Thursday, September 9, 2021


Photoessay by David Bacon, Rick Reinhard, Jim West, Meg Handler and Najib Joe Hakim
The Nation, 9/9/21

These photos from 20 years ago remind us that resistance to the war began even before the war itself.

The U.S. is finally bringing its troops home, after 20 years of imperial intervention. But they leave Afghanistan a deeply war-wounded country, its cities in ruins and hundreds of thousands of its people in graves.  

Almost no one calls for the troops to stay, but media coverage often overlooks that the war was always unpopular.  From the beginning thousands of people in U.S. cities went into the streets to call for it to stop.  

Nevertheless, despite grassroots opposition, Congress was eager to go to war in 2001.  East Bay Representative Barbara Lee was the only vote against authorizing it - Joint Resolution 64 - passed three days after the planes flew into the World Trade Center.  Congress provided the justification and administrations, both Republican and Democratic, used it for two decades of invasions from Somalia to Syria and Iraq.  

By October government attacks on U.S. Muslims had already begun, with illegal roundups and imprisonment in hastily organized "detention centers."  Around the country demonstrations condemned the racist raids, while government repression legitimized a broad wave of anti-Muslim attacks.  

The first marches followed Congress' vote by just two weeks, at the end of September.  More followed after the U.S. started bombing Kabul at the beginning of its Afghan invasion.

People protesting the war in Afghanistan quickly linked it to U.S. mideast policy in general.  Marchers opposed both the Afghan war and Israel's military offensive in the occupied territories during the second intifada, "Operation Shield Wall."

Protestors linked the Afghan war to social cost of the enormous military budget, while banners announced that "another world is possible" - an enduring theme during the following years of protests.

These photographs are evidence that opposing the Afghan war started as soon as the war did.  Those protests may not have been as widespread as those opposing the war in Vietnam, but they played their part.  

Yet wars and militarization are still with us.  Some of the children brought to those first marches in their strollers are now young activists in their 20s.  A whole generation grew up protesting this war.

To see the full selection at The Nation website, click here

Monday, August 30, 2021


By David Bacon
Foreign Policy in Focus | August 30, 2021

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the main speaker at the rally of over 200,000 people who marched up Market Street in San Francisco to protest the Bush administration's war on terror and threatened invasion of Iraq. (David Bacon)

Many in the U.S. media continue to credit the good intentions of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, while belaboring its failure over 20 years to achieve any of them.  But to say that the United States wanted a progressive, liberal democratic, and secular government in Afghanistan can only be believed by those who refuse to remember what Washington did when Kabul actually had one.

In the days following the attacks on September 11, the United States was called on to declare war against an enemy those in Congress who voted for it couldn't even name.  Policymakers asked American citizens to sacrifice civil liberties for security and give the military money that was so desperately needed to solve the country's social problems.

Congress did those things with only one dissenting vote: Barbara Lee's. Now it's time to look at historical truth, to understand how the United States got this 20-year war, with its ignominious end at the Kabul airport, and how the overarching framework of U.S. policy was responsible for creating it.

Other countries facing similar traumatic changes wrenching them from the past have pioneered a way to examine their own history. El Salvador, Guatemala, South Africa, and elsewhere established truth commissions to probe into and acknowledge each country's real history.  Such public acknowledgement is a necessary step towards change.

The United States is no stranger to this process. After the end of the Vietnam War (or the American War, as the Vietnamese call it), Senator Frank Church held watershed hearings that brought some of the Cold War's ghosts to public attention. But the process was cut short, the policies responsible for Cold War atrocities never fully questioned, and as a result, the ghosts were never laid to rest. Those ghosts still haunt the United States, and in Afghanistan hundreds of thousands died for them.

The massive social upheaval at home following the Vietnam War- and the deaths of over a million Vietnamese and 40,000 US soldiers-forced Senator Church's examination. Before the people of this and other countries pay a similar price in yet another war, the United States need to reexamine that history.

The roots of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington lie in the Cold War.  Without truly ending it and untangling its consequences, there will be no security for us.

