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Main Street USA - Fresno California
The harsh struggles faced by Oaxacan farmworkers in California's central valley.
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2007 12:57 GMT

Raymundo worked for years in Fresno's farms

In the last installment of the Main Street USA series, Dave Marash explores the struggles, challenges and dreams of Oaxacan farmworkers in California's central valley amidst harsh conditions and anti-immigration sentiments.

Oxacans are indigenous immigrants from Mexico who have to undertake special problems. In addition to all the normal difficulties every migrant faces, many Oaxacans have an additional problem, a double language barrier. Many Oaxacans speak neither Spanish nor English. Their only language is the indigenous one, Mixtec.

We meet Raymundo Lopez, a long time immigrant who lives with his family near Fresno. After working for years in the farms he managed to escape the fields moving to a job in a tomato processing industry but, when the company moved north, Raymundo's only option was to go back to the fields at minimum wage working in 100-degree temperatures. He still thinks he will be able to buy a house in the US or in Mexico and dreams about a better future for his children.

Migrants from Mexico are the only people who will do the farm's back-breaking labour, and among Mexicans, the latest wave of migration has launched from the southern state of Oaxaca. Raymundo is part of a massive migration that over the last 20 years has brought about 200,000 indigenous Oaxacans to the state of California, about 20,000 of them in the agricultural region in the central valley. But over that 20-year period, one year stands out: 2006. Last year there was a political crisis in Oaxaca that was precipitated by a teachers' strike.

Irma Luna helps monitor the safety of
workers in the fields 
We meet Roberto Hernandez a young student and illegal immigrant who moved to Fresno to work in the fields. He hopes that, with the money he puts away, to go back to Oaxaca and start a business. He tells us about his experience crossing the border and his goal to learn English.

Roberto's experiences in the US illustrate the main sources of support most illegal immigrant use. First and foremost, their families and their home communities.  Then social services offered by church and state.

We also meet Irma Luna of California Rural Legal Assistance who helps immigrants with issues they find especially hard to deal with. They organise training classes and monitor them out in the fields. We then meet David Jackson, a grower who gives us his views on the situation and the anti-immigration movement in the United States. But everybody in Fresno understands the importance of the Mexican immigrants in the community, even conservative talk radio host Ray Appleton.

This episode of Main Street USA aired from Monday 17 September 2007 at the following times GMT:

Monday (0530)
Tuesday (1430)
Wednesday (0130, 1130)
Thursday (0730, 1930)
Friday (1630)
Saturday (1330)
Sunday (0300, 2030)

Watch Part One here:

Watch Part Two here:


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