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View Diary: Overnight News Digest -- "Lies and Skinny Mice" Edition (42 comments)

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  •  "They think we’re like Pancho Villa" (12+ / 0-)

    Santa Fe Reporter: Hard Harvest: Picking New Mexico's green chile is no picnic

    The first workers start getting up a little past midnight to prepare for another day in “el field.” About 100 men sleep on the floor of the rooms and hallways in the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project shelter in El Paso.

    The place is crowded and smells of stale sweat and onions, one of the crops they’ve been harvesting. Two or three women sleep in a small alcove off the reception area, sharing their cramped space with a water fountain. Most people sleep on a thin mat or a blanket spread out on the linoleum, spending the night in the clothes they worked in the day before.

    All through the early morning, workers awaken, quietly stow their bedding and possessions, and get ready to go again. They fill their water bottles, stuff some food in their backpacks and head out. Then they walk the six blocks to El Paso Street and wait for a ride to the chile fields of New Mexico.

    Last season, just under 78,000 tons of chile were harvested in New Mexico, with about three quarters of that coming from Luna and Doña Ana counties near the southwestern bootheel. While the annual pepper harvest is worth $65 million, according to the US Department of Agriculture, the real economic impact is much greater.

    Although the chiles they pick are highly esteemed by New Mexicans and chile aficionados nationwide, workers know that they themselves often are not.

    “They think we’re like Pancho Villa and will attack them,” says Armado Martínez, a dapper 65-year-old worker with silver hair and a well-trimmed moustache. “They think we are bad people, but we make all the harvests. If there were no Mexicans, they would lose all their vegetables. We do all the harvests in the US, but still, they do not want Mexicans here.”

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