Photo from a labor camp for Filipino farmworkers. The author’s parents are in the center, holding her older brothers.
Mama saw her boss, Jack Radovich, standing in her row during a sweltering San Joaquin afternoon. She was picking table grapes alone when he suddenly appeared, several yards away, gazing off in the direction of the blue-gray Sierra mountains. She assumed he was surveying his vineyards, visiting his farmworkers like he aways did. He was a hardworking landowner, who usually let his young sons build and deliver the packing boxes with a beat-up, sunburnt pickup truck. The kind of boss who always seemed to know when the grape packers needed more boxes. He didn’t call out or turn toward her, but she hurried his way, eager to be the first one from her team to claim the boxes. Daddy was her foreman.
Photos L-R courtesy of Manuel Muñoz and Lindsay France/Cornell University.
Acclaimed writers MANUEL MUÑOZ and HELENA MARÍA VIRAMONTES met almost three decades ago: Muñoz was obtaining his MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and Viramontes was his mentor. Many novels and story collections later, the pair are still close friends. They sat down recently to talk, for the first time, specifically about their roots in farmwork. They discussed the poor working conditions and hardships, but also the ways that farmworkers find love and joy in their families. As writers, they connected over the desire to honor the wholeness and complexity of these lives in their work.
Beyond Their Labor: Manuel Muñoz and Helena María Viramontes on Writing the Lives of Farmworkers
The deadline for this call has been extended to February 17.
The Common, in collaboration with guest co-editor Miguel M. Morales, will publish a portfolio of writing from the farmworker and farm laborer community: the migrant, seasonal, and often immigrant laborers who make up much of the US agricultural workforce. Submissions are now open.