) pooled their earnings or efforts, Helen taking care of Ernie's boy 
while he worked, and Hoiiston, so he said, contributing more "and getting less" 
than anyone else sharing the kitty. The group of five men under the bridge pooled 
at least some of their earnings for groceries, including the charity which they 
received from the Salvation Army. When a living group contributed paychecks 
communally to a kitty, either an allowance was dispen.sed to junior members 
of the family, which is the way Howard operated the F. family, or a residual 
claim to one's contribution could be held. e.g. for the unanticipated trade or 
purchase of an automobile by more senior family members. 

The economic advantages of a shared kitchen or travel fiuid are understand- 
able to the non-migrant, but the migrant living group enjoys further measures 
of economic flexibility and security when jobs are scarce or of very short dura- 
tion and only a few members are likely to be employed at any one time. In such 
cases, the unemployed member, rather than being penniles.s. has security to 
tide him over to his next job, at which time his dependence role vi.s-a-vis another 
member is likely to be reversed. The piece-work wages usual in most harvest 
situations and in all fruit harvest, is also a factor which favors the as.sembly 
of the cooperative migrant living group. Team-work between family members or 
friends often enables a higher per capita earning by maximizing the rapid and 
efl5cient execution of the great variety of tasks involved in harvesting. Not the 
least of such factors is the psychological support which one has whilp on the 
job, and in the shanty back at camp. 

As a matter of fact, survival in the harvest circuit, like successful subsistence 
in primitive hunting and gathering bands, seems to be predicated on cooperation 
with one or more individuals. Single fruit-tramps are almost always males, 
usually living marginally and drinking heavily, often having superior picking 
skills enabling them to earn unusual income when they do work. 

With certain very definite limitation.s. an increase in size of the living group 
enables increased annual income. The 1966 Consulting Services study in 
ington reported that the average total annual income of the single migrant was 
$1800, the family of three to five $2700, and the family of five or more ,$3200." 
This potential is limited by the ages of the children and the jealousies and ani- 
mosities which are likely to be generated in the family or in the cooperative 
living group. Children beyond four years of age become a little more of an eco- 
nomic asset, at least until they are old enough to become independent of the 

This is true of American farming communities and advanced agricultural 
societies in general. Among the migrants, this fact was attested to by large 
families and the use that the senior member made of them, e.g. in the F. family, 
and by gos.sip and disapproval concerning certain fathers' tendencies to put the 
earning power of their children before their education with elaborate justifica- 
tions of such practices ( "they'd not learn anythin' if I forced 'em to go back 
to school"), and anxieties which were evident in .some older family men who 
faced both the independence of their children and the usual total absence of re- 
tirement securities. 

It is clear enough that the economic advantages of teamwork are often the 
ba.sis of marriage among fruit-tramps. Indeed, it is often said, with basis in fact, 
that "that couple met in a tree, and found one could 'top' (pick inaccessible upper 


portions of the fruit tree) while t'other could 'bottom'." Furthermore, it seems 
likely that the great economic liability of infants in the new family, where one 
person must support three, at least for awhile, instead of two supporting two, is 
one explanation of the very high divorce rate apparent among migrants, or a 
factor leading to the drinking and economic problems which precipitate divorce. 
Of the hundreds of adult migrants which I met, only two claimed to be un- 
divorced, and those two were of doubtful credibility. Many had been married more 
than once before the present spouse. On the same basis, the correlative high re- 
marriage rate might be partly explained, insofar as divorcees with comparatively 
mature children represent a definite economic asset for a man who is past his 
prime on the ladder but can still efficiently organize and direct a harvest team. 
The migrant budget is adjusted, of necessity, to the season of lowest income. 
During this season the migrant must meet a daily food minimum, e.g., two meals 
a day usually of high stiirch content, certain housing and clothing needs, trans- 
portation needs, and so forth, all very limited and austere by middle-class stand- 
ards. To a great extent, as has been discussed above, the style of migrant life 
has been defined by the economic exigencies of this long off-season. As a con- 
sequence, when higher wages and more employment are available during the 
harvest seasons from May to October, while some of the extra earnings may be 
budgeted for the coming winter season, most of it is spent immediately for the 
satisfaction of the wants experienced between jobs, especially for food and social 
drinking. On the other hand, in many cases the migrant does not seem to fully 
exploit the opportunities to earn which are available to him during peak sea- 
sons. Growers complain that they must often search for more pickers, and those 
they find leave the job at noon and perhaps come to work only four days out of a 
six-day harvest. 

Although most migrants, outside of the time consumed in traveling, orienta- 
tion in the harvest area and job-hunting, maximize their returns during peak 
season, many, in fact, seem to waste precious time by quitting in mid-afternoon 
or drinkine throu'^h three-day week-end. However, the migrant works to satisfy 
the requirements of a traditional budget, just as does the community resident, and 
it must be remembered that the living requirements of the migrant farm laborer 
have been greatly reduced by the nature of his enterprise. In other words, there 
is little motivation to earn a great deal beyond the fundamental requirements of 
an austere diet, travel, maintenance and rudimentary social interaction. The 
camping economy and its accompanying ideology relieve the migrant of the in- 
centive to earn bonuses earmarked for the complex budget of the community 
resident, which usually includes a varied and perhaps indulgent diet, main- 
tenance of a e-reat deal more material pos.sessions and technology, a monthly 
medical expenditure, membership dues and tithing for the church, and many 
other similar items. As Wolfe points out, if the simple caloric, maintenance and 
social requirements of the peasant's traditional budget are met by three hour's 
work each day, the peasant will tend to work no more than that. (14) 

The implication regarding the migrant is that he does not labor for certain 
values of sedentary American society, especially material possessions and com- 
munity agreements aimed at convenience, because he does not lead a life which 
enables him to share those values. On the other hand, values which he does share, 
for instance the respect of others, acceptance by the communities along his 
route and the sincere concern of the grower, cannot simply be bought with 
increa.sed earnings. The solution to the migrant problem usually offered by the 
grower and the resident of the agricultural community — "if they want a better 
life let them earn it, the way we did" — misses both these points. 

The distinctiveness of the migrant economy, in contrast to that of the culture 
of poverty in general, lies also in the strategy employed seasonally on the road 
and in the local employment area. This is dictated primarily by the nature of 
their enterprise in agriculture, but also by an ideology of independence and 
autonomy beyond that practically required by the enterprise, and which has 
become a part of the migrant tradition. The urge to be on the road in the spring- 
time is dictated not only by economic need, but also by the desire to see old 
friends and familiar places, and to sever the ties which temporary winter resi- 
dence has accumulated— "If I stayed where I was, all my friends would think I 
was dead." 

At the other end of the line, the circuit is reversed toward the south not only 
by the end of harvests and the coming of colder weather with ominous warn- 
ings of snow, but also simply because everyone else is heading back south. So 
the fruit run of the West Coast is structured by a great many factors, climatic, 


economic and social. The cyclic development of crops from Arizona to British 
Columbia offers cultivation, thinning, irrigating, harvesting, and pruning at 
different places and different times. The migrant farm worker usually operates 
among a certain number of options, whicli include a great variety of crops. 
A sample itinerary might include first spring vegetables near Phoenix, early 
May cherries in the Sacramento Valley, and successively north to the Idaho 
and Montana crops in July and August, peaches and pears" in Oregon and Wash- 
ington during late August, Oregon's early apples in September, and then the big 
apple harvest of Washington in late September and October, or perhaps olives 
in California at this time. 

On the other hand, many migrants re.strict their annual circuit to northern 
California. Oregon and Washington, and a substantial number, about twenty- 
eight ix'rcent according to the recent survey, circuit within the state of Wash- 
ington only. 

The fruit-tramp follows a circuit, with certain doubling-backs, which is 
determined by habit, whim, past experience, hearsay and gossip about pre- 
vailing crop conditions, calls to friends, growers and local Employment Service 
Centers, and special skills in the fruit. every move involves balancing 
these factors one against the other. The harvest cycles involve overlap in differ- 
ent areas and gaps where no employment can be found in other areas. The 
conscientious professional fruit-tramp carefully plays his strategic moves so that 
he will be able to participate in a maximum number of peak harvests, but avoid 
as far as possible the financially dangerous end-of-harvest and between-harvest 
I^eriods. The efforts of the govenuuenfs Employment Security Agencies to dis- 
seminate crop and employment information is widely appreciated, and calls to 
these agencies are frequently made. But the fruit-tramp must be continually 
on guard against misleading information from these agencies, from growers and 
from other migrants, which will end in a burnt run. or the .sacrifice of one's 
financial reserves to get somewhere only to find that no jobs are available, or 
the crop is small and scattered, meaning low wages on piece-rate pay. 

