Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chicana/o Cheek: The Farm Worker Movement in Ventura County, a chapter introduction

Image by Adam Klamser of the Ventura County Star Free Press, May 1974. Ventura County Deputy arrest United Farm Worker picketer at an east Oxnard strawberry field.

Why wait 5 to 10 years for a work in progress to be shared. What follows is a draft of an introduction of a chapter on farmworker activism for my current book project tentatively titled, Curious Insurgencies: The Chicana/o Movement in Ventura County, California, 1961-1975.

Introduction: Rita Duarte Piñon Medrano

Rita Duarte Piñon Medrano ventured from the state of Chihuahua in Mexico to California circa 1961 with four young daughters in tow. To sustain her family, Rita and the girls traveled the migrant route of agricultural workers of California. They ultimately made Ventura County their home in the City of Oxnard. Working often from dawn to dusk, it was here that Doña Rita witnessed the exploitation of Braceros as the last two hours of the day, from 4pm to 6, she and her co-workers toiled without pay. Growers also refused to provide port-a-johns in the fields and orchards. Hence, men, women, and children were left with no choice but to urinate or defecate in the rows of fruit and vegetables. Field workers were also not provided potable water to drink and soap to wash their hands before eating food during their breaks. Such unsanitary conditions threatened the public health of not only workers but also consumers with cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. If these modern-day helots complained, they risked being fired and returned to Mexico.

Rita Medrano’s life was like the lives of many Mexican immigrant families as they chain migrated to the United States by way of Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelia, Oaxaca, Tobasco, Zacatecas, and other states of Mexico to the border towns such as Mexicali and Tijuana to realize a better future for their daughters and sons by way of personal sacrifice, feudal-like stoop labor, and instilling in their children the prominence of education for the liberation of their progeny from such an experience. But to provide for their families, farmworkers required a living wage. They also demanded respect in a system that viewed farmworkers, largely, as pathetic human cogs in the production of lucrative commercial crops—citrus (lemons and oranges), broccoli, cabbage, celery, spinach strawberries, tomatoes, and others. When asked why she joined the United Farm Workers (UFW) union of César Chávez, Doña Rita stated, “for respect.” “La union” offered farmworkers the opportunity to be treated as humans.

So Doña Rita was one of many farmworkers that cooperated with labor organizers, eventually to became one herself as she recruited co-workers to join la unión and volunteered her time after long workdays at the UFW office running a mimeograph machine to create and distribute leaflets and flyers. Her daughters recall their mother having inked-stained hands from this after work work.

The link between participants of the Chicana and Chicano movement to that of the farmworkers movement of César Chávez’s UFW was that the former consisted of a mixed lot of individuals that toiled in the fields and orchards alongside mothers, fathers, abuelitos (grandparents) and tios y tias (aunts and uncles) as well as with other families of their barrios and colonias. The youngest chicanitos (Mexican origin grade schoolers socialized in the US) too young to toil diverted themselves by playing with each other as their elders labored under the brutal heat, bitter cold, and/or rain of Southern California. Chicanitos also witnessed heads of family bear the verbal abuse of immediate overseers who were of Mexican origin themselves. Others old enough to carry a sack or tray worked alongside the rest.

Then there were Chicanas and Chicanas that were a generation away from the performance of fieldwork. But they lived in the same barrios and colonias of Ventura County agricultural workers. Chicanas and Chicanos coming of age lay in bed semi-comatose as the sounds of local Spanish-language radio stations traveled the house as family members and neighbors arose before the break of dawn to prepare for their quotidian slog. The Chicana and Chicano generation also observed the return of their peers from this grind with clothing stained by the essences of the crops they harvested and footwear caked with desiccated mud.

The cars, trucks, and buses that transported these workers were also laden with the soil of the orchards and fields. And these workers were not just people of Mexican origin; others included Japanese American land owners and field managers as well as Filipino men, many los maridos of mexicanas (the husbands of Mexican origin women).

Hence, the experience and witness moments impacted the gestalt of the Chicana/o generation before their awakening. A Chicana/o cheek if you will, girded by frustration and a tradition of resistance that demanded dignity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pacific Historical Review Book Review excerpt

Here are excerpts within an early Pacific Historical Review book review of Curious Unions by Colorado College Historian Douglas Monroy:

“This is a large book about a small place. Curious Unions tells the complex story of the agricultural community of Oxnard, a town just north of Los Angeles.”

