Alma is an undocumented migrant from San Martin Peras in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the age of 14, she left a life of poverty and hunger in order to survive. She now lives in Watsonville, California.
Immigrant farmworkers make up approximately 73% of agriculture workers, with a majority of agriculture output from California, according to the USDA. Alma has been a farmworker in California for over 15 years.
She shares her first-hand experience traveling into the country to work. This is her story.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
“Oaxaca is a very poor place, and there were not many things to eat because there is no money. There is no work there, and there, we planted milpa and pigweed. There wasn’t much else to eat besides that.
I was a little girl and we didn't have many clothes or shoes. When I was 14 years old, I decided to come here because children’s life was very sad there. I travelled with my brother.
The first time I came, it was raining a lot, so we were walking in mud and our clothes were very wet, so we walked and we arrived. We almost made it to where we were going to get to catch a ride to get here to California, and migration caught us and threw us back and so we went back again.
We met the one who crosses the people in the desert, and we decided to come with him. Fifty or 40, yeah, there were a lot of us.
From there, the coyote, he took us there in the desert, and we walked three nights and three days, and during the day, we rested and at night we walked. Many people get tired and die in the desert. I saw human hair and human bones.
We felt tired, we were hungry, and very thirsty too, because we didn't bring much water.
We arrived in Arizona.
From there, the van came to pick us up. We were like more than 20 people that got on that van.
We were packed on top of each other and there are people who are bigger than us and they are heavy, so when we got there, we had a lot of pain in our feet, we had blisters, like pus inside our feet.
I think it was more than 5 hours. I arrived in Oxnard, and from there, they brought me to Watsonville.
Yes, we felt— the first thing was mostly sadness. Leaving my family, like mom, it's very sad to remember. It's very sad to remember that, but for us it was very difficult to get out our village and walk in the desert, and we got there.
When I started working I was able to help my mother. I was able to send her a little bit of money.
I've been here for more than 15 years and I couldn't see my mom again because she died. It's been a long time since I could see her, and she died.
The hope I have is that someday they will give us papers so we can go back to Oaxaca to see my dad because my dad is still alive, and that is the hope I have. That is my hope.
My name is Alma and I am a farmworker.