Some economic insurance may be gained by establishing seasonal ties to par- 
ticular growers, in which relationship the fruit-tramp has the security of an 
assured job at the end of a route and perhaps some advance funds to make the 
trip, in exchange for dependable yearly appearance and conscientious work. Al- 
though some migrants seek such relationships with growers along their route, 
most tend to avoid threats to their essential autonomy. The paternal relationship 
and mutual dependence is broken off if "they get to dependin' on you too much," 
or "thinkin' that they own you." 

Certain growers gain reputations for "caterin' to old pickers," and are avoided 
by pickers who have no established reputation there. Each individual or family 
tends to select from the maze of routes and agricultural centers certain favorites, 
depending on past profits,, or mere nostalgia, and including sufficient op- 
tions to allow flexibility in face of a multitude of contingencies, which include 
meeting up with old acquaintances, avoiding or paying old debts, the direction of 
chance rides, state border and licensing requirements, prospective trades, and the 
lure of unfamiliar places, as well as the crucial influences of weather, employ- 
ment conditions and finances. Transportation may be auto and trailer, increas- 
ingly the case in the last thirty year.s an auto carefully reconditioned for the 
seasons' travels, or a series of conveyances which change almost daily according 
to the fortunes of the fruit-tramp. 

The contact and point of orientation in a community is usually another 
migrant, a flop-house in town, a familiar migrant camp or a cafe. The local Em- 
ployment Security Agency may be contacted, but more often the situation is felt 
out by scouting the orchards for "Pickers Wanted" signs and go.ssiping casually 
with other migrants. In California particularly, the crew leaders — individuals 
bonded by the state to contract with growers and recruit labor gangs for a ver- 
centage of their wages — function as the first and only contact of the migrant 
with the community in which he harvests. The choice of a place to stay while 
working is influenced by proximity of employment, liveableness of the camp, 
rental rates, friends, and .several sociological factors. As has been remarked, the 
Yakima Valley has an unusually large number of rented migrant cabins, includ- 
ing two large county labor camps which charge a nominal fee of .$3.00 to .$.S..50 
per week, and .seventy-five to one hundred small private camps ranging from 
three to thirtv cabins, and charging from two to three times as much per week. 
On the other hand, according to the recent government sponsored professional 
sun-ey (Consulting Services Report. 19G7) 1.5, the typical migrant housing else- 
where in the state is rent free and on the farm. 


The fact that the private camps in Yakima Valley are often overflowing when 
the county camps are not yet full implies that non-economic factors sometimes 
ligure importantly in the choice of a camp. Few of the privately run off farm 
camps are better equipped than the county camps, and most are worse. The 
migrants' own explanations of this behavior imply that a stigma attaches to the 
large county camps due to their supposedly inferior accommodations and the 
predominance of Mexicans and Negroes, which do, in fact, tend to live there, 
partly because they are often excluded from the small, private camps in the area 
and even if admitted would be without their own kind. This stigma is reflected 
in the reservation of the term labor camp for the county camps, whereas the 
many private off -farm camps are simply called camps. 

It is also certain that the migrants' choice of the more expensive, and some- 
times more run-down, smaller off-farm camps is motivated by a desire to en- 
hance one's independence from any hint of organization or bureaucracy, and to 
protect oneself through increased isolation from the shame and indignities of 
interaction with the communit.v or acceptance of its proffered labor camp facil- 
ities. The combined motives of avoiding the stigma popularly attached to the 
county labor camps and the migrants which frequent them, and detaching one- 
self in.sofar as possible from unpleasant contacts with the community, is suflS- 
cient to make many white migrants pay twice as much ($6 to $12 per week) to 
live in poorer housing. The community encourages this by offering a labyrinth of 
half-hidden hovels, avoiding the erection of on-farm housing, and criticizing the 
migrant for his living habits. 

The economic requisite of autonomy from binding responsibilities is idealized 
in the ideology of the migrant. It is voiced in such locutions as "well she just 
ain't got no 'bird' in her," "we all jes like to run," and "I jes keep movin' like 
a hungry dawg." As has been previously emphasized, this attitude is defined by 
the economic demands of the migrant way of life. In the 1930's, transient farm 
labor in the Yakima Valley worked more hours per year than resident farm 
labor (Landis and Brooke). (16) Even at present, to settle out in the Valley 
frequently means not only to sacrifice much of the independence of the migrant 
enterprise, but also often to become dependent upon public assistance, at least 
during the winter. But autonomy has become a credo, as well as an economic 
necessity, for many fruit-tramps. Mobility and independence have led to a fun- 
damental task-orientation in contrast to the time-orientation of urban and 
suburban modern society. 

The piece rate practiced by most growers in many phases of agricultural work 
suits the migrant well, even though it may not be to his economic advantage 
in the long run. By virtue of the piece rate he can dictate his hours to the farmer, 
who often has to rise well before sun-up to supervise an orchard full of pickers 
and yet may be left without help by noon, when the sun is hot and picking con- 
ditions less than good. A certain amount of satisfaction is taken in inconven- 
iencing the grower in this way as well as by demands for pay and departures, 
and drunken absences, in return for real or fancied maltreatments, maneuver- 
ings, or "skinnings." It is a fact, that to some extent be.vond that dictated by 
the nature of the migrant enterprise, regular hours and regular employment, 
like taxes and social security, are avoided by intricate strategies. As one grower 
put it with grudging admiration, "these people are the last of the real capital- 
ists." It is typical of a subculture to have elaborated, as a value in itself that 
which is necessary for survival in a given economic pursuit. 

IV. Social structure 

The coherence of the subculture of migrant farm labor is based on a common 
commitment to seasonal agricultural work, a marginal subsistence with limited 
ways to achieve it, a traditional strategy for survival, and constant exchange 
within the migrant world along a network of routes and agricultural centers. 
The looseness of integration, heterogeneity and disorganization characteristic of 
the culture of poverty, is, nevertheless, maintained in the migrant way of life 
by the tendency, both economically necessary and habitual, for the migrant to 
maintain a fundamental independence from the outside community and even 
from his own kind. 

The effect of outside influences can be seen in the alienation from the com- 
munity and even from the grower expressed by the avoidance and prejudiced 
stereotyping of the migrant, both of which consolidate the migrant subculture 
in antipathy toward outsiders, and contribute to the demoralized feeling of 
"have-not" which pervades it. 


Because internal and external forces establish considerable cultural coherence, 
the migrant way of life shares a certain social structure, in some ways distinc- 
tive from that characteristic of other American social classes. At the same time 
because of the necessary and self-imposed independence from the usual social 
interactions and the alienation from community and grower, features of the 
migrant social structure can often be seen as accommodations more or less 
successful to this unique way of life. Similar accommodations and defensive 
compensations have been discussed in the preceding sections with regard to the 
migrant's external relationships, and to the economic strategy which he employs. 

The migrant carries with him, so to speak, into any given migrant camp, a 
social typology which involves preferences and prejudices of the same dimen- 
sion as those which function in the outside society. It was pre%'iously mentioned 
that there is a typical skepticism toward government agencies or union bureauc- 
racy, ironically similar to the hardshell conser\'atism of community members who 
take a dim view of government paternalism toward the poor, and of migrant 
shiftlessness. It is also typical for the migrant to detest, often with great 
emotion, the habitual welfare recipients and drunkards in his own way of life. 
The terms "wino" and "welfare baby" are indicative of the greatest contempt, or 
at least of derision, and even figure in the insults which children call to each 
other in play. Part of this attitude is simply an acceptance of the values prac- 
ticed by society at large. But it is clear that the particular vehemence often 
attached to it is motivated by shame and a consciousness that outsiders con- 
demn the migrant way of life on the basis of prejudices formed through contacts 
with these minority representatives of the subculture. 