The groups accused of responsibility for the attacks of September, which set off the most recent Afghan war, have roots in the forces assembled in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. That much, at least, has become openly discussed. But why did Washington seek to bring these forces together, including Osama bin Laden, then an upper-class Saudi youth?

In the 1970s, a moderately reformist government came to power in Afghanistan, a leftwing populist movement seeking to democratize Afghan society. It mounted literacy campaigns and built schools and clinics in rural areas. It sought to end restrictions on women in education and employment, and discouraged the use of the purdah, a practice that separated men from women and veiled the latter. It talked, although often little more than that, about land reform.

That was enough to earn it the enmity of traditional elements of Afghan society, which began organizing armed attacks on government officials, literacy workers, and people associated with the values the government promoted. Perhaps in another era, Afghans themselves might have resolved those internal conflicts. The forces of right-wing religious extremism might not have come out the better for it.

But Afghanistan's common border and friendly relationship with the Soviet Union made it an attractive target for Cold War destabilization. British and U.S. intelligence agencies funneled money through the Pakistani intelligence service to groups opposing the government. When real civil conflict broke out, the Afghan government appealed for Soviet military help, and the war was on.

From that point forward, the United States spent more money building training camps for the fundamentalist forces and supplying them guns and missiles than it spent in the contra war in Nicaragua and the counterinsurgency in El Salvador combined. U.S. intelligence services dreamed of extending that war into Soviet Central Asia itself. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the conflict did in fact spread north.

Those who wanted a secular Afghanistan, social progress, and justice for its citizens were murdered or driven into exile or silence. Meanwhile, military leaders bent on using Soviet troops to pursue their side of the civil war replaced reformers.

U.S. aid fueled a philosophical movement that combined conservative religious doctrine with nationalism. Having defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, this movement eventually turned against the United States, as people that U.S. intelligence agencies previously considered "assets" began using weapons originally supplied by the U.S. government. This effort was fueled by the huge U.S. military presence in the Mideast and the oil interests it protects, its support for Israel, and the sanctions and subsequent war against Iraq.

What questions, then, would a truth commission ask, arising from the current tragedy of Afghanistan?

Was a policy bent on destabilizing the Soviet Union sufficient justification for the U.S. decision to support a war against a government that shared more professed U.S. values than the mujahideen that Washington financed? Will the national security advisors who made that decision now answer for its consequences?

In a supposedly post-Cold War world, the military interventions that characterized Cold War policy are far from over. This policy was basically unchanged in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, Colombia and elsewhere.

And behind the soldiers and the guns, whose interests are being defended?  Are we supporting those in other countries seeking social equality and social justice, or those fighting against them?

For the countries which have served as battlegrounds, like El Salvador, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan itself, what must be done to repair the damage of those decades and help create stable societies that function for the benefit of the vast majority of their citizens?

The United States could help to rebuild Afghanistan, after having bombed the country back to the Stone Age (to use the old Cold War idiom). Instead, it is now washing its hands of Afghanistan and leaving.

Similarly, Washington could end support for free-market policies that impose poverty on millions of people.  Our country's soldiers and bombs are the enforcers in that system of poverty and exploitation, as Marine General Smedley Butler admitted almost a century ago.

But Washington shows no signs of shifting course. Unless we, as people, face the truth and demand change, both Democratic and Republican governments are set to continue the Cold War's history of military intervention, with all the destruction and economic inequality that they entail.

Thursday, August 12, 2021


The Reality for Many H-2A Farmworkers
Photoessay by David Bacon
The Nation, 8/13/2

In November of 2020 Roberto arrived in California's San Joaquin Valley to pick oranges, tangerines and lemons for Porterville Citrus, a large grower.  He'd been hired in Veracruz, Mexico, by a recruiter for Fresh Harvest, a labor contractor who brings workers to the U.S. every year under the H-2A temporary visa program.

"We were being paid by the hour, but they put production quotas on us and continually demanded more," he said in an interview in May.  "They said we'd be fired and put on a blacklist if we didn't meet the quota.  In the oranges, we had to fill a bin every hour.  If there was a lot of fruit in the trees, we had to fill it every 45 minutes, or even every half hour."