“Indeed, while they are too often referred to as marginal workers and a people apart from the mainstream, Barajas shows how the people from whom he comes have been integral to the functioning of the entire region’s economy and how they have participated, albeit usually with varying degrees of separateness (what the author calls ‘segregated integration’ in chapter 3), in American life in Southern California.”

“This exhaustively researched and detailed book is a tour de force of local history, but also a history with a much broader significance.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Than 25

On Saturday, July 12, starting at 2pm, people from within and outside of Ventura County assembled at a parking lot adjacent to the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard. I was among them.

It was a peaceful expression of frustration in response to the Office of the Ventura County District Attorney deciding that the killing of Alfonso Limon, Jr. by Oxnard Police Department officers was a justifiable homicide. It was also a vigil in memory of Robert Ramirez, Michael Mahoney, and Juan Zavala. On separate occasions, all three also died during the course of their contact with the OPD.

At about 3 o’clock approximately 80 participants—men, women, children, and teens—formed a unity circle to observe an Aztec dance ceremony. They held placards with the slogans: “No Justice No Peace,” “Killer Cops Off the Street,” “I hope you sleep fine at night knowing that the police stopped and fined skaters,” “Welcome to the Police State: We are Watching you,” “Take Away Their Badges, “No Killer Cops,” “We Want Justice,” and “OPD Don’t Shoot.”

Between dances synchronized to the beat of a drum, the leader of the Aztec group paid homage to the animistic spirits of the earth and prayed for peace and harmony in the face of challenges in the Oxnard community. This was followed by Todo Poder Al Pueblo organizers expressing their rejection of the District Attorney’s July 9, 2014 “Report ON THE OCTOBER 13, 2012, SHOOTINGS OF ALFONSO LIMON, JR., JUSTIN VILLA, AND JOSE ZEPEDA, JR., BY OFFICERS OF THE OXNARD POLICE DEPARTMENT.”

Todo Poder also detailed the circumstances that back dropped the June 28th death of Juan Zavala.

In addition to the deaths in question, the protestors are concerned about the broad authority of law enforcement with ostensibly little accountability to the public. In this regard, the demand for a citizens police review board was made.

From the parking lot, the group marched to Plaza Park before venturing to Oxnard Boulevard. As the protest queued northward on the boulevard, stopped periodically on street corners, then continued westward on Second Street, the number of participants grew to over a 100. Well above the 20 to 25 reported in the Sunday, July 13, edition of the VC Star.

Throughout the procession and in front of the Oxnard Police Department, where the march concluded, people of diverse races and ethnicities blasted their automobile horns, shouted, and gestured, some emphatically, their support for the group’s cause as they drove by.

When I have been in contact with law enforcement in and out of Ventura County, under varying circumstances, I have been treated in a professional manner. The demeanor of the officers ranged from being good-natured, considerate, and tolerant. On one occasion a police officer was gruff but professional.

However, in my conversations with family, close friends, members of the community, retired peace officers, and from my work as an academic, I recognize that there are police that abuse their power and exercise excessive force. This is particularly the experience of the poor, people of color, and those on parole or probation.

For example, in 1997, an OPD officer shot a man of Mexican origin five times, leaving him blind in one eye and paralyzed in both legs. Controversy mounted as information surfaced that an OPD supervisor obstructed hospital emergency room treatment to interrogate the person shot.

In 2001, OPD shootings involved persons with mental illness, one resulted in the death of a 23-year-old African American man. Shortly after this, an African American family driving to church found themselves pulled over by an OPD officer. Subsequently, the police placed the father, face down on the pavement. During the course of the detention, 12 OPD officers drew their guns on the family.

In the end, the family was released; the OPD held that the incident was a case of mistaken identity.

Michelle Alexander, in her highly acclaimed book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), also documents how law enforcement arbitrarily exercises its authority against the poor and, especially, African American men. Such scenarios are brought to life in the theater of Facebook.

Even John Crombach, upon reflection as Chief of the Oxnard Police Department in 2006, characterized the 2004 implementation of a civil gang injunction in the following manner, “We [the OPD] became an invading army in the community. . . That’s incredibly expensive and not the way we want to do business.’’