The work ethic of capitalism is found to be extremely important among mi- 
grant values. The prevalent opinion, at least among those who have found a 
job, is that "there is always a job available if you really want to work ; man can 
always earn enough to buy some groceries. . . ." When one is unemployed or 
wages are unacceptably low, a different attitude is assumed, but only in defen- 
sive rationalization of one's state of joblessness. This pervasive value prompts 
the silent disapproval and ostracism of any member of the camp who remains 
unemployed without adequate reason ; or worse, who remains on welfare while 
apparently able to support himself. On the other hand, the greatest pride and 
admiration is focused on the person who overcomes debility or dependence and 
manages to support himself despite his problems. One girl, who had kicked out 
a worthless husband, managed to find sufficient picking, packing and pruning jobs 
throughout the year to stay off welfare, as well as raise an exemplary little boy 
and pay a baby-sitter to care for him, and was virtually revered by all who knew 
her. Her receipt of a letter from the local Public Assistance Agency congratu- 
lating her for her hard-won independence made a lasting impression on all the 
permanent residents of Rambler's Park. 

On the other hand, Gary and his family (Cabin #4) who subsisted on welfare, 
and didn't do very well at that, and obviously avoided work, were detested by all 
in the camp and were reciprocally defensive in their behavior. After their pre- 
dawn departure most occupants of the camp gathered to pick over the refuse 
left scattered in and around the cabin and to criticize their way of life. After 
three apparently unemployed weeks in the camp, I was myself forced to begin 
at least occasional picking in the orchards or face similar treatment. 

A classification of economic well-being functions to denote a heirarchy in 
migrant social structure, and reflects the above values as well as others. The 
"leather tramps" or "stumble bimis," and the "steel tramps" or "bindle stiffs," 
who travel the road and railroad, respectively, by walking and hitching, occupy 
the lower echelon of the heirarchy, although they may be grudgingly admired 
for their utter freedom and simple budget. They are characterized as working 
only to buy a bottle, and spending most of the year as wards of public assistance 
on some city's skid-row. As a matter of fact, many of the steel tramps are not 
alcoholics and carry a good deal of money with them, but this is rarely recog- 
nized by the rubber tramps. The rubber tramp, as had been previously men- 
tioned, occupies the next series of grades in migrant social structure, ranke<l more 
or less by his success in the enterprise beyond the simple prerequisite of retain- 
ing an automobile. There are, of course, "welfare babies" among the rubber 
tramps, too. 

In the top echelon is the "harvester." This type is rare and receives the 
greatest respect. He is characterized as "always having maybe five hundred or a 
thousand dollars in his pocket," participating in the fruit run as much through 


preference as necessity. He is assumed to be, on evidence of his material well- 
being, independent of welfare, able to control his drinking, and in a position to 
"tell a farmer where to get off anytime he wants to." 

There is another basis of classification predicated on specializations in agri- 
cultural worlv. Although I encountered only hints of this sort of evaluation with- 
in migrant social structure, it seems that at least among the whites the authentic 
fruit-tramp was most highly respected, especially if he successfully pursued 
certain specialties, such as cherry picking or peach and apple thinning. Meriting 
secondary prestige were the hop-pickers, apparently because the job has been 
associated with poor wages and poverty since the days of the huge tent cities 
of Indian, Philippino and Mexican hop harvesters of the thirties, but also prob- 
ably because of the hourly wages accepted since mechanization and the accom- 
panying stigma of the eight-hour day and increased employer dependence. 

At least among white migrants, the stoop-labor maintenance and harvest of 
vegetables is the least respected mode of work, although the full-time profes- 
sional fruit-tramp can hardly avoid engaging in it at some time during the 
annual cycle. It is probable that this prejudice is primarily due to the fact that 
Negroes, Texas Mexicans and Mexican nationals tend to favor this sort of farm 
labor. It is also work which, unlike fruit picking, can be done by women as 
well as, and sometimes better than, men. Racial prejudice is sometimes the basis 
of severe criticism of Negroes and Mexicans, just as it is in many of the southern 
states, because many white migrants originally came from Oklahoma, Arkansas, 
Georgia and Texas, As might be expected, evaluation on this basis seems to be 
less important among migrants whose origin is more northern in the United 

The trader evidently occupies an ambiguous role in the prestige hierarchy 
of migrant social structure. On the one hand he is admired for his skill and 
cleverness in bargaining, and his ability to usually come out of an exchange 
having gotten the better of his opponent. He may even be accounted a harvester 
on the basis of his relative wealth, regardless of whether or not he earns it in 
the fruit or simply from trading. On the other hand, my mistaken identification 
of a trader as a fruit-tramp was sometimes corrected, with just a hint of in- 
dignance, by individuals who accounted themselves as fruit-tramps. The am- 
biguity of the trader role may be accounted for in part by the fact that most 
every fruit-tramp seems to have a good deal of the spirit of the trader in him, 
and actively shared the values of gaming competitiveness and sly one-upmanship 
which characterized the behavior and jargon of a trader such as Bill B. 

The merits and demerits of Darrell's exchange of a good car for a shotgun, 
old dog, and bad car were endlessly discussed by witnesses to the transaction, 
and were the basis of a lot of joking and good-natured fun. Even old George 
(Cabin #22), traded out of his own wheels while still half asleep, admitted that 
"a fellow has to keep his word once he's opened his mouth." On the other hand, 
certain facts seem to indicate that the trader is not entirely respected in his 
enterprise and recognizes his own essential parasitism upon the migrant way of 
life. All traders whom I met at first represented themselves to me as fruit tramps 
or at least emphasized this aspect of their income if they actually engaged in 
agricultural work. Fourcoats persisted in this misrepresentation of himself 
through a month of acquaintanceship, during which time it was fairly clear that 
he never went to the orchards. Furthermore, the departure of the B. brothers 
and their families, precipitated by the taped television interview with Bill, who 
spoke with some eloquence of the plight of the migrant while the camera panned 
his three mobile homes, refrigerator, television set, pick-up truck, and shiny 
Chevrolet convertible, ostensibly to get out of the Valley after "talking that 
way about the farmers," was more likely motivated by embarras.sment before the 
authentically poor fruit-tramps of Rambler's Park. It was .said that the brothers 
took up residence on a farm just a few miles away in the Cowiche area of the 

The household, whether it is comprised of a family, a cooperative group, or an 
individual, is the basic migrant socio-economic imit. When composed of more 
than one person, all usually travel and often work together. As has been dis- 
cussed previously, the household serves the mutual advantage of all its mem- 
bers, offering economic security and psychological comfort. It may be a rela- 
tively stable group, as in the case of the M. family (Cabin #22) and Mary's 
large family (Cabin #2) ; or a rather large group, related or unrelated, may 
coalesce for cooperative working and living during harvest seasons, and then 
disperse during the rigors of the off-season, as did the large F. clan. "Wolf notes 


that this is a typical modus operandi of peasant families as well, dictated 
similarly by production needs and seasons of plenty or of dearth. (17) 

Privacy is usually a luxury which the poor cannot afford. The life of the 
migrant hou.^ehold is strikingly public, at least within the bounds of the migrant 
camp. Cabins are always close together, often with simple plank walls and 
windowless frames, and sometimes without doors. Every trip to the toilet, 
shower, water spigot, or garbage can is a public performance. Family quarrels 
are immediately known throughout the camp, and drunkenness is obvious. 

Although no particular shame attaches to either as immediately as it would 
in middle class suburbia, one's status within the prestige hierarchy of migrant 
social structure is constantly appraised by reference to these manifold public 
performances. If arrival or departure from camp occurs during daylight, the 
contents of one's mobile household is known by most occupants of the camp 
item by item, and if a new piece of property is acquired or traded off that too 
is noted. Most such happenings are routine and ignored, but anything extra- 
ordinary will become the subject of gossip and speculation. Even though the 
cabins are usually dirty to begin with and to clean, an effort is some- 
times made to keep them tidy, especially if other occupants of the camp are 
likely to visit. 

Accommodations to the publicity of household life in a migrant camp include 
a tactful avoidance of staring or un.*;eemly scrutiny, avoidance of other cabins, 
especially those of immediate neighbors, and an apparently hardened indiffer- 
ence toward the chance observations of others. So, for instance, the shouts, 
shrieks, and blows of the M. family's tiglits would be carried out by its mem- 
bers for several moments without restraint, and meanwhile the rest of the camp 
within earshot studiously ignored the ruckus, as though it were quite a casual 
affair, which it wasn't. "Then the family would quiet down and defiantly trudge 
to the showers together, and the camp would heave a silent sigh of relief and 
frown disapprovingly. 