Roberto's experience is not unique.  Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor gave certifications to California growers, allowing them to bring in about 25,000 H-2A workers.  This year many of those workers are laboring in the extreme heat wave in the San Joaquin Valley, where temperatures rise to over 110 degrees by early afternoon.

People keep working in the heat motivated by fear and economic necessity.  "We all come from marginalized communities in Mexico where there's no work," Roberto explained.  "It's easy for the company to take advantage of our need."  In his crew of 45 pickers, eight were fired in six months for not meeting the quota.  "It was completely exhausting," he said.  "The food the company gave us wasn't enough and we were tired all the time."  

Like most of the H-2A workers I've interviewed, Roberto asked me not to use his real name.  "All the people I work with are afraid of reprisals if we speak up.  We can be fired at any time.  The company tells us we can't come back the next year if we don't do what they want."

Roberto was housed, along with several hundred other H-2A workers, at the Palm Tree Inn, a rundown motel by the freeway in Porterville.  "Some of us were living 3-4 people in one room," he said "and there are rooms with as many as 8 or 10.  In the van or bus going to and from work we're crowded like sardines.  During the pandemic we've been very worried about it."

On May 28 he and over two dozen other workers stood in the motel's parking lot, demanding to meet with the contractor who'd hired them.  Their work contracts and visas had expired, and they feared returning to Mexico without their final paychecks.  "It wasn't the first time they didn't pay us on time," Roberto charged.  After local activists, and even a Porterville city councilman and the mayor of nearby Delano, joined them, the company handed out their paychecks and most headed home.

The photographs in this series are an effort to show visually the reality Roberto described.  Some show the work process of two other crews of H-2A workers, hired by a different contractor.  Others show the Palm Tree Inn and other motels where they live.  Since the number of workers brought to California by growers increases by thousands every year, we need a better understanding of their true situation.  Roberto's story and the photographs are a part of that picture.



Farmworkers brought to the U.S. in the H-2A visa program harvest melons early in the morning in a field near Huron, in the San Joaquin Valley.  They cut the melons from the vines, and toss them onto a conveyor belt that leads to a platform where other workers pack the melons into boxes.  This system replaces the earlier system, in which workers tossed, caught and packed melons with their hands, which was easier on the fruit than a more mechanized process.

These H-2A workers have been brought to California by Rancho Nuevo Harvesting, which contracts crews of H-2A workers to growers throughout California.  This field belongs to the Fisher family, which contracts with Rancho Nuevo to harvest it.  Fisher uses a mechanized harvester, called a "Melonator" for ten percent of his melon crop.  The rest is picked by local workers or those employed by H-2A contactors.

Fisher says he has developed melon varieties that stand up to the machine harvesting process.  But according to Hank Giclas, senior vice president for science and technology at the Western Growers Association, "These workers are skilled workers and the product is a delicate product."


The temperature at the time, about 9 in the morning, was over 95 degrees, and would reach over 110 in the afternoon.  Workers said they would put in eight hours, which would have had them stop at 1:30.

The workers in the two crews in the Fisher field are Cora indigenous people, recruited from the Mexican state of Nayarit.  These photographs were taken on their second day of work in the U.S. and they were not yet accustomed to the heat.  The Cora live in a mountainous region where the climate is cool, and often even cold.  According to a man cutting melons next to the machine, one worker began to bleed from his nose the day before, on his first day working in the heat.

Workers on the machine pack melons into boxes with the "KingFisher" label.  The label marks produce from the ranches of the Fisher family, one of California's largest melon growers.

Bart Fisher has claimed that a shortage of farmworkers is driving up labor costs.  His costs are also increasing, he says, because California legislation, fought for by the United Farm Workers, now requires that growers pay overtime after 40 hours. "We're marching toward an 8-hour workday and $15 an hour.  It's just going to make us noncompetitive," he told the Desert Sun.

