ARTIST'S STATEMENT, 1997
Welcome to the 90's, where American corporations initiated NAFTA
to export work in order to bypass environmental and labor laws in
the U.S. Now we get to see the abject working conditions imposed
by American owned maquiladoras along the border zone, where workers
are paid an average of 38 pesos ($5) per day and are exposed to
toxic contaminants at a life-threatening rate. (1) The first year
of NAFTA, in just one maquiladora zone in Tijuana, 6 children were
born without brains, in the second 13 children were born without
brains, subsequently, the gathering of these statistics was prohibited.
Unlike factories and assembly lines, farm work itself is an activity
tied to land. As land cannot be exported, agribusiness has created
their own "Third World" islands in the U.S. which are
conveniently populated by scapegoated documented and undocumented
migrant workers. Strawberry workers in particular work 12 hours
a day, with no sanitary facilities, bent over and stooping, in fields
contaminated with methyl bromide, a "Category I acute toxin"
(3) . They suffer from parasitic infections at a rate twenty times
more than an average American worker, with fatal injuries ten times
more common than among other American workers. Their life expectancy
is 49 years.
My question in "Home Grown: Fields of Califas," is are
Americans willing to accept this level of human sacrifice for a
cheap package of strawberries? Are they willing to ignore corporate
abuses that lead to a death rate two decades lower than the average,
and abysmal living and working conditions, for cheaper more perfect
fruits and vegetables?
Does the average American know that with another 5 cents per basket
of strawberries, you can improve the working conditions and living
standards of strawberry workers right now? That is 5 cents for fairness.
Do they care?
1. "Rebellion on the Border"; David Bacon; SF Bay Guardian;
3/5/97; p. 19
2. ibid, p. 18. In that zone, lead and heavy metal deposits have
been measured in the soil at concentrations 40,000 times above safe
3. A Category I acute toxin is the most deadly category of substances.
"Political Economy of Agriculture in Transition"; UC Berkeley;
4. "Major Push for Strawberry Workers"; Barb Kucerra;
Labor Report on the Americas; 3/97, p.4
For information on pesticides, visit the environmental group's
website at: www.ewg.org