On Labor Day, Americans honor workers’ contributions to the United States. The parents of the current U.S. poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, provided for their children as migrant laborers, first on farms in Texas and later in California. Today, the U.S. agricultural economy depends on roughly 1 million hired farmworkers, a third of whom work in California and Texas.
“My father was a laborer from the start,” Herrera said. “He came up to the United States in the 1890s and worked at small ranches in the fields picking grapes, and my mother did as well.” (Herrera was born to a 66-year-old father.)
In a poem written for ShareAmerica, Herrera recalls the lives of his forebears while he and his sister prepare a meal using chiles that were picked by today’s laborers.