Grapes and Liberation

My father was a migrant worker as a child in California. He has told me about itching uncomfortably from pesticides he got on himself from the beets he used to pick. Today, sixty years later, eight million pounds of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that do not wash off are being used on grapes each year. Cancer rates in some farmworkers' communities are up 1200 times the average rate. Birth defects and infant mortality occur among migrant workers' children at alarming rates. The general population is slowly being poisoned, too. "Back then," my father said, "We had nothing. If Cesar Chavez hadn't come around, we still would have nothing." Actually, in the last ten to twelve years, many of the gains made by the United Farm Workers have been lost because of the rising cost of living and the lack of regulations being passed or enforced on pesticides.

In the past, I have felt deeply hurt and often hopeless when grapes were served at various social gatherings. Recently, I have made a point of interrupting grapes being served at RC workshops. I've taken some action, however awkward I felt, at the last four out of six workshops I've been to. At one of the last workshops I attended, a huge plate of grapes was served for Friday night snacks. I promptly put a "No Grapes!" sign on it, but the grapes were consumed before the night was over.

"Where are my eliminating racism allies when I really need them?" I keep asking myself. This is the sort of unawareness that needs to be interrupted. This is the kind of thing that makes going to workshops so hard for a person of color.

I will continue to carry a "No Grapes!" button on my shoulder bag to work, and a "No Grapes!" bumper sticker on my car. I will write on registration forms for future workshops I attend under "Any Special Needs?" that no grapes should be served. I also plan to distribute the "No Grapes!" fifteen-minute video (available in either English or Spanish) to all Community leaders. (For your free copy, write to United Farm Workers AFL-CIO, PO Box 62, Keene, California 93531.)

Please be an effective ally, not just to me as a Chicana woman, not just to one of the most exploited sections of the working class, but to the general principle of all people of intelligence and goodwill joining to support each other in crucial struggles.

Leticia Reveles
Austin, Texas, USA

Last modified: 2015-07-21 10:12:25-07