The conveyor belt and the loader assembly are parts of a mechanized system, the Melonator, intended to supplant much of hand labor in melon harvesting. Grower Bart Fisher says that when an additional assembly is added to replace the pickers themselves, the machine only needs seven people to do a job that now requires the 30 people in the H-2A crew.


As the machine moves through the field, at the end of the conveyor belt the melons are loaded into a large hopper on a trailer dragged by a tractor.

Farmworkers brought to the U.S. in the H-2A visa program are housed by the labor contractor Jim Hernandez at the Travelodge Motel in Los Banos, in the San Joaquin Valley.  Jose Diaz Solano is a welder, originally from Jalisco, who is welding bunk bed frames so that the contractor can increase the number of workers sleeping in each motel room from 3 to 4.

The H-2A workers at the Travelodge Motel get their meals at the taco truck in the motel parking lot.

"We were kept in the Palm Tree Inn," said Roberto, "which is in very bad condition."  
The H-2A farmworkers working for Porterville Citrus were housed by the labor contractor Fresh Harvest at that motel in Porterville.  

Some rooms in the Palm Tree Inn have notices on the windows saying they've been decontaminated and/or disinfected.  The Material Safety Data Sheet says the chemical used is Aqua Systems' Quat Sanitizer II, "a quaternary ammonium product proven to be effective for sanitizing work areas and equipment against a multitude of virus and bacteria, to specifically include COVID-19."



The Palm Tree Inn is an old motel.  It received terrible reviews on websites like Yelp until Fresh Harvest took over its rooms to house its H-2A crews.  After the controversy over unpaid wages, and the expiration of the contracts for the last workers, the motel appeared vacant.  There are many other rundown motels like it across the San Joaquin Valley, however, and they are quickly being taken over as housing by H-2A contractors.


According to Mari Perez and Art Rodriguez, organizers for the Central Valley Empowerment Alliance, when they went to the Palm Tree Inn to talk with workers, Fresh Harvest guards threw them off the property.  Other farmworker advocacy organizations also charge that labor contractors refuse public access to motel residences for H-2A workers.

The farmworkers in the Fisher melon field, brought to the U.S. in the H-2A visa program by the labor contractor Rancho Nuevo Harvesting, are housed at the Encino Motel in Huron.  

Some H-2A farmworkers are housed by growers on their own property.  Peri and Sons, a large grower, has built barracks on its remote ranch near Firebaugh, in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021


Photoessay by David BacoN
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, August 3, 2021

Priciliano Silva - All photos by David Bacon

According to Dr. Jessica Hernandez, a Zapotec scholar and board member of Sustainable Seattle, "indigenous peoples are the first impacted by climate change."  She points to the fate of the small municipality of San Pablo Tijaltepec, high in the Sierra Mixteca of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico: "Accelerated changes to our climate due to urbanization, fossil fuel industry, etc. continues to result in devastating impacts. The heavy rains that have recently taken place in Oaxaca, Mexico, have destroyed many of the harvests Indigenous peoples depend on. For the pueblo San Pablo Tijaltepec, their milpas [corn fields] were completely destroyed. This leaves 800 Mixtec families without the communal harvest they all depend on."

Losing the milpas and harvest is a blow that falls on people already having a hard time surviving.  The Mexican government says family income in the municipality averages about $500/month, leaving half its residents in extreme poverty.  In 2020 only an eighth of San Pablo Tijaltepec had access to a sewage system, and over a tenth had no electricity.  The region's Mixteco-speaking people have been leaving and searching for work for decades as a result, joining the 400,000 who leave Oaxaca for northern Mexico and the U.S. every year.

In California's southern San Joaquin Valley, the most productive agricultural region of the world, people from San Pablo Tijaltepec have created a new home, an extension of their Oaxacan community, in the small town of Taft.  For over two decades they've worked as farmworkers in the surrounding fields.  Here, instead of torrential rains, they face another environmental danger - the summer's heat, which can rise to over 110 degrees in July and August.

