The Lives of Migrant Workers

To learn more about the experiences of migrant farmworkers, visit our programming blog and see the In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte photography exhibit at Main Library.


Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail by Ruben Martinez
Martinez charts the Chávez clan’s progress from their small south-Mexican town of Cherán through the harrowing border crossing to the tomato farms of Missouri, the strawberry fields of California, and the slaughterhouses of Wisconsin

The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval
Tells the story of Cesar Chavez and his fight to win dignity and justice for migrant farmworkers through the United Farm Workers union, and includes essays, letters, and poems contributed by men and women who participated on both sides of the struggle.

Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Postwar United States and Mexico by Deborah Cohen
At the beginning of World War II, the United States and Mexico launched the bracero program which brought Mexican men to work in U.S. agricultural fields. Cohen asks why these migrants provoked so much concern and anxiety in the United States and what the Mexican government expected to gain in participating in the program. 

Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom by Mireya Loza
Loza sheds new light on the private lives of migrant men who participated in the Bracero Program (1942—1964), a binational agreement between the United States and Mexico that allowed hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to enter this country on temporary work permits.

Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories by S. Beth Atkin
Nine Mexican-American children from California’s Salinas Valley share their experiences as migrant workers caught between two cultures. 

No Man’s Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor by Cindy Hahamovitch
Since World War II, the H2 program has brought hundreds of thousands of mostly Jamaican men to the United States to do some of the nation’s dirtiest and most dangerous farm work for some of its biggest and most powerful agricultural corporations, companies that had the power to import and deport workers from abroad. 

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Treviño Hart
Elva Trevino Hart was born in south Texas to Mexican immigrants and spent her childhood moving back and forth between Texas and Minnesota, eventually leaving that world to earn a master’s degree in computer science/engineering.


A Glass of Water by Jimmy Santiago Baca
The promise of a new beginning brings Casimiro and Nopal together when they are young immigrants, having made the nearly deadly journey across the border from Mexico. They settle into a life of long days in the chili fields, but a tragedy leaves their family reeling.

Macho! by Victor Villaseñor; Spanish translation by Alfonso González
Seventeen-year-old Roberto Garcia has big hopes for a future different from that of his compatriots in the highlands of Michoacan.  He learns quickly, though, that the backbreaking work in vegetable fields under the powerful sun does not gain him the wealth, freedom, and power that he’d hoped for.

Pocho by José Antonio Villarreal
During the Depression-era in California, Richard, a young Mexican American, experiences a conflict between loyalty to the traditions of his family’s past and attraction to new ideas.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli, like so many of her neighbors, must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California during the great migration of the 1930s.

Children’s and Teen’s Books

Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner
In the 1960s, while the United States was at war and racial tensions were boiling over, Filipino American workers were demanding fair wages and decent living conditions in California’s vineyards. When the workers walked out of the fields in September 1965, the great Delano grape strike began.

Radio Man / Don Radio: A Story in English and Spanish by Arthur Dorros; translation by Sandra Dorros
As he travels with his family of migrant farmworkers, Diego relies on his radio to provide him with companionship and help connect him to all the different places in which he lives.

Calling the Doves by Juan Felipe Herrera; pictures by Elly Simmons
In this bilingual autobiography, the Mexican American poet Juan Felipe Herrera describes his childhood in California as the son of migrant workers.

The Life of / La vida de: Dolores by Patty Rodriguez & Ariana Stein; art by Citlali Reyes
“Si, Se Puede! Yes, it can be done!” is the famous rallying cry of Dolores Huerta, a leading voice in the rights of migrant farmworkers.

Return to Sender / Devolver alremitente by Julia Alvare
After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.

Juanita Fights the School Board by Gloria Velásquez
One of six children of California migrant workers, Juanita hopes to be the first in her family to graduate from high school. With the help of a school psychologist and a former civil rights attorney, Juanita fights the discrimination against minorities at Roosevelt High School.

Jesse by Gary Soto
To get away from his chaotic, often violent parents, 17-year-old Jesse has moved into an apartment with his brother. They are both taking community college courses in Fresno. But to pay for them, they must take whatever jobs they can find, even backbreaking field work. 


The Harvest / La cosecha
The film profiles three underage migrant farm workers, as they journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow harvest.

Escuela: Migrant Education In Texas
A clear-eyed view into the lives of contemporary Mexican American migrants and their struggles to educate their children while obtaining employment.

The Land is Rich
Documents the United Farm Workers struggle to organize California farm workers in the early 1960’s. The film contrasts the economic strength of California agribusiness with the migrant workers’ poverty shown in bread lines, living conditions, and the impact of extensive exposure to agricultural chemicals.

The Harvesters
The Harvesters documents late 1950’s farm labor conditions in California’s fields when 14 to 16 hour days paid workers at eighty-five cents to a dollar per hour. It exposes how the bracero program imported Mexican nationals to work at wages lower than the subminimum rates available to American workers.