Migrant Workers

During the 20th century,
Hispanic Americans — the
majority of whom were
Mexican Americans —
made up the largest
minority group in
California. One-half
million Mexicans
migrated to the United
States during the 1920s,
with more than 30 percent
settling in California.
Employers viewed Mexican workers as
desirable because they did not demand higher
wages, and they were seen by managers as
being satisfied with the conditions they worked
under – even when the conditions were very
Most families needed for their children to
work as well. Migrant workers were rarely paid
enough to afford comfortable housing - even
with all capable members of their families
working long hours.
Every harvest season, an estimated 300,000
children between the ages of 6 and 14 migrate
with their parents who have been hired to work
in the fields. At about age 10, half of those
children begin working, and the number rises
sharply as the children get older, depriving
them of education and often endangering their
health and safety.
Many of the photographs that you will see
show Mexican migrant workers in California
agriculture. Families faced rough working
conditions in the fields and even worse living
This 10-year old boy
has been working as a
seasonal migrant farm
worker since he was 7.
Family of migrant
workers, 1940s
Migrant workers in
California, 1935
Children of Mexican
migrant workers
posing at the
entrance to
El Rio FSA Camp,
El Rio, California, 1941
Child for hire, Texas
Family Working in the Fields
Picking Cotton
Tucson, Arizona
Take notice of the “homes” in the background.
Living Conditions
“This book gives a voice to the children of
migrant farm workers, [one of] our country’s
most exploited and deprived group[s] of
people . . . The poems and interviews in this
book relate life as it is experienced by these
migrant children.”
-Francisco Jimenez
(excerpt from Foreword)