Gleaning Stories, Gleaning Change

Portraits of Gleaners: Isabel and Francisca Corpus

Isabel & Francisca Corpus


Isabel & Francisca photo

Isabel Corpus first came gleaning in May of 2009. Both of her parents, an upholsterer and a seamstress, had worked in the fields earlier in their lives. They'd told Isabel about field work, but she wanted to experience it for herself.

Two weeks later, she encouraged her mother, Francisca, to glean as well. I talked with both of them in the field and recorded the conversations they had with me and with each other.

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Isabel's First Glean

When Isabel first came gleaning, she told me her parents had both told her that field work was hard, but that they'd enjoyed being outside instead of in an office. She was curious and wondered if she'd like working in a field.

Cesar Chavez

Isabel's parents admire Cesar Chavez and had told her what Chavez accomplished with the farm workers. Gleaning in an organic field, Isabel remembered her father saying that Chavez had urged farmers to go organic.

Gleaning Brings Back Memories

Two weeks later, when Isabel got her mother Francisca to come gleaning, Francisca told her that this was more fun than working in the fields day in and day out. Nonetheless, gleaning brought back memories ... of hard work and little money.

Strawberries vs Celery

Picking strawberries was punishing on the body and required preparing the berries for store display right in the field. Working in a celery nursery was much easier.

Understanding Mom

Francisca was surprised that Isabel liked gleaning and can see that Isabel now understands her mother's stories in a new way.

Francisca's Childhood

Francisca came to the U.S. with her father and her sisters. Her mother had died and the whole family had had to work. Only after working in the fields and then the canneries in the Watsonville area did she finally have a chance to go to school, but then went right back to field work.

What Should Workers Be Paid?

Isabel said that she was struck by how hard her mother worked compared to her field supervisors and how little she was paid. Francisca described working all day in the strawberry fields for less than five dollars. Hourly work was much better than being paid by the box. Mother and daughter speculated on what farm workers should get paid.

Shopping: Francisca

I asked Francisca if she shops for food differently from someone who hasn't worked in the fields.

Shopping: Isabel

A similar question got a different answer from Isabel, who now thinks about the work behind her food.


Isabel and Francesca Corpus's story "Work & Pay, Then & Now"

rss feed "Work & Pay, Then & Now"

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