It is my hope that the OPD’s review of its policies and procedures results in a new way of conducting its business—for the good of all in our community.


A version of this post was published in the Sunday July 20, 2014 edition of the Ventura County Star.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Entitlements of Different Sorts: An Applied Book Review

People initiate political acts in varying ways. One may entail the regular junta of diverse groups at sites such as avenues or armories in the case of cruising lowriders and dances. Another might involve people of different races formulating a band to create music influenced by the multicultural traditions of rhythm and blues and Latin American sounds. When historically subordinated groups, such as Blacks and Chicanas/os, did so in Southern California during the post-WWII period, they claimed spatial and sonic entitlements. Black Studies Professor Gaye Theresa Johnson makes this argument in her sagacious book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles (2013).

Johnson examines the practice of such entitlements, or rights, in the form of the geographic, aural, and imagined. The last act is defined as the “discursive” throughout the book which, depending on the context analyzed, serves as a synonym for the: adaptive, ideological, subjective, stylized, or symbolic assertion of power. The concept of the “discursive” is an elusive definition commonly used by acolytes of post-modern theorists. Further obscuring the understanding of this idea are non sequitur explanations in dictionaries. But if the general reader substitutes her or his own fitting adjective for the abstract, a clearer grasp for the author’s claim will be made.

Nonetheless, the a priori of Black and Brown entitlements lay in the racist dispossession and segregation of communities during the 1950s onward: at Chavez Ravine that resulted in the eventual establishment of Dodger Stadium, the dislocation of minority communities with the construction of five freeway systems (the 5, 10, 60, 405, and 710), as well as the containment of people of color, many displaced by the aforementioned projects, to the enclaves of East and South Central Los Angeles.

To guarantee the concentration of people of color within these geographic camps, municipal, state, and federal agencies conspired with free enterprise institutions of banking, developers, and real estate to isolate Blacks and Mexican-origin communities. The emplacement of racially restrictive real estate covenants, development plans, and the lending poliices of federally subsidized private lenders consummated this apartheid.

As a capstone, aerospace industries emerged adjacent to the exclusive suburbs of Southern California while automobile related manufacturing relocated abroad. As a result, people in the suburbs enjoyed federally financed housing and employment as those contained within the inner-city found themselves with shrinking opportunities to pursue trans-generational happiness. In this regard, Johnson poignantly writes:

This channeled money away from communities of color and toward whites, who could in turn secure the assets that build trans-generational wealth. . . Thus, while whites received subsidies to acquire assets that appreciate in value and can be passed down across generations, African Americans and Mexican Americans received only access to means-tested [i.e., public] housing in segregated areas (58-59).

The bequeathment of wealth is the privilege that masks the legacy of institutionalized racism. Families that lived in middle-class suburbs (because of the federally subsidized contracts granted to McDonald Douglas, Boeing, or Northrup) enjoyed superior schooling and equity appreciation. On the other hand, Black and Brown families trapped in the ghettoes and barrios of Los Angeles did not benefit equally to their counterparts in suburbia.

But this system was not without its cracks; cultural and social miscegenation occurred nonetheless. Simultaneously, youths made spatial, sonic, and discursive entitlements. Asian, Black, Mexican-origin and White youth of the post-WWII era, ironically, commuted on the freeways that enabled social fragmentation to unite at dance venues in East Los Angeles and buy R&B music in South Central. Youths also traveled from different parts of Southern California to cruise Whittier Boulevard as they blared on the fresh technology of car radios the syncretic sounds of MOTOWN and regional artists of the likes of The Mixtures (originally from Oxnard), Thee Midniters, El Chicano, and WAR.

An important contribution, among several, of Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity is how it reveals how segregation in all its manifestations (in terms of demography, schools, health, the trans-generational transfer of wealth or not) impacted the life chances of groups. Indeed, Johnson dismantles the popular idea that segregation developed purely out of custom and social mobility depended on people reaching for their bootstraps when the oppressed were largely forbidden to wear boots.