The senior female or mother of a household is not usually the dominant mem- 
ber of the group, and does not lead in decisions, speak in the most authoritative 
voice or on occasion issue what might be imderstood as tactful orders to the 
senior male or father, but when the M. family first entered Rambler's Park 
the decisive role of Clara, who contacted the camp manager, looked at the 
cabin and closed the deal, was apparent. In conversation with the family 
it was clear that Roy would stop talking whenever Clara wished to say some- 
thing. Clara was also the one to call ahead to grower or employment agency 
while on the road. Ruth seemed to dominate, with a similar quiet confidence, the 
manager's family, and the final decision in many problems was clearly hers 
rather than Victor's. 

While the F. family was without father Howard, and Howard's brother 
Charlie was (or .so he told me) "in charge to see that the work goes properly," I 
noticed that Howard's wife, Helen, often appeared the most imposing in family 
relationships and once told Charlie to get to bed — that it was way past bedtime — 
a remonstrance which Charlie accepted and obeyed without attempting to 
assert his seniority. 

The leadership of the female was most apparent in behavior in the Public 
Assistance Agency's waiting room where males preoccupied themselves with 
magazines or by carefully rolling cigarettes, if they accompanied their wives at 
all, while the wife presented herself to the clerk and quietly answered the loud- 
spoken questions addresed to her. This last instance may serve to explain ap- 
parent assumption of female dominance in the migrant household when situa- 
tions involve contact and interaction with outsiders or camp managers. It is 
likely that it reflects instead an actual dominance of the male, who chooses to 
shield himself in such situations from the disrespect and disdain often en- 
countered in contact outside the restricted limits of the familiar and autonomous 
social whole. 

Females act as similar buffers between the outside world and the conservative 
males of many closed-corporation societies, for instance through much of Latin 
America. It is* likely that even in the F. and M. families the senior males wielded 
preponderant authority. Roy did control the finances of the M. family and 
"daddy" F. received the cube-steak while all other members of his family, in- 
cluding his wife and unmarried brother Charlie, got only the gravy on their 
potatoes. The occasional leadership of females in the everyday internal affairs 
of the migrant household is probably partly explained by the fact that normal 
management of the mobile migrant household requires considerable decisiveness 


and resourcefulness beyond that required of the average community housewife 

The socio-economic unit of the migrant way of life, whether the household 
of a family cooperative group, or individual, must maintain for the sake of 
eltective mobility and flexibility a certain independence from social or practical 
involvements with other migrants, as well as with outsiders. As with outsiders 
this distance is maintained for the sake of protecting oneself from shame and 
indignity, as well as insuring the independence crucial to the migrant enterprise 
Although migrants, of course, share an understanding of the behavior entailed 
by their way of life, they also tend to condemn, as has been discussed above on 
bases similar to those of the outside society. With the nature of this general 
pattern of accommodation in mind, this discussion of certain aspects of migrant 
social structure will be concluded with a survey of the tvpical sorts of inter- 
action which take place between migrants outside the fundamental socio- 
economic unit. 

Arrivals in and departures from the migrant camp reflect this self-conscious 
autonomy of the traveling and working migrant unit. The new family, individual 
or group usually moves in under the indifferent and perhaps hostile eyes of 
other migrants, and remains virtually isolated for a few days, during which time 
new arrivals and neighbors ignore one another, neither asking nor giving assist- 
ance. Subsequent to this typical settling-in procedure, which is, perhaps, facili- 
tated by a friend or acquaintance in this camp or one nearby, tentative contacts 
with other migrants begin to build wider social interaction between the new 
arrivals and other occupants of the camp. Casual questions and information 
about crops and employment situations are most often the basis of these first 

Large migrant camps often have one or more individuals who act in a job- 
leadership capacity — more or less informal crew-bosses who recruit or refer 
pickers. However, this sort of leadership is relatively rare, and most migrants 
jealously maintain their independence. Social leadership, aimed at the accom- 
plishment of ends beyond job acquisition, is extremely rare, and attempts to 
organize such a cooperative effort usually meet with cynical disresrard. 

If the stay is a relatively long one, exceeding a week, substantial social and 
practical relationships may be built up, involving perhaps mutual assistance in 
finding jobs, a car pool, drinking, visiting, borrowing of tools, and loans of food 
or money. Such relatively deep ties are few, however, and may be with individuals 
or families on opposite sides of the camp. Meanwhile, neighbors often remain 
totally unknown to one another, and even daily acquaintances remain nameless 
to one another. As a matter of fact, names are rarely heard in a migrant camp, 
and to utter them strikes everyone as somewhat peculiar. Only the names of 
friends of long duration, known from previous fruit runs, are utilized and beyond 
this persons even on comparatively familiar terms refer to one another as "that 
tall Texan," or "the fat lady and her two friends," or "the fella with that old 
Cadillac" and so on. Riley and Tommy both agreed, "I never work to learn a 
name ; I been in this business too long." 

Departures are precipitate and unanticipated by anyone except possible a few 
close friends. Like arrivals, they are devoid of ceremony and the formal recogni- 
tion of conventional social and practical ties. They are typically unplanned, 
being precipitated possibly by a new, though minor, factor being added to a vague 
sense of dissatisfaction already present. Inadequate wages or unemployment, of 
themselves, seldom seem to be sufficient cause to put the fruit-tramp and his fam- 
ily on the road in an organized and purposeful fashion. More often the crucial 
factor is a chance occurrence, such as a fight (as in the case of the M. family), a 
theft (as in the case of Earle, Sandy and Johnny), a disagreement with the 
grower for whom one is working, or even the sudden excitement of social 

Household goods are hurriedly transferred from cabin to automobile, accounts 
are squared with the camp manager, and in a matter of moments the cabin stands 
empty, ready to be occupied by another family. Whether the departure is pre- 
cipitate or relatively planned and organized, there are few or no goodbyes. All 
but the closest acquaintances are severed without ceremony or show of feeling 
on either side, and the circle of functioning interaction is again constricted to 
the fundamentally autonomous unit which first entered the migrant camp. 

Despite the shallowness and impermanence of most relationships established 
in the migrant camp, there is, nevertheless, a recognition of the goodness of shar- 
ing what one has, even with strangers. It is not regarded as a strong obligation, 
however, and usually is tinged with enlightened self-interest. As Slim put it, 


"We alus' are ready to try ta hep out a new fella, an' if n he skips without payln' 
it back, well we call thet education." Stories of prenerosity are usually climaxed 
by skeptical accounts of failure to reciprocate. Old Jim once roasted a turkey and 
fell asleep, awakening to find that only bones remained of the feast, which had 
been enjoyed by friends with whom he had previously been too generous. Roy 
once gave a rabbit to another fellow, only to have him ask for fat to fry it in 
and potatoes to eat with it, and to have him finally drain his gas tank before 

Nevertheless, the feeling persists, and apparently is well-founded, that if one 
should be in .such straits as to have to ask a stranger (another fruit tramp) for 
help, it will be offered willingly, within his capabilities. This pervasive belief in 
sharing is a further source of security in the marginal subsistence economy of 
the migrant. Far more important bonds are formed, however, between the migrant 
and a few long-standing friends, such as camp managers, cafe owners or growers. 
Several occupants of Rambler's Park expressed confidence that Ruth. Victor's 
wife, or the elderly owners of a certain cafe in Naches, could be counted on for 
assistance any time it was really needed. Others claimed that a certain grower 
could be called at any time for an advance in wages. 

Loans of possessions or cash between friends is common and may be made 
over long periods. As Fourcoats said, "You just know that in this business you're 
bound to run into each other again somewhere, and so you keep it on the up 'n up." 
On the other liand, bad debts often give rea.son for skepticism. Rile.v bailed 
Johnny out of jail, accounting him a good friend even though he had not squared 
a debt from the previous year's fruit run, only to have him pack up and leave at 
three o'clock in the morning with both debts unpaid. 

