By Blake Daniel, Duke Divinity Intern
We pulled up to the ramshackle farmhouse in the boondocks of North Carolina just as the sun was setting. I took stock of the rural imagery as we parked and got out of the car. This sunset is beautiful, I thought – yet my thoughts quickly ran to the farm workers whom we were preparing to visit: Each sunset merely concludes a day of sweltering summer heat. And what beautiful farmland! But would I like to work this farmland on my hands and knees twelve hours a day, six days a week? Indeed, much of the bucolic setting comes at the expense of unrewarded human labor. I couldn’t help but think, How much of this soil has blood in it?
Thankfully my cascading thoughts were diverted as we padded our way onto the front porch of the house. Both curious and cautious, we knocked on the trim of the screen door and peered through the mesh. A smiling face quickly appeared and greeted us warmly in Spanish. Alex’s disposition changed immediately as she recognized Luis, a farm worker from Veracruz, Mexico with kind eyes and a gentle presence. Luis ushered us inside and introduced us to his two coworkers and housemates, who are also from Veracruz and, like Luis, are working in North Carolina as part of the government’s H2A guest worker program.
For ninety minutes, we – Alex, Lauren, and myself – sat in the front room of this old farmhouse, beneath one exposed lightbulb and amidst stifling humidity, and we told stories. Sometimes our stories were of lighter fare – our thoughts on the World Cup, for instance, or on the awkwardness of learning another language – and sometimes our stories focused on more serious issues, like immigration reform and the recent death of a farm worker friend. Since my Spanish is pretty rusty, I spent most of the time listening.