As in Los Angeles, Ventura County neighborhoods, public space, schools, and employment were segregated concurrently by de facto and de jure forces. In relation to education and the life chances advanced or diminished by it, this was highlighted in the early 1970s with the Soria v. Oxnard Elementary School District Board of Trustees case. During the course of the trial and school district’s appeal of federal Judge Harry Pregerson’s decision to desegregate by mandatory busing, the machinations of racism were exposed. Board minutes dating back to the 1930s revealed how school trustees and their superintendents bowed to the demands of pressure groups to segregate Mexican and Black students.

As legal decisions of the Post-WWII era dismantled de jure segregation—starting with the Mendez v. Westminster case of 1945 and Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas nine years later—Ventura County youth claimed spatial and sonic entitlements of their own to challenge remnant de facto oppression. This was particularly underscored by Chicana and Chicano students at the high schools and community colleges during the late 1960s and ’70s.

Inspired and awakened, or awakened and inspired, by the movements for Black Civil Rights, farmworkers, and their peers in East Los Angeles, Ventura County Chicana and Chicano students formulated El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) clubs in high schools and community colleges to demand the discursive, or moral, entitlement of Mexican American faculty as well as support services to recruit, retain, and graduate students in their communities with college degrees.

At Ventura College, MEChA and Black Student Union (BSU) clubs demanded the spatial entitlement to have a Minority Student Center to provide advising, tutoring, and financial aid services by Black and Chicano counselors: the first two being Isaiah Brown and Ray Reyes.

With the support of culturally sensitive faculty from a variety of backgrounds (Anglo, Black, Jewish, and others) at Moorpark College and Ventura College, Mechistas exacted both spacial and sonic entitlements in the sponsorship of Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day) celebrations.

The quads of these schools were taken over during the course of a week. Mechistas at Moorpark and Ventura College emceed the performances of Mariachi Grupo Mexicano de Santa Paula, Teatro Queztzalcoatl, and Ballet Folklorico de Moorpark. On other days, Chicana and Chicano movement people spoke to diverse audiences made up of students, faculty, administrators as well as chicanitas and chicanitos invited, in the spirit of El Plan de Santa Barbara, from pre and grade schools in the surrounding areas.

College students were also politicized by the messages of Sal Castro of the East L.A. student walkouts, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez of the Crusade for Justice, comedian Dick Gregory, Dolores Huerta vice-president of the United Farmworkers union, Ms. Magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem, and Reies Lopez Tijerina, leader of the La Alianza Federal de Mercedes in New Mexico.

The planning and funding of these events exposed Mechistas to the bureaucracy of academe. It also enhanced their connection to their respective campuses as well as enlightened them to the relevancy of their higher education. A discursive entitlement if you will that instilled in them a sense of triumph and moxie.

Although many recently graduated high school students and Vietnam veterans of the Oxnard Plain commuted to Ventura and and Moorpark College via the “barrio bus,” Chicanas and Chicano who traveled to Moorpark, particularly, during the early 1970s exercised their spatial entitlement to attend the district’s newest campus. It was here that the Brown Berets and Mechistas successfully demanded the discursive entitlement of a Chicano Studies curriculum, Mexican American faculty, and services specific to the needs of first generation students.

And by the mid-1970s, Ventura College MEChA had become a dominant political force. In the spring of 1975, it ran a slate of Mechistas in the Associated Students executive board election. The club’s organization enabled it to attain the discursive entitlement of winning all four seats on the executive board—the presidency, vice-presidency, secretary, and Office of Finance. With this power, the MEChA controlled board reformed the AS constitution to permit a broader representation of student leaders from other clubs in the affairs of AS.

As in the case of student athletes, the spatial and discursive entitlement of MEChA clubs throughout Ventura County afforded students unconditional acceptance to realize their scholastic potential and leadership not only on campus but also in their communities. Many Mechistas, inspired by the community work of the Brown Berets, volunteered their time tutoring elementary students. Others who went on to attend UCLA or UCSB returned to Ventura County to visit high schools and community colleges to encourage others to obtain university degrees.

In the planning of cultural events and seeking permission to work in K-12 schools, high school and college Mechistas interfaced as equals with administrators, faculty and staff. All this entitled them to remain in school in their journey to becoming, in different spatial and contested settings, the attorneys, educators, entrepreneurs, healthcare professional, peace officers, and engaged citizens for the remainder of the 1970s to the present.

Frank P. Barajas

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Let Us Honor Cesar: Viewing the Forest for the Trees

In anticipation of the premiere of the movie Cesar Chavez, and immediately thereafter, commentary circulated critical of the film’s central narrative on the leader for which it is titled.

