Stories from Texas Migrant Workers

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© UTSA Libraries Special Collections

Stories from Texas Migrant Workers

Through preparatory and enrollment programs, workers are graduating college

 
SAN ANTONIO – With fall harvest season approaching, the Institute of Texan Cultures has decided to take a different approach to Texas agricultural traditions. The museum’s primary mission is to be a voice for the people, and this time, they’ve turned to an invisible culture that plays a vital role in getting food from the field to the table: Texas migrant workers.
 
The museum’s Oct. 12 Free Second Sunday, will feature "Stories from Texas Migrant Workers" from 2 to 4 p.m. Three Texans will each relate their own stories of growing up in the fields, followed by a roundtable discussion on how they enrolled in college and continued on, becoming academic, community and business leaders.
 
"First, these are people," said Greg Garrett, educational specialist at the museum. "People are harvesting the fruits and vegetables we put on our tables every day. Second, they are driven, they want to succeed, and they are succeeding. Migrant work is a stepping stone to something else."
 
While they may be relegated to the fields by perception or politics, the culture has moved well beyond its stigma of unskilled labor. Through programs such as CAMP – College Access Migrant Program - migrant workers are attending and graduating from college, opening doors to future prosperity.
 
Joining the conversation are three former migrant workers who now hold high-level skilled positions in the workforce. Alberto Rodriguez is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University Kingsville. He has personal experience as a migrant worker, and as a participant in the College Assistance Migrant Program. Cynthia Jasso Arredondo, manager of educational and training services at Texas State University, was a migrant worker who went through CAMP. Cleofas Rodriguez, Jr. of the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association, also was a migrant worker growing up.
 
Each panelist will speak on their personal experience growing up as a migrant worker, then the three together will discuss how CAMP and other programs helped them attend school and succeed. They will entertain questions from the audience.
 
"This is about people and personal experiences," said Garrett. "These panelists all come from the fields and have achieved great things. Our goals are to put a face on migrant workers, and to confront the flawed perceptions everyday people might have about this Texas culture."
 
"We’ve made a conscious effort to give voice to aspects of Tejano culture and lifeways as the museum prepares to open a new, permanent, Tejano exhibit this spring," said Lupita Barrera, the museum’s director of education and interpretation, co-curator of the Tejano exhibit. "Texas agriculture and migrant work are facets of this culture. We have many more chapters to share with the community as we compile the story of this culture and what it has brought to Texas."
 
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free on Second Sundays, $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.
 
 
 

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