Diversion during non-working hours, like many other aspects of migrant life, 
must take on characteristics quite different from that familiar to residents in a 
sedentary society. The cabin of the migrant is not like the home of the resident 
employee, arranged conveniently for rest and relaxation. It offers at best a nearby 
shower, a place to cook, eat and sleep. It offers little relief, unlike the conven- 
tional, established home, from the drudgery of the working day. Diversion 
through use of public facilities is restricted by exclusion and self-consciousness, 
and the migrant's inclination toward independence. Outside entertainment, if 
indulged in at all, usuall.v takes the form of attending a drive-in theater, where 
protective distance is easily maintained, or swimming in a nearby river with one 
or two friends. Social diversion most often is realized within the bounds of the 
present or perhaps another migrant camp. But even within the migrant commu- 
nity, easy conversion or gossiping .seems to be accompanied by a vague discomfort, 
and perhai>s this is why the two most prominent forms of diversion — drinking 
and trading — are formalized institutions which may be indulged in effortlessly 
with the guidance of tacitly accepted rules. 

Most drinking occurs inside the migrant camps, and is an implicit invitation for 
relaxed socialization. As old Howard put it, "When I bring in a case of beer, I 
ain't alone fer very long." Taverns in close proximity to migrant camps are often 
frequented by certain migrants, but here again, drinking both justifies and lubri- 
cates social interaction, and in such cases migrants will usually avoid interaction 
with outsiders unless their confidence is buoyed by intoxication. This fact partly 
explains the outsiders impression that most migrants are drunk migrants. Sober 
migrants tend to avoid interaction or successfully misrepresent themselves. 

Trading is similarly a clearly defined behavior pattern by which migrants can 
approach each other and .socially interact through mutually accepted rules of 
good-natured bantering, cleverness, and competitive calculation. Both patterns 
of diversion also provide mutually understood rules for withdrawal from inter- 
action. Week-ends, or at least Sundays, are recognized as occa.sions for relief 
from the routine of workdays, and diversion at this time frequently takes the 
form of inten.sified trading or drinking. Both become the focus of humor and 
relaxation, but also of tension. Drunkenness may become extreme in such situa- 
tions .simply the migrant confronts an extended period of time which is 
.socially defined as an occasion for casual socializing and this seems most easily 
achieved through drinking. The drinking motivated by this sort of uneasiness 
may, indeed, be social, but it may also be the solitary drinking characteristic of 
alcoholism. Houston, after a fairly drunken Saturday, greeted me in the shower 
at about nine o'clock Sunday morning, quite proud of his .sobriety. B.v noon that 
day he was prostrate on the ground outside Riley's cabin, carrying on an incoher- 
ent conversation with his neighbors. 


Drinking, either in cabins or nearby taverns, is also the basis for initiation of 
most extra-marital sexual liaisons (marital here being taken to include con- 
sensual as well as formalized marriage). These may be undertaken with prosti- 
tutes, but according to popular opinion most usually occur between wayward 
spouses or divorced men and women. It is apparent that thievery or "rolling" 
sometimes occurs in such circumstances of drunkenness and covert sexual union. 
The situation is ideal for this because the victim often wishes to shield himself 
from the public and also, as a migrant, has less recourse to local authorities, less 
credibility with them, and often is believed by them to lead a way of life which 
accepts such misfortune as the norm. 

In Rambler's Park it was fairly clear that Edward and fat Sally (Cabin #12) 
specialized in this, or at least gained part of their income from it. Neither worked 
while at the camp, and Sally did approach Harry, and perhaps several other 
men. She did roll Houston of some forty dollars after she and Edward drank 
wine all night with him at a local motel. Although Houston was driven back to 
camp by a city policeman next morning, his drunken appearance and inability 
to defend himself against Edward's countercharge that the money had been 
spent in a drunken spree forced him to drop his charges. Sally, Edward and 
Johnny left Rambler's Park a few days later. About a week thereafter, Riley 
lost his wallet and about twenty dollars in cash in similar manner to Helen, 
although no proposition was involved here apparently. 

Helen later returned the wallet with two dollars in it and she, Ernie and 
Houston moved out of camp the next day after residing there for nearly six 
weeks. It is significant, perhaps, that Riley had been partly blamed for Houston's 
loss and seen by him as a defendant of Sally and Edward. Helen's action may 
have been taken in vengeance to regain for her cooperative group's kitty the 
money which Houston would have contributed had it not been stolen. 


In the introduction I emphasized that the proliferation of privately-owned 
off-farm migrant camps in the Yakima Valley is symptomatic of an alienation of 
the migrant from both grower and community perhaps even more severe than 
the u.sual alienation of that way of life from the greater society of which it is 
a part. I pointed out that among other factors the constant and pervasive squalor 
of these camps promotes the indifference and irresponsibility of the grower and 
the contempt of the community resident. Throughout succeeding pages I sug- 
gested some ways in which the resulting situation aggravates the migrant's 
sense of self-conscious shame and indignity, forces his further withdrawal from 
normal interactions with the community, and i)erhaps motivates a variety of 
defensive asocial behavior ranging from mild uncooperativeness with growers 
to chronic drunkenness. 

On the other hand, I have throughout the discussions of social ecology, exter- 
nal relations, economic strategy and social structure of the migraut way of life, 
emphasized the tendency of the typical migrant to render himself relatively 
autonomous from conventional social and economic ties for the sake of the 
optimum mobility and flexibility demanded by his enterprise. The resulting self- 
containment of the migrant way of life, along with a multitude of integrative 
factors which operate inside the migrant world, is the basis of the uniqueness 
which distinguishes this aspect of the culture of poverty. 

The isolated nature of the migrant way of life, then, has two aspects. These 
can be labeled most tellingly as alienation and independence. If amelioration 
of the difficulties of migrant life is to be undertaken, the focus of change must 
be on the former and not on the latter. This is because whereas independence 
is both necessary to and a vital value in the migrant way of life, alienation is a 
.syndrome of accidental value-orientation which is not an integral part of that 
life, and is particularly contributive to the deterioration of relationships between 
the migrant and the surrounding society. As was mentioned early in the intro- 
duf'tion. any effort to guide a change for the better within a culture or .sub- 
culture must take careful, empathetic cognizance of the vital values in its care- 
fully adju.sted tradition and not seek to change them simply because they are 
f'ifferent from familiar values. Many instances of independence and its related 
behavior patterns are offensive and incomprehensible to a member of conven- 
tional, sedentary American society who does not understand their socio-economic 
bases. But from the migrant's point of view, and the aim of social justice should 
concern itself primarily with this, the problems which he suffers do not root in 


his independence from but in his alienation from the communities through wliich 
he passes. 

The nature of housing accommodation available to him, the attitudes evident 
in the behavior of school teachers and clerks, however sensitive it might be, 
and the glances of other drivers on the highways, are the i>oison of his way of 
life. Because the migrant reacts defensively to alienation by withdrawing into 
elaborations of independence which go considerably beyond that entailed by his 
enterprise, he does not distinguish clearly between these two a.spects of isola- 
tion, accepting the whole as part and parcel with his assigned way of life. Only 
a thoroughly objective, and perhaps more importantly, empathetic appraisal can 
differentiate between manifestations of alienation and those of independence. 

A program of social change aimed at amelioration of the migrant living con- 
ditions, at least in the Yakima Valley, should give first consideration to a sensi- 
tive campaign designed to promote the appreciation of outsiders for the unique- 
ness and complexities of the migrant way of life. The proud tradition of a sub- 
culture should become more widely known and understood, not in the naive 
way that growers occasionally see their seasonal workers, "happy, healthy, 
humble and hard-working," but with a proper appreciation of the hardships 
entailed in the migrant enterprise and the traditional adjustments which effec- 
tively cope with them. 

The above effort would be directed to a recon.struction of attitudes, first on 
the part of the community and finally on the part of the migrant. Concurrently, 
a prime symptom of these attitudes should be approached with intent to achieve 
practical change. Governor Brown of Oalifomia noted, in testimony before the 
United States Senate Sub-committee on Migratory Labor, that wherever good 
housing was available one finds a stable work force meeting its family and social 
responsibilities, and that wherever housing was poor one finds an unstable work 
force in despair and decay. (18) This is no doubt an over-simplification, but 
nonetheless a sound point and particularly relevant to the situation in the 
Yakima Valley. 

The California migrant master plan at the time of the hearings envisioned 
the construction of ten, and had already funded and undertaken the construc- 
tion of five, migrant service centers, including one hundred housing units and 
supporting educational, medical and .social service facilities. 

