Chasing the Harvest: Migrant workers in California agriculture publish book

(L-R) Rosario (Chayo) Pelayo and Mario Bustamante speak during book reading in El Centro.

EL CENTRO – The publication of the book, Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture, was celebrated May 31 at the at home of former activists Gretchen Laue and Mario Bustamante. The book is a collection of stories from the perspective of California farmworkers about the evolution and impacts of labor laws,

The Laue/ Bustamante Ranch at one point served as a Bracero camp during the United Farm Workers movement.     

“I’m very pleased to host events like these at this house, to make it a part of the community so that everyone could partake in the goodness that this place radiates,”  Laue opened the event welcoming her guests.

Former farmworkers and activists Jose Saldivar, Beatriz Machiche, and Rosario (Chayo) Pelayo read passages from their experiences aloud to the silent living-room of listeners with the faces of the listeners intent on the readers.

Saldivar revisited moments during working experiences where the lack of wash areas forced workers to clean undergarments in canals that created potentially dangerous sanitary conditions.

“We teach those little ones that we are making the foundation for them so that one day they can be at the University,” Machiche proclaimed.  “We are the role models and the parents are the first teachers. I talk to parents to mold the minds of their kids.  There is nothing wrong with working in the fields – that’s is why I took on this mission to plant the seed that that there is something out there better for you, to go back to school, and that, si se puede!

Pelayo participated in various strikes and protest efforts during the migrant labor law reforms.

“Its an honor and a privilege to be her friend.  If I had worked with 5 people that have her same pride, a pride greater than that of 100 men, because she never backed down in the fight for the rights of all workers in the Union,” Machiche proudly introduced the final presenter Pelayo.

Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture was published by Voice of Witness whose mission is to advance human rights through oral history as informed by a Voice of Witness representative.

After the monologues, all guests were able to purchase a book for $25 and were invited to eat, meet with the writers, and dine on birria and fresh Mexican style fruit waters for refreshments.


  1. I’m sure the authors would be shocked to see what César Chávez’s heirs have done to the United Farm Workers union. The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which supports the UFW, admits that UFW has quit organizing in the fields, and that UFW represents less than 1 percent of California farmworkers. Even sadder from the point of César’s legacy, thousands of farmworkers in the Central Valley have been protesting against the abuses of the modern UFW.

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