The connection between climate change and increasing summer temperatures has been dramatized by the "heat dome" that covered the Pacific Northwest in July, leading to similar temperatures in a region accustomed to lesser heat.  Portland had a high of 116 degrees.  In the nearby Willamette Valley one farmworker, Sebastian Francisco Perez, died as he continued to work in the heat, moving irrigation pipes, in order to pay a debt to a "coyote" who'd smuggled him across the border.  Scientists, and even President Biden, attributed the heat dome to climate change and its associated drought.

In the southern San Joaquin Valley town of Poplar, extreme heat in the summer is the normal condition in which people live and work.  It is one of the poorest communities in the state.  Air conditioning in trailer homes or crowded houses normally consists of old swamp coolers, which hardly lower temperatures.   At work people bundle up, using layers of clothing to insulate against heat and dust.  

Poplar's families are almost all immigrants or their children, who have traveled here from other parts of Mexico, or have crossed the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines.  Many now are older people, long accustomed to the heat.  Yet for them the danger is greater as they get older.  Some already have health conditions springing from poverty and the hard conditions in the fields.  "In extreme heat, the body must work extra hard to maintain a healthy temperature," cautions health journalist Liz Seegert.  "Older adults are at higher risk for heat stroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and other serious health issues due to poorer circulation and less effective sweating that comes with aging."

This rural poverty of the southern San Joaquin stands in stark contrast to the enormous wealth the labor of its people produce.  Poplar's Tulare County produced $7.2 billion in fruit, nuts and vegetables last year.  Yet the average income of a county resident is $17,888 per year, compared to a U.S. average of $28,555, and 123,000 of Tulare's 453,000 residents live below the poverty line.  Poverty forced farmworkers to continue working during the pandemic.  Tulare County's COVID-19 infection rate was much greater, per capita, than large cities.  A year ago Tulare had 7,603 confirmed cases, and 168 deaths.   Heavily urban Alameda County had 9,411 confirmed cases and 167 deaths.  But Alameda County's population is 1.67 million, over three times that of Tulare County.

These farmworker communities have fewer resources, but they are creative and resilient.  Poplar's Larry Itliong Resource Center holds vaccination clinics and campaigns for a park where people can find shade in the heat. Legal aid workers in Taft provide counseling about labor and tenant rights in indigenous languages like Mixteco.  A history of farm labor activism in the San Joaquin Valley stretches back to the great grape strike of 1965, led by Larry Itliong, for whom the Poplar center is named, as well as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and others.

Rosalinda Guillen, director of the women-led farmworker organization Community to Community in Washington State, condemns the system of corporate agriculture for treating farm workers as disposable.  "The nation's farmworkers," she says, "should be recognized as a valuable skilled workforce, able to use their knowledge to innovate sustainable practices.  Most are indigenous immigrants, and have the right to maintain cultural traditions and languages, and to participate with their multicultural neighbors in building a better America."

These photographs are a reality check, showing the lives of these communities of the southern San Joaquin Valley as they deal with the impact of climate change, poverty and displacement.


ARVIN, CA - Priciliano Silva is an immigrant from San Pablo Tijaltepec.  He works as an irrigator, cleaning the irrigation ditch next to a field that will be planted with organic vegetables.  Because it is organic, the grower can't use herbicide and instead the irrigator removes the weeds.  The temperature at the time, at noon, was already over 100 degrees.  

Beneath the southern San Joaquin Valley are large oil deposits, and for a century oil derricks like that behind Silva have spread across the landscape.  They contribute to the valley's poor air quality, and the oil they've pumped for decades is a source of the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major cause of climate change.


ARVIN, CA - Irrigators have set up a shade station next to the field, and Silva drinks water from an Igloo thermos.  The water can't be too cold, or it will cause nausea and other problems for someone drinking it.  In the shade station are also large containers of water, called garafones.  Many farmworkers live in communities where the local water source has been contaminated, and therefore have to buy garafones of water to drink at home and at work.

TAFT, CA - Indigenous immigrants from San Pablo Tijaltepec set up a committee when they settled in Taft, to raise money for projects at home, to negotiate with local authorities when there have been problems with the police, and to support community members.  Silva was at one time the president of this committee, and today its members are Felipe Gonzalez, Enrique Garcia, Juan Lopez and Alfredo Cruz.  They stand together with Fausto Sanchez (second from left), a Mixtec community worker for California Rural Legal Assistance, who helps community members understand their labor and housing rights.