The dimension of California's migrant problem is much greater than Wash- 
ington's, and it is unlikely that such measures are necessary, much less foresee- 
able in the near future for the Yakima Valley or other parts of Washington. But 
housing should \)e high in order of priority for change in the Valley, not simply 
because l>etter homes ease the difficulties of poverty but also because a whole 
syndrome of indignities, disrespects and antipathies root in the squalor of most 
of the one-hundred or so private off-farm camps in this area. 

Of all the communit.v's members, the grower most often has a sympathetic 
understanding of the migrant way of life. Despite the fact that his margin of 
profit depends upon maximizing the migrant's production and minimizing his 
wage, his own enlightened .self-interest and often his sincere concern demand an 
interest in the welfare of the migrant. Furthermore, he is often aware of the 
particular problems in the migrant's daily life and sometimes understands his 

For this reason it seems that in the Yakima Valley, at least, new housing con- 
ducive to the migrant's self-respect and improved migrant-community relations 
should be on-farm housing. Whereas on-farm housing, in fact, predominates else- 
where in the state, it is relatively rare in the Valley. Although this type of hous- 
ing seems not to be particularly preferred by white migrants, who may even claim 
to avoid it because "it ties you to a crop or a grower no matter how lousy the crop 
or growler turns out to be," it is admitted by most migrants that the .successful 
harvesters tend to head for such camps where "good livin' conditions and long 
jobs" are most often available. 

Although many migrants who claim to prefer the autonomy afforded them by 
private, off-farm camps might be .slow to accept such new housing, it is likely that 
in most cases this expressed preference is a defensive reaction to apparent grower 
indifference. On the other hand, the concern and responsibility of the grower 
evident in decent, on-farm housing would be much more acceptable to such 
migrants than the mass accommodations patronizingly and impersonally supplied 
by county, state or federal government, all of which lack the direct participation 
in agricultural affairs shared by grower and migrant. 


A maximum degree of independence consonant with cooperative and respectful 
relations between migrant and community is, in fact, afforded by the typical on- 
farm housing. Supervision is minimal, perhaps even less than in private camps, 
because employee and employer have vested interests in one another and tend to 
behave accordingly. The situation also promotes via the grower, whose reputation 
and responsibility are directly concerned, the maximum utilization of community 
health, medical and educational facilities. Many of these remain anonymous or 
unknown to the migrant living in an off-farm camp. 

The migrant's budget is loosened a bit by his ability to direct money that would 
otherwise go for rent to other ends such as food or social diversion. And most 
importantly, the migrant is assured of the appreciation and concern of the grower 
and, through him, the community. Although no magical renovation of attitudes 
and behavior can be expected, it is certain that improved cooperation and in- 
creased mutual respect will eventually result. 

The greatest practical deterrent to the acceptance of grower responsibility 
and the construction of on-fami migrant housing is a middle-class preconception, 
especially on the part of authorities, of what constitutes good housing and the 
great cost of building it. However, the migrant does not expect and indeed has 
no use for many of the expensive facilities and elaborations in conventional 
housing. The greatest desideratum as far as he is concerned is a simple cabin 
constructed in such a way that dirt is minimized, adequate privacy and protec- 
tion from the elements afforded, and most important, so decent appearances can 
be maintained. Some cabinet and closet space, bunk beds, simple cooking facili- 
ties, running water and simple lighting with outlets for appliances are needed 
and should be expected. 

All this, in two rooms or even one large room, albeit not luxurious, is con- 
sidered to be suflSciently adequate for the average migrant family of four or five 
persons. Communal toilet and hot shower facilities would be con.sidered quite 
adequate if clean, not overcrowded and, above all, respectable. Hot running wa- 
ter in the cabins would be a luxury and appreciated. 

These simple prerequisites far exceed the typical migrant housing in the 
Valley, yet would not be prohibitively expensive to build. At least two of the 
big growers in the Valley who maintain decent on-fai'm housing insist that 
intentional destruction and defacing of facilities is rare, and that to the con- 
trary pride is usually taken in direct proportion to the adequacy of the facili- 
ties. Maintenance of public facilities is, of course, a problem and an expense, 
but destruction would be minimal in sturdy utilitarian housing, and would be 
further minimized by the gradual raising of the migrant's sense of self- respect 
and pride in profession. 

The director of the California Department of Housing expressed concern (19| 
that the state would have trouble funding a subsidy of rental ($55-$65 per 
month before subsidy) on $5000-$6000 migrant housing units. The solution is not 
funds for rental subsidy, but the replacement of middle-class concepts of a home, 
impractical and silly from the point of view of the migrant, with the design and 
construction of low-cost, utilitarian migrant cabins. Steve Allen recommended 
a $240 pre-fabrieated, relocatable unit (20) but even a $2000 figure on a more 
jiermanent type would be realistic. 

If this type of housing is undertaken by state or county, costs can be recouped, 
without subsidy, through a $30 to $40 a month rental, which is what the migrant 
now often pays in the Valley for a shanty surrounded by squalor. If the design 
is adopted by growers for rent-free on-farm housing, financing may be made 
available through a government direct or insured loan program, and small 
growers can combine resources and interests. California's migrant housing pro- 
gram is proceeding under similar plans. 

In view of the increasing popularity of trailer homes among migrants in the 
last thirty years, and the value orientation of the migrant toward the independ- 
ence and material well-being symbolized by the mobile home trailer, it seems 
likely that programs promoting financing of migrant housing of this type, espe- 
cially if trailer parks are to be developed on the farm, offer great promise for 
all of the above reasons. The only deterrent is the inability of the majority of 
fruit-tramps to pay for and retain through the off-season such a piece of 

Aside from the coordinate issues of community appreciation and understand- 
ing of the migrant, and on-farm housing, a great many other avenues of amelio- 
ration of the migrant's way of life may be suggested. Education of migrant 


children, inadequacies of which lead to the cycle of iwverty, committing each 
generation to the profession of their i>arents regardless of preference or abilitv in 
other enterprises, is a key problem which I do not have the competence to dis- 
cuss at length. 

It seems likely that health and medical education programs, administered 
sensitively and taught in migrant camps by dedicated nurses thoroughly familiar 
with the practical realities and uniipie values of the migrant way of fife, would 
be a beneficial undertaking. Ignorance of basic dietary and cooking principles, 
care in pregnancy, sanitation and first-aid is often a detriment in the migrant's 
daily life. Community action programs directed toward the establishment of 
migrant cooperative stores, newspapers and entertainment will be effective and 
accepted insofar as they are successful in avoiding a patronizing or charitable 
image, building instead an atmosphere of sincere community interest and 


1. Lewis, Oscar. "The Culture of Poverty," Explosive Forces in Latin America, 

Tepaske (ed.) (1964) 

2. Allen, Steve. The Grotmd is Our Table, (Doubleday, 1966) 

3. Wolf, Eric. Peasants, (Prentice Hall, 1966) 

4. Steinbeck, J. The Grapes of Wrath, (Viking Press, 1939) 

5. Mc Williams, C. Ill Fares the Land, (Littlebrown and Co., 1942) 

6. Landis and Brooks. Farm Labor in the Yakima Valley, Washington, (Agri- 

cultural Experiment Station, Pullman, Washington, 1936) 

7. Consulting Services Corporation. Migrant Farm Labor in the State of Wash- 

ington, (Olympia OEO 1966) 

8. Wolf, Eric. op. cit. 

9. Lewis. Oscar, op. cit. 

10. Consulting Services Corporation, op. cit. 

11. Wolf, Eric, op. cit. 

12. Lewis, Oscar, op. cit. 

13. Consulting Services Corporation, op. cit. 

14. Wolf, Eric. op. cit. 

15. Consulting Services Corporation, op. cit. 

16. Landis and Brooks, op. cit. 

17. Wolf, Eric. op. cit. 

18. Senate Publications : Hearings before the Subcommittee on Migratory Labor, 

U.S. Senate (1966) 

19. Ibid. 

20. Allen, Steve, op. cit. 

The Florida Migrant 
(By E. John Kleinert') 

Robert Coles calls them "the wanderers we would rather not see," 
but there are at least 100,000 of them. Each year they harvest the 
nnultimillion-dollar Florida vegetable and fruit crop. A 10-year-old 
migrant boy told Coles that "the schools, when you go to them, they 
don't seem to want you, and they'll say that you're only going to be there 
a few weeks, ... .so what's the u.seV"* 

Diversity, extreme poverty, isolation from .society, and bewilderment over 
"help" programs are among salient characteristics of Florida's migratory agri- 
cultural workers, according to a current large-scale study undertaken by the 
University of Miami on behalf of the Migratory Child Division of the Florida 
State Dei)artment of Education. 

