Bringing awareness of farmworkers’ plight, one caravan at a time

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By Claudia Meléndez Salinas

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They’re deemed essential. Also, because of their status as undocumented immigrants, they are not eligible to receive unemployment or any other government-funded program  — such as the CARES Act, which will give payments of up to $3,400 for a family of four. In this New York Times article, journalist Alfredo Corchado called this phenomenon the American Hypocrisy.

So what’s a farmworker to do? Continue working, even under the threat of COVID-19, because the rent needs to be paid, and the family needs to be fed.

In an effort to bring attention to their challenging circumstances, activists have been organizing “caravans” to agricultural fields in Watsonville since April. The caravans have received national attention and the idea has now spread to other areas in California, said organizer Ramiro Medrano. There were two caravans on May 2, each with about 50 cars heading from the Northridge mall to different agricultural fields in the Salinas Valley.

Another caravan, this one from San José, also arrived on Saturday in Salinas to deliver a ton of food items, hygiene products and other essentials for families such as diapers. The effort was spearheaded by Darlene Tenes -— a cousin of Everett Alvarez, Jr., she tells Voices, and a professional event organizer. Tenes put out a call to friends, clients and acquaintances, and the response was overwhelming, she told the Mercury News.The items were delivered to the Alisal Family Resource Center, where they’ll be organized to be distributed to farmworking families in need.

Speaking at the end of the Salinas caravan on Saturday, Medrano said he hoped to see more like it in the future.

“I would like to see farmworkers given the credit they deserve. With credit comes appreciation and with appreciation comes advocacy. They need better pay, better protections and benefits,” he said.

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Claudia Meléndez Salinas

About Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Claudia Meléndez Salinas is an author, journalist, open water swimmer, and cat lover. | Claudia Meléndez Salinas es autora, periodista, nadadora de aguas abiertas, y aficionada a los gatos.