CRLA has a program of indigenous community workers at offices throughout California, who speak Mixteco, Triqui, Zapoteco and other languages.  As a result of his community work, Sanchez was elected to the school board in Arvin.

ARVIN, CA - Adrian Garcia, an irrigator, cuts off the loss of water from the end of a drip irrigation hose in a field of recently planted grape vines.  The temperature at the time, about 6 in the morning, was over 80 degrees, and would reach over 110 in the afternoon.  Irrigators have to work all day through the heat, and wear long sleeves and bandannas to insulate themselves from it.

ARVIN, CA - The drip irrigation system managed by Adrian Garcia wastes less water than the old systems for irrigating grape vines, which flooded the fields with water.  Nevertheless, the enormous amount of water pumped from the aquifer by industrial agriculture is so great that salinity is creeping into the water supply, and the land itself is subsiding in some areas of the southern San Joaquin Valley. 

KINGSBURG, CA - Farmworkers pick plums in a field near Kingsburg, in the San Joaquin Valley, in a crew of Mexican immigrants.  The temperature at the time, about 10 in the morning, was over 90 degrees, and would reach over 110 in the afternoon.  Juan Flores Rangel is a picker in the crew.  The crew works in the orchards of Neufeld Farms.  Much of the farm's fruit is sold in farmers' markets in California cities, to consumers who have no idea of the reality experienced by the workers who pick it.

KINGSBURG, CA - Ruben Figueroa is a picker in the crew, in his 50s.  "This is hard, exhausting, and challenging work," he says.  "Of course, I'd like to quit and go home, but I have to keep picking if I want to feed my family.  Still, it's honest and honorable work."  He says he wears a lot of clothing to protect himself from the sun and heat, and from getting cut by the branches of the trees.  "There aren't too many people out here in tee-shirts," he laughs.

KINGSBURG, CA - Reginaldo Morelos, a picker in the crew, empties the bag of fruit he's picked into a bin.  The bag can weigh over 40 pounds when it's full, and he has to carry it up and down the ladder he uses to get to the upper branches of the trees.

KINGSBURG, CA - Juan Flores Rangel is a picker in the crew.  "The thing that would make this job better," he says, "would be fewer hours when it's hot like this.  We can only stop work when the company tells us.  That's not so good, but we have to work."

POPLAR, CA - Filipino farmworkers pick table grapes in a field near Poplar, in Tulare County in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  Most workers wear facemasks or bandannas as a protection against spreading the coronavirus.  Annie Domingo came from Laoag, in Ilocos Norte province of the Philippines, 45 years ago, when she was 15 years old.

POPLAR, CA - Adelina Asuncion also came from Laoag, in Ilocos Norte province of the Philippines, in 1977.  She trims the bunch of grapes with her clippers after cutting it from the vine, removing the dry or spoiled fruit.

POPLAR, CA - The vines themselves provide some degree of shade for pickers like Adelina Asuncion, although the heat still gets over 100 degrees before they quit.  Under California's heat protections the grower must provide shade, adequate drinking water and rest periods when the temperature rises.

POPLAR, CA - A farm worker family's home in Campo California, a colonia outside of Poplar.  Informal farmworker settlements, called colonias, have few or no utilities or services provided by nearby cities.

POPLAR, CA - Many Poplar residents live in trailers or mobile homes.  Almost none have air conditioning, and instead rely on swamp coolers to reduce the heat. 

POPLAR, CA - Lupe Aldaco moved into this house that was falling apart five years ago, and then fixed it up so that she, her son and others could live in it.

POPLAR, CA - Rachele Alcantar lives in a trailer (rent $500/mo) with her husband Jose Serna, her son Victor Alcantar and her baby Ezekiel Serna.  "It gets into the 90s inside during the summer and we just have a cooler that can't bring the heat down much," she says.  "So when it gets really hot we go grocery shopping or the mall or anywhere there's air conditioning.  We slow way down when we get to the produce section, and read every ingredient.  Or we all just take cold showers."

