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September 3, 2006
8:38 AM   Subscribe

"Everything is foggy. Everything is not clear. He was alive when we got to the other side. And now I have brought him back dead. Whatever hopes we had, that's where they ended."
The Summer of the Death of Hilario Guzman (BugMeNot)
posted by matteo (13 comments total)

 
One by one, they've harvested California's crops: Chinese and Japanese, Armenians and Punjabis, Okies and Mexicans and more. And one by one, they've been followed down the rows—by artists and journalists and documentarians, all with cameras at the ready.

"Virtually every California photographer of consequence" has taken to the fields, notes historian Richard Steven Street.

"So alluring are farmworkers as subjects," Street adds, "that they have attracted the attention" of an amazing array of talent: masters of landscape such as Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins; famed commercial photographer Max Yavno; Dorothea Lange and Horace Bristol; Joe Rosenthal, who snapped the indelible image of U.S. troops raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima; The Times' Don Bartletti; even Richard Avedon.

I'm convinced that another name will be added to this pantheon someday, if it hasn't been already: Matt Black"
From Dust to Dust, by Matt Black
posted by matteo at 8:41 AM on September 3, 2006


Still, he conceded, a good many would never get the hang of it, never make the minimum wage. This was his bind. If he paid the minimum wage instead of piece rate, he'd go broke paying $6.75 an hour to workers who barely filled 100 trays. If he stayed with the piece rate but fired all those who didn't tally $6.75 an hour, he'd have to let go dozens of them. How would they survive? Wasn't a job that paid $30 or $40 a day better than nothing?

Hmm...
posted by delmoi at 9:49 AM on September 3, 2006


If I mentioned that the greatest tragedy in this pantheon of tragedies is that he had so many children, a situation that was entirely of his own making & completely preventable, I'm pretty sure I'd be set on fire by the liberal brigade.
posted by jonson at 10:18 AM on September 3, 2006


If I mentioned that the greatest tragedy in this pantheon of tragedies is that he had so many children, a situation that was entirely of his own making & completely preventable, I'm pretty sure I'd be set on fire by the liberal brigade.

Maybe you would. But would you deserve such a fate for obviously not reading the whole article? I mean first of all he certainly didn't die because he had too many kids. And secondly his financial problems weren't caused by having too many children either. If you'd read the article you'd see that pretty clearly.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on September 3, 2006


"You needed that job," an announcer says. "And you were the best qualified. But they gave it to an illegal alien — so they could pay him under the table. … These illegals pay no taxes, but take our jobs and our government handouts. Then spit in our face. And burn our flag...
posted by taosbat at 10:59 AM on September 3, 2006


The actual structural problem, one of them, in this situation is the village requirement that people come home every year and do some community service, or else lose their land. This is similar to property taxes but it requires that the people travel back and forth, paying a coyote thousands of dollars each time. If the village changed the rules to allow farm workers to send money rather then doing labor themselves, much of the families hardships would have been avoided.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 AM on September 3, 2006


...this valley was luring people to its fields with a promise it could no longer fulfill. My grandfather, working alongside his mother, brother and sister, had gone from a fruit tramp to a farmer in four seasons. There was no way that even the most efficient farm-worker family pinching pennies in the most severe way could ever hope to do that today.
posted by taosbat at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2006


delmoi - what makes you think I didn't read the article? Nothing I said implied his children caused his death, nor that they were the root cause of his financial problems. It's merely compounding tragedy that a man beset by financial difficulty would choose to visit that difficulty on another generation.
posted by jonson at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2006


I, too, don't think you read it very closely, jonson:

...I looked over at the young Oaxacan translator who was sitting in the passenger seat next to me. She was an 18-year-old migrant named Norma Ventura who had come to the San Joaquin Valley as a child and saw much of herself in 10-year-old Ramiro. She had grown up following the same harvests, lived through the same deprivations, and now was the valedictorian of her senior class at Kerman High.

"What do you make of my ramblings?" I asked. "They sound good in the abstract."

"I have one question," she said. "If such a program existed back then, would it have kept a child like me from coming here?"

"Yes."

"Stuck in Oaxaca," she said, considering the notion. "I wouldn't have the opportunities I have now. I wouldn't be the same person."

...

Yes, a part of her would always look back to Oaxaca, she said. And maybe when she got older she would live a two-world life. But for now, she was following the footsteps of her sister and heading to college at UC San Diego.

posted by taosbat at 12:05 PM on September 3, 2006


[H]e had never made the minimum wage, never picked more than 250 trays, $50, in a 10-hour day. [...] He didn't tell them he had been drinking all night and woke up drunk. Later they would hear the story that he went straight from the vineyard to a liquor store near Fresno and drank some more. [...] [H]is '93 Ford Escort began to veer, first to the vineyard on his right and then to the alfalfa field on his left. He tried to slow down but the car hit a dirt embankment, bucked and flipped, and he flew out the window and through the air, landing on his head.

...first of all he certainly didn't die because he had too many kids. And secondly his financial problems weren't caused by having too many children either.

But he did die because he chose to get drunk, then drunker, and then endanger the lives of others by driving drunk. Fortunately, he only killed himself. And secondly, if he's never made more than $50 a day, how does blowing his already-meager earnings on alcohol help him or his family financially?

The story does its job, though, and elicits some empathy for the plight Guzman's family and that of the migrant worker community in general. But as far as Hilario Guzman goes, it doesn't matter if he was legal or not; brown, black, white or paisley; married with 23 children and another 3 on the way or not -- good riddance... he's one less drunk on the road to kill me or my family.
posted by CodeBaloo at 2:54 PM on September 3, 2006


CodeBaloo: "But as far as Hilario Guzman goes, it doesn't matter if he was legal or not; brown, black, white or paisley; married with 23 children and another 3 on the way or not -- good riddance... he's one less drunk on the road to kill me or my family."

I'm sorry, but that's the most idiotic attitude toward drunk driving I've ever heard. What's more, I think you're being a little disingenuous. Are you really recommending summary execution for drunk driving? If you aren't, and you don't really think death of drunk drivers is universally and absolutely a 'good riddance,' then maybe you oughtn't say it. Especially in a thread discussing a completely different but similarly provocative subject.

posted by koeselitz at 4:08 PM on September 3, 2006


Koeselitz -- I mean exactly what I wrote: good riddance... that's one less drunk on the road endangering everyone else. I have absolutely zero sympathy for a drunk drivers that kill themselves. Instead of a ditchbank causing his car to flip, he could just as easily have hit and killed a pedestrian, or hit another vehicle and killed an occupant or two. Sucks doubly for Guzman's family, though, and I feel bad for them. Not only did Guzman's selfishness and stupidity deprive them of a husband, son, and father, but also deprived them of his potential future income.
posted by CodeBaloo at 5:39 PM on September 3, 2006


There's a big difference between being happy someone's mistakes only killed themselves, and "recommending summary execution".
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:10 PM on September 3, 2006


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