ALEJANDRA ALARCON/Coachella Unincorporated
Would you believe that a child picked the fruits or vegetables that feed your family?
According to the documentary The Harvest/La Cosecha, this is very much the case – even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that agriculture is the most hazardous occupation for child workers.
Poverty among farm workers is common and most families have no choice but to take their children to the fields along with them. The documentary revolves around three migrant children that are engaged in backbreaking labor along with their family as they travel state to state to find work.
Zulema Lopez, 12, Perla Sanchez, 14, and Victor Huapilla,16, struggle to keep up with school in order to help their family economically.
“Dreams? No, I am still working on those,” said Zulema.
According to the film, she is only one of the 400,000 children who feed the population of America. Looking back to her earliest memories, Lopez has been picking grapes as long as she can remember.
All three children understand the importance of education. However, they have no choice but to work with their parents to help pay bills.
Perla was held back a year and has not been able to attend high school. In tears, Sanchez talks about her 19-year old brother’s death after being shot.
“My brother went walking to a hospital and came out dead. They didn’t help him… because we didn’t have any money. And why don’t we have any money? Because we can’t finish school… It’s just a cycle. Because you’re a migrant, you leave early or you don’t have the grades.”
Losing hope after discovering her parents can no longer work due to serious health issues, Sanchez questions her ability to help her family. She asks, “How do I help my family? How do I show support? If I know there’s nothing coming.”
Farm working children deal with daily weight on their shoulders that most kids do not worry about, causing them to perform poorly academically. Aside from carrying the pressure of work and school, Victor has to carry 1,500 pounds of tomatoes a day.
There still lies a great disparity between the employed and an employed farm worker. To this day, Fair Labor Standards Act’s regulations for agricultural employment and non-agricultural employment differ immensely. Children between the ages 12 to 15 are allowed to work “non-hazardous” agricultural jobs, unlimited outside school hours with parental consent. By age 16, a child is allowed any agricultural work, including hazardous work and disregarding school hours.
Children of all ages should be allowed to dream without barriers. The innocence and potential of a child should not be destroyed due to social injustice.
Heartbreaking Struggle is Unimaginable
As a Mexican-American following my dreams and pursuing higher education, it truly breaks my heart to see kids close to my age go through this struggle. I cannot image my life in their shoes. This film is a reminder of why I am pursing higher education and it motivates me to grow and be prepared to help people that do not have the same opportunities.
The Harvest is a moving film. I recommend you watch the lives of these three children for a life-changing perspective.
Come watch The Harvest/La Cosecha with Coachella Unincorporated on Monday, June 24, 4 p.m. at Raices Cultura, 1494 Sixth Street.