POPLAR, CA - Rachele Alcantar and her husband Jose Serna, are community activists in Poplar.  She was recently elected to the local school board, and he belongs to the San Joaquin Valley chapter of an immigrant rights organization, the Committee for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.  

POPLAR, CA - Rachele Alcantar makes braids for her daughter, a star of her high school's baseball and softball teams.  As a school board member Alcantar wants to force the district to build a high school in Poplar.  "I'm the only person on the board with a child in school here.  The rest are ranchers, like Tom Barcelos, a big dairy farmer who's board president.  In the summer the school still provides a breakfast and lunch, but there's no place for the students to stay to eat it.  They should open up during lunchtime.  There's no gym here, and no cooling center.  When our kids get past eighth grade they bus them to Porterville or Strathmore [nearby towns].  There should be a high school in every community."

POPLAR, CA - Reginaldo Lacambacal is a Filipino immigrant who came to the U.S. from Laoag in the Philippines in the 1970s, and worked as a farmworker for many years.  Twenty years ago he and his family built their house with help from a program called Self-Help, started by the American Friends Service Committee.  When it gets really hot he and his wife Gloria go into the open garage and use a fan to try to blow in cool air. 

POPLAR, CA -Reginaldo Lacambacal's legs show the price he paid for years working in the fields.   

POPLAR, CA - Gloria Lacambacal wipes her face and tries to stay cool in the shade in her garage.

POPLAR, CA - Leandro Mesa Valdez is an immigrant who came to the U.S. as a boy with his father Santiago, from Remedios, Durango.  His father was a bracero who worked in Idaho.  When he died Leandro settled in Poplar.

POPLAR, CA - The temperature rises to 115 degrees in the mid-afternoon, and Leandro Mesa Valdez often leaves the house where he lives with his family and wanders off.  He doesn't know how old he is, and the community looks out for him when they see him walking on the street.

POPLAR, CA - The temperature rises every day in the afternoon, and Jose Salazar, a retired farmworker, comes to the park to see his friends and relax in the shade.  He brings a bottle with his water.

POPLAR, CA - People surviving the heat in the park of a farm worker town, where the temperature rises to 115 degrees in the mid-afternoon.  A group of friends - Maria Elena Leon, Agustin Rivas and Ignacio - come to play cards and relax in the shade when the afternoon heat rises above 110.  They sit in a shade structure that was built when activists took over the local development board, which functions as the town government.  Although Poplar has no money, activists were determined to do something with limited resources that would make life better during the heat.   

POPLAR, CA - Wilfredo Nevares (Picho), a retired farmworker, comes to the park every day to see his friends and relax in the shade.  He is dying of cancer, which he believes is due to pesticide exposure.

Art Rodriguez, an organizer with at the Larry Itliong Resource Center, is Nevares' nephew.  He fought to get the shade built, but says that's not enough.   "Will there be a place donde my tia and Picho (and many more to come) can come to enjoy their golden years in life; where it's cool in the summer and warm in the winter?" he asks. " We will have a place where my viejitos can chill soon enough. We have every right to expect that, nothing less and nothing more."  The struggle to win better conditions in Poplar has been bitter, but it made him stronger. "Thank you Tulare County for the plethora of difficult lessons you taught me," he says. "You have made me more resilient, more patient, more astute, more loving, more committed, more responsible, more honorable."

POPLAR, CA - Organizers and volunteers prepare for a COVID vaccination clinic at the Larry Itliong Resource Center in Poplar.  Volunteers sort clothes to give away to young people who come to be vaccinated.

POPLAR, CA - Families arrive to get COVID vaccinations.

POPLAR, CA -  People wait at the entrance of the Larry Itliong Resource Center for vaccinations to begin. 

POPLAR, CA - Sarabi Pintar and Emily Cruz Padilla wait for vaccinations to begin.  They're close friends.  One had been vaccinated and brought the other to get the shot.