Critics pointed out the minimization of the role of people such as Dolores Huerta (the National Farm Workers Union’s founding vice-president), Helen (Cesar’s wife), Larry Itliong (the labor leader of Filipino workers that initiated the Grape Strike of 1965), and the supporters of the farmworkers movement from all walks of life. These are valid points that subsequent motion pictures on the experience of Mexican-origin farmworkers can focus greater attention.

I am culpable of this rather imperious criticism.

When an English department colleague with whom I co-teach a course on the Sixties suggested we assign the film to our students, I replied that the early buzz was that Cesar Chavez was hagiographic—a trite criticism that many privileged sons and daughters of el movimiento (the Chicano Movement) have vouchsafed to suggest an elevated insight in relation to recent histories that reveal the shortcomings of Cesar’s leadership.

One flaw being his refusal to delegate control of the union’s authority to his subalterns at the union’s headquarters in Delano, California and organizers in distant parts of the nation who found themselves empowered by Cesar’s focused determination for social justice.

But Cesar was a human being.

My colleague reminded me that we assigned Spike Lee’s Malcom X and Rob Epstein’s documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Both hagiographic films.

As a veteran of the protean movements of the Sixties, she pointed out the significance of these movies lay in how they portrayed the struggle and sacrifice of people for civil rights. Cesar Chavez accomplished this forcefully.

The film highlighted the realities of what farmworkers experienced in the past and present. People who watched the film were brought to tears by episodic scenes of farmworkers, Filipino and Mexican, being terrorized by vigilantes.

Cesar Chavez also illustrated the feudal rule of the agricultural industrial complex consisting of growers interlocked with the institutions of law enforcement, politics, agencies of the state, and finance.

In fact, prior to the Grape Strike of 1965, citrus mogul Charles Collins Teague coordinated the resources of such interests in the creation of the Associated Farmers in the 1930s to bust unions.

This translated to a culture of violence inflicted on farmworker families that entailed grinding economic deprivation, substandard housing, the fragmented schooling of children, and work conditions that denied campesinos (fieldworkers) basic human rights such as free and clean drinking water and porta potties for men, women, and teenagers to relieve themselves.

Another scene of the movie depicted how helicopters hovered directly above the picket line of striking grape workers of the San Joaquin Valley. As picketers dispersed, Kern County law enforcement officers pursued them as they wielded their batons.

A similar event occurred in Ventura County, the community where I was born and raised and whose single-parent abuelita(grandma) from Batopilas Chihuahua in Mexico toiled in the strawberry fields of the Oxnard Plain with her three teenage daughters. She too was an activist of the la union de campesinos, the United Farm Workers AFL-CIO.

In 1974 over six hundred Ventura County strawberry workers joined Cesar’s UFW. Like the grape workers in Cesar Chavez, they went on strike to win a living wage and humane labor conditions.

As strawberry workers picketed one field in the suburb of El Rio, a Ventura County Sheriff helicopter hovered directly over them to break the protest line. When strikers allegedly threw rocks at the aircraft and defended themselves they were arrested and charged with felony and misdemeanor charges of assault and trespassing.

The use of the department helicopter to intimidate the strawberry strikers ceased only after a recently elected county supervisor of Irish Catholic descent made the demand to the sheriff.

In listening to the stories of farmworkers and their allies, the film poignantly shed light on this abuse. Therefore the film succeeded in exposing the exploitation inherent within industrialized agriculture and the collective struggle of people to overcome.

So the film is both inaccurate and is true.

It is the former because it is a commercial representation of a complex narrative embedded with the usual contradictions of history. For example, as Cesar Chavez depicted, farmworkers themselves were prone to violence. Indeed, Cesar embarked on a 25 day fast in 1968 to recommit his movement to nonviolence. He also admonished people not glorify farmworkers as they were people like everyone else.

At the same time, however, Cesar Chavez is true in its conveyance of a narrative of struggle and perseverance through the life of one person.

Que Viva Cesar Chavez!

