By Rose Green-Flores, a reflection after NFWM’s May trip with LUPE
There is power in community. This was evident throughout NFWM’s recent educational and filming trip to the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas, where La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) is located. Early one morning in the fields, we witnessed a poderosa crew leader take a stand against the self-appointed field supervisor who was disrespectful and callous to her and one of the farm workers on her crew. The supervisor wanted to display his authority and demanded the worker leave for some arbitrary reason. He spoke in a cruel and vulgar way that didn’t recognize the dignity of the worker and repeated this manner of speaking to the crew leader. The crew leader, who was the only female working, walked off the field, followed by her crew. Even though this was a guaranteed day of work, this act of solidarity was more important overall. They demonstrated their refusal to be treated with anything less than civility. They were stronger together.
Our visit with LUPE started with a brief interview with one of their community organizers, Elizabeth Rodriguez Marquez, in the early morning next to a field of cantaloupes. We are grateful to Elizabeth and LUPE’s communications coordinator, Ramiro Gonzalez, who organized all our interviews and experiences during our trip. I encourage you to read the beautiful reflection Ramiro wrote about his conversations and experiences with farm workers during our filming. During our two days, we filmed five interviews, and the video crew got plenty of B-roll footage of the fields and farm workers performing various tasks. You will have a chance to see this work next year in the video for Harvest of Justice 2024. The theme is immigration issues for farm workers and the need for reform. Stay tuned for our resources.
As we listened to the interviews and stories from LUPE staff, we heard about the community coming together to support one another and make lasting changes. The 8,000 members of LUPE rely on and value the free or low-cost services available to them across multiple offices in the Rio Grande Valley. Workers shared experiences in which they utilized LUPE’s workers’ rights services and were able to recover unpaid wages. We also heard about workers who were helped after they had been unfairly terminated. Being in fellowship with LUPE, we were reminded how vital it is for farm workers and their communities to have organizations they trust and can turn to in their time of need. The LUPE community is not only standing together for labor rights advocacy — they are also creating and winning campaigns around public street lighting, health care, and more. There is power in community, and together they are transforming South Texas.
We want to feature South Texas in our video about immigration to uplift the work of LUPE and to highlight this community’s unique challenges and benefits of being on the southern border. We stood next to the border wall in Brownsville and looked across into Mexico as community organizations came together on May 23rd to hold a vigil for Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, an eight-year-old girl of Honduran parents who died while in border custody in Harlingen, TX. Attendees demanded justice for Anadith and others who died of preventable deaths while in border custody. Speakers addressed the crowd about the need for immigration reform and policies that recognize the humanity of the migrants who are seeking better lives on United States soil.
Being in South Texas with LUPE, we were continuously reminded of the importance of working together for justice. That change happens when we stand together. We can be a nation that celebrates and embraces immigrants. A nation that acknowledges previous insurmountable barriers that impeded many from the Global South to become residents and citizens. A nation that recognizes our current immigration policy is inadequate and leaves many farm workers vulnerable to abuse, substandard working conditions, and depressed wages. There is power in community, and together we will have an even louder voice in demanding Congress finally provide a reasonable path to citizenship. Take action today and join farm worker groups and NFWM in our campaign for immigration reform