This project was l)egun in June of 1968 as a survey of the social, health, em- 
ployment, and educational factors affecting the lifle of the child of Florida's 
tran.sient agricultural laborer. Tlie (mtcome was intende<l to produce: (1) data 
relevant to the migratory child, (2) a comprehensive analysis of this data, and 

1 Mr. Kleinert (768. University of Michigan Chapter) Is dirp<;tor of the FloridBi Migra- 
torj- Child SurA'ey Project and associate professor of educatifni, University of Miami. 

•See Robert Coles and Harry Huge, "Peonage in Florida," The New Republic, July 26, 
pp. n-21j 


(3) recommendations by the survey staff for improved educational conditions. 

To conduct this study, research associates were employed at the Universiity of 
Miami and field intervievpers were hired to work throughout Florida. Last fall 
a comprehensive Phase I report which summarized ithe summer findings was 
submitted to the State Department of Education. The staff has now completed 
Phase II of the investigation. An enormous amount of data has been amassed 
and is being fed into the University of Miami's computers. Much of the analyisis 
of this material is proving to be useful to the Florida State Department of Edu- 
cation ; some of the department's current migratory child education programs 
are already undergoing modification based on new evidence. 

However, ithe deeper an investigator gets in to the facts concerning the con- 
ditions of the migrant and his children, the more conscious he becomes of 
certain severe limitations inherent in such methodical studies. The conduct of 
the research takes the investigators weekly into ithe squalor of the migrant's 
camp and the heat and dust of his fields. After such forays into the realities of 
the farm worker's daily existence, investigators often feel that the stark nu- 
merical estimation of his condition doesn't begin to describe what it is to be a 

Therefore, before I report quantitative aspects of this study, several general 
statements about Florida migrants are in order. These are persx)eetives gained 
from 15 months of intensive investigation of factors affecting the daily lives 
of Florida's migrault population. 

1. Migrants defy classification. They can be categorized according to their 
wages or their location on a given day, but we cannot say with any confidence 
what their housing patterns are, what their attitudes toward education or the 
future are. These limitations result from our attemps to treat them collecitively. 
They are as diverse a group of people as exist anywhere in twentieth century 

Because research on any group of people must emphasize "averages," findings 
are apt to be quite deceptive. For instance, a young male citrus picker, working 
on a morning following a full night of sleep and three good meals, blessed with 
a better-than-average outlook on life that particular day, can earn as much as 
$30 before sundown — further assuming that the groves were unusually dry that 
morning and that his work crew and its chief are willing to let him work late 
before they head back to camp, and most especially assuming that he is working 
the "first picking" of his grove when no other had picked the thickest clusters 
of citrus hanging from the tree. When none of the above assumptions can be 
made, that same picker might work extremely hard to earn $10 on another day. 
An older and weaker picker might earn considerably less. 

Some, admittedly only a few, are migrants because they enjoy life outdoors 
and the camaraderie of a work crew dong productive and manual labor. In 
spite of the lack of education most of them suffer, there are indications in the 
words and manners of some migrants that there is almost a Whitmanesque cele- 
bration of life in their daily existence. This feature, of course, it totally lost in 
statistics, which show that the average migrant's attitude toward his work and 
his life is deplorably negative. To go further, some migrant children strike ob- 
servers from America's mainstream as being remarkably happy attending school 
only sporadically, working alongside a parent, and sharing in the role of family 
provider, or playing in the open spaces around the wretched camps where some 
of them live. And, to be sure, many migrant parents feel not the slightest im- 
posed upon by society when their children stop riding the bus to school after 
the fourth grade. These cases are probably a minority. Most migrants give 
ample, living proof of contemporary theories holding that American society has 
shortchanged its transient agricultural population, that there are certain human 
rights that these people have not been given, whether or not they sense 

Nevertheless, our point here is that we live in an age where we think of our 
social problems and groups in terms of gross generalizations : The migrant 
is deserving of help ! He is a trapped human being in bondage to the growers ! 
He and his family suffer daily not only the physiological but also the psychologi- 
cal hurts of neglected and deprived people ! The facts, of course, show that each 
of these statements is true for some migrant workers, all are true when applied 
to otlier migrants, and none is true when applied to still others. 

Perhaps it is best that we hold the popular image of migrants so long as 
a single image is all that we can make comprehensible to the political power 
units capable of solving or modifying human problems. However, once attention 


is focused on an unfortunate group, and money for help is provided, it is essen- 
tial that those agencies which have studied the prohlem and pointed out the 
need stand ready to provide refinements needed in assistance strategy, refine- 
ments based on the diverse membership of the migrant group to be served. Too 
often this has not been the case. 

2. Migrants arc the poorest educated, poorest paid single category of workers 
in the national economy. They tend to originate in areas where work is scarcest 
and educational oi)portunity most limited. For sheer mi.sery, they rival occupants 
of America's urban ghetto.s — the unemployed and partially employed black in- 
habitants of the rotting central cities. Actually, the ghetto-dweller comes out 
ahead, both in level of education and income. At worst, the ghetto black qualifies 
for welfare payments — aid to dependent children or unemployment insurance or 
one of the inner-city programs to assist the poor. The migrant seldom receives 
such help. His movements from place to place disqualify him. The Florida study 
shows that, with notable exceptions, few migrants have even heard of social 
assistance programs, much less used them. 

The result is that the nomads of this country are totally alienated from the 
rest of our society. They are alienated in the purest sense, not because of 
promises made to them and not kept — this produces the alienation of the urban 
blacks and is really anger and hostility — ^but alienated be<'ause their lives are 
completely apart from the greater society which surrounds them. The contacts 
this stricken group have with American society are not those daily, almost hourly, 
contracts of the domestic servant, the subway rider, or the unemployed idler 
standing on a street comer in a large city. The migrant glimpses America from 
the back of a truck or the inside of a bus as he travels from one agricultural area 
to another. These glimpses, plus an occasional Saturday evening walk into the 
nearest town and the omni-present TV set, are the extent of the migrant's ex- 
I)eriences with white, America. 

Their extreme economic poverty broadens the gulf between migrants and 
the culture of their nations. The children attend schools only intermittently 
and only when it is convenient for the family ; most commonly, parents view 
school as a day-care situation freeing them to work the fields without hindrance. 
As soon as the kids are old enough to take care of themselves during the day, 
family pressure to ride the school bus in the morning decreases considerably. 
Not long after that the field>> claim the migrant young, and their meager earnings 
become a family supplement. Who can blame the migrant mother for this apathy 
toward her child's schooling? What, really, does the school offer her six-year-old 
when he first attends? 

Failure is what the .school offers the migrant child in most cases, and failure 
is what the school offered a generation earlier when the mother attended. Recon- 
firmation of their status as wretched i)eople is not needetl by migrants, but this 
reconfirmation is the greatest single effect the schools have on migrant children. 

These children cannot compete with the middle-class child, but successful 
competition is the only way to avoid failure in the American elementary school. 

Thus the spiral continues : low educational level, low pay, hungry and neglected 
children, .schools foreign to the language pitterns and the culture of the children, 
early .separation from school, and finally another generation of low pay and 
subsequent misery. 

3. The only kind of help from society in which migrants themselves see amy 
significance is direct financial aid. From their ranks they have few militant 
spokesmen or community leaders whose prote.sts to the greater society are com- 
bined with guidance for their foUoAvers. (I am referring here to Florida migrants ; 
in California such leaders have api)eared. ) The result is that the migrant has no 
truck with promises or programs meant to alleviate his worst problems — 
housing, health, working conditions, education — in progressive steps. More than 
any other members of our nation's i)opulation, he is concerned with survival on 
a day-to-day basis. This desiH>rate condition demands that the help-giver only 
approach if he proffers bread, in either the symbolic or the real sense. For our 
governmental agencies to attack the problems of the American migrant with the 
same health and education programs they have used in the urban ghetto would 
be to doom their efforts to failure. 