Con Safos

Versions of this essay are posted in the following sites: Amigos805, ¡LatinoLa!, History News Network, and the Ventura County Star, Somos en escrito

Curious Unions: Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898-1961

University of Nebraska Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

Friday, January 24, 2014

To the Farm Worker in All of Us

With the National Football League playoffs decided and the approach of the final championship game on February 2nd, I am reminded of one Super Bowl XLVII commercial of last year. It was the fourth ranked, according to the NFL website, Chrysler Ram advertisement titled “To the Farmer in All of Us.”

As my son and I watched, deceased conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey recited his 1978 “So God Made a Farmer” paean as Ram trucks complemented avatars of Midwestern men, women, and children on presumed family farms. Imagery of cornfields, livestock, and the faces of weather-beaten cowboys valorized country life. Of the thirty-four slides a meager two contained people of color: an African American man sitting on the bed of a truck and a putative Latino son and mother before a produce stand.

The commercial raised my ire. Confused by my indignation, my boy asked why I was upset. I replied with the question, “Were the ‘farmers’ in the commercial what you see in the fields of the Oxnard Plain? After a reflective moment, my boy expressed his epiphany to the commercial’s fiction.

Like the majority of “farmers” in California, the people that labor in the fields, orchards, and vineyards of Ventura County don’t own the land; they earn a wage, are predominantly from Mexico and are, half the time, undocumented immigrants.

My parents, with immigrant origins from the Mexican states of Michoacán and Chihuahua, toiled in the “factories in the field” of fruits and vegetables as defined by Carey McWilliams, the paterfamilias of California History. And the dream that they held for their children was that we would not, someday, want to be “farmers.”

So the Chrysler Ram trailer is much more than an advertisement as it promotes an identity based on the Midwest region at the expense of people, living and dead, from different parts of the nation. (click to see Salvador Barajas's counter narrative "The Idea of Farmers")

Dating back to the mission era, California elites—whether they be missionaries, rancheros, or wheat barons—monopolized the land as lumpen classes of Native American, Asian, European, African, and Mexican origin people labored in the intense sun and bitter cold of agriculture.

Periodically, to improve their lot farm workers (composed of men, women, and children) collectively protested their station, sometimes successfully, for modest demands such as a living wage, water to drink, adequate shelter, and safe work conditions.

This occurred on the Oxnard Plain in 1903 when a coalition of Japanese and Mexican sugar beet workers and labor contractors formed the Japanese Mexican Labor Association. They resisted the attempt of a coterie of growers and financiers to slash the extant wage rate by fifty percent. The sugar beet barons also created the Western Agricultural Contracting Company to eliminate independent labor agents.

Despite the wealth and power of agribusiness, the JMLA enjoyed a victory against a class of employers that often pitted one ethnic group against another to undermine labor solidarity.

The omission of such events from our history preserves the Jeffersonian myth of the yeoman farmer as self-sufficient and individualistic.

Contrary to the yeoman legend, growers today belong to associations and bureaus to advance their interests as farming is big business. In fact, it has been so dating back to the early 19th century. For example, where I live the total value of agricultural production today, according to the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, approaches $2 billion, with the crops of strawberries and raspberries topping the list.

The people that own these prolific properties are not the ones involved in the cultivation of the land for wages near or below the poverty line of subsistence.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture the average annual income of crop farmworkers is $20,000. Sixty-eight percent of these workers come from Mexico; twenty-nine percent consist of people born in the US and Puerto Rico; the remaining three percent are from Central America and other countries.

But the Chrysler Super Bowl ad of last year veiled these realities from an audience seeking an escape from the anxiety filled actualities of modern life.

Indeed, the late US historian Richard Hofstadter argued in a 1956 American Heritage essay titled, “The Myth of the Happy Yeoman” that the more we find ourselves in an urbanized society the more powerful the fantasy of a fading agrarian ideal. Hofstadter also noted that since the early nineteenth century the market revolution of commerce and land speculation stoked the monetary passions of growers, not a spiritual devotion to the soil.

More recently, this nostalgic yearning has intensified as a demographic shift has emerged with an ever increasing number of people with origins like mine, from Mexico, and other parts of the world becoming the new majority. Chrysler might want to take note of this for its next Super Bowl commercial as non-Midwestern people, like “All of Us,” buy trucks too.

Con Safos

Versions of this essay were published by The Bakersfield Californian,History News Network, the Ventura County Star, Amigos805, and LatinoLa.