Society has two alternatives for dealing with its transient agricultural mi- 
grants : It can ignore them and hoi)e that their gradual absorption into other and 
better walks of life will continue to reduce their numbers; or it can break 
precedent and offer these people programs which feature direct financial and 
survival aid. The only qualification for such aid would be that it insure progress 
toward steady employment. 

4. The migrant child learns he is an outcast from society as soon as he begins 
school. Like children everywhere whose families move them to a new neighbor- 


hood, the migrant child is afraid of what he will encounter in his new and un- 
known environment. He fears getting lost along different paths, the sight of 
strangers, the look of buildings never previously seen. His most desperate fear 
is rejection by children who have lived there longer and have at an earlier timie 
established their membership in the company — the frolics and the conspiracies 
of the neighborhood groups of young. The migrant child, like any other child, 
manages to adapt, however. He adapts to the new camp and finds its people and 
its surroundings are not unlike the places he has been before. 

He adapts, that is, until the day he goes to school. At school he finds that he 
is one of a disliked minority ; disliked by the ones whose views are by far the most 
imxx)rtant to him, the other children. Although his skin color and language 
variations are commonplace to the other rural children of the area — those who 
live there year-around — he is quickly categorized as a migrant ; he learns where 
he stands in the unique caste system rigorously observed by children. Elxcept 
for migrant cliildren, every child learns to cope with the caste system of his 
peers. He learns that there is mobility in this system, that yesterday's clown 
can be tomorrow's hero. The migrant child does not have this chance when in 
school he confronts the rest of the world for the first time. 

We have here, then, a situation which should present a challenge to the edu- 
cational system in the migrant area, an opportunity for it to penetrate these 
deep and early sensitivities of children and throw light upon them. Whatever 
essential human values are associated with them can be reexamined and perhaps 
reordered. Unfortunately, the school finds itself hampered by the attitudes of 
the adults of the community, by the number of children each teacher must 
work with, and, most critically, by the limitations of its teachers' own back- 
grounds. So the greatest single effect the school could have upon migrant children 
is lost the first year it deals with them. It cannot make them feel wanted, 
therefore it cannot educate them. 

5. There are at least three diserete migrant suhctiltures in Florida, none of 
them hearing mnch resemblanee to the others. None of these subcultures bears 
out the romantic notion that a person whose life is spent in the sun and wind 
is free, that one who never tarries long in one place always finds new horizona 

Of the three groupings described here, perhaps the most unfortunate are the 
traveling single men. Predominantly white and early middleaged, many of them 
are alcoholics. Scarcely better off than the derelicts observed in the skid-row 
areas of most cities, they ride trucks or buses with crew chiefs who take them 
wherever farm labor is most desperately needed. They work two or three days 
a week in a state of semi-stupor and surrender to complete intoxication the rest 
of the time. During the few hours they pick fruit or vegetables they earn enough 
to buy cheap wine and drink themselves into oblivion. They report back to the 
fields only when the last bottle of wine is gone. Their employers hold these 
migrants in lowest esteem and describe them as the "dirtiest, most undepend- 
able. and aimless" of their hired help. That they are employed at all is a result of 
the unbelievable emining and resourcefulness of the crew chiefs who keep enough 
of them in the fields long enough to bring in a given crop. These men have neither 
families nor friends where they live and work. Their employment periods tend 
to be much briefer and more sporadic than those of the other migrant groups. 
They live together in the migrant camps, usually in a location away from the 
other migrants. Their lives tend to be violent, full of fights, knifeplay, and gunfire. 
A second subculture within Florida's population of migrant workers is that 
of the Negro family. Almost invariably from Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, 
or Florida, these migrants have sprung from the rural sharecropper tradition 
of a generation ago. When the Southern economy made independent agricultural 
work by the sharecropper no longer fruitful, they were left to .starve or move 
about in order to do the only thing they knew, work the soil. In effect, these 
people became migrants after failing at work that was itself the most poorly 
rewarded of any in our economy outside of temi>orary, transient agricultural 

These migrants were formerly among the unemployed black iseople one ob- 
serves in the hamlets of the South idling around entrances to the local stores. 
For them it was get on a bus and head for Florida and the winter crops — or 
staiT^e. of these migrants travel as husband and wife, accompanied by several 
small children. Supplying enough food for the family and paying the weekly 
rent on the shack in which they live require both adults to be in the fields every 
day. Most commonly the .small children .si>end the day near their parents in the 
fields; sometimes they are left to fend for themselves in the camps. These 


American blacks suffer all of the disadvantages of their brothers of the inner city, 
plus frequent uprootings and hostile environments without the association of 
others outside of the family. The black migrant family of Florida is more co- 
hesive than its urban coimterpart but less cohesive than the Texas-Mexican 
migrant family. Some migrant mothers attempt to support their children without 
the presence or help of the father. Separation of parents is not infrequent, with 
re.sultant hardship for the children. 

The third subculture within the Florida migrant community is that of the 
Texas-Mexican family. Generally second or third generation Americans, they 
are the only migrant group who have a family heritage of migrating with the 
crops. Texas is their home but they generally si)end only a month or two i>eT year 
there. Unlike the other Florida migrants, they frequently follow a migrating 
stream which takes them to the Midwest as well as the East during the summer 
months. They go to northern Michigan to harvest the cherry crop, then to Ohio 
and Indiana for tomatoes before arriving in Florida in October and December 
for the vegetable season. The Texas-^Iexican migrant is most readily distin- 
guished from other Florida migrants by the nature of his family ties. Often the 
family includes five or more children and they remain together on the road, in 
the camps, and in the fields. This family cohesiveness is beneficial to the welfare 
of the migrant in most respects ; however, paradoxically, it sometimes stands in 
the way of services offered migrants. If .school transi)ortation arrangements 
expose the children to ridicule by forcing them to ride buses with children from 
other ethnic groups, the family will pull them out of school without hesitation. 

Migrants with Mexican origins live with their own people in the camps. In 
most cases they have their own camps, but where large camps house both Ne- 
groes and Texas-Mexicans the latter will live in a section of their own. There is 
no little animosity between the tv\^o group.s. 

Although by middle-class standards the Texas-Mexican families seem more 
accessible to and accepting of governmental programs established for migrants, 
it doesn't quite work out that way. Breaking into their system of beliefs with 
programs is fraught with as many diflSculties as are encountered when the other 
two groups are the objects of society's help. 

These observations are reported in an effort to improve understanding of the 
plight of the American migrant. That he is as cut off from the rest of society as 
any citizen of this country can be is evident from the information that the Florida 
Migratory Child Survey Project has collected to date. The full dimensions of 
his .status in America will probably not be evident from the statistics gathered 
and analyzed. These dimensions will only come into focus when an observer can 
see, touch, and smell the immediate environment of the migrant, an environ- 
ment usually hidden behind the rows of crops lining the highways of America. 

In Wind, Sand and Stars the French aviator-philosopher Antoine de Saint 
Exupery wrote about a small peasant child he had seen in Spain : 

"This is a musician's face. This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beau- 
tiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, 
.sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become? 

"When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. 
They i.solate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men. This 
little Mozart will be shaped like the by the common stamping machine. This 
little Mozart will love the shoddy music in the stench of night dives. This little 
Mozart is condemned. 

"It is the human race and not the individual that is wounded here, is outraged 
here. I do not believe in pity. What torments me tonight is the gardener's point 
of view, ^^^lat torments me is not his poverty, to which after all a man can 
accustom himself as ea.sily as to sloth. . . . What torments me is not the humps 
or hollows nor the It is the sight, a little bit in all men. of Mozart 

The importance of our comprehending the plight of the migrant is no longer in 
question. These nomads have been our country's forgotten iJeople. To a greater 
extent than ever before we have come to realize in America that the future of 
all of us cannot help but be interwoven with the destinies awaiting them. 

Senator Mondale. I want to thank all of the witnesses who have 
been good enough to present their testimony to us during these hear- 
ings, especially those who have traveled from out of the area. 

The hearings are now adjourned subject to the call of the Chair. 

(Whereupon, at 12 :30 p.m. the hearing recessed subject to the call of 
the Chair.) 



OEC 16 1970