strike in the chile fields of Anthony, New Mexico, 1984.
The Border Agricultural Workers Project is based in El
Paso, Texas and works in the US-México border region around
El Paso, Texas. This corner region of the states of Texas, New
Mexico and Chihuahua, is the historic and most important recruitment
place for agricultural workers in the Southwest. From this region,
thousands of farmworkers, the majority from México, move
to various other agricultural areas of America. Moreover, a significant
number of workers stay or reside in this area and work in the
agricultural fields near El Paso.
For this region, there is an estimated 12,000 agricultural workers
who live or work in the area of whom about 5,000 are chile pickers.
They are the backbone of the "picante sauce" industry
which brings in $300 million dollars to New Mexico. At the same
time, of all the laborers of this region, the chile pickers are
the lowest paid with an annual average income of less than $6,000.
They suffer the most inhumane recruitment practices and the worst
working conditions existing in the Southwest. The farmworker
families who live in the farming communities suffer the most
oppressive living conditions. These families live in small old
trailer houses without drinking water or electricity. In addition,
they also lack access to health care programs and medical services,
and educational opportunities are rare.
The Border Agricultural Workers Project was initiated with the
objective of improving the lives of the poor agricultural workers
and their families.
The purpose of this project is to promote and protect the civil
and human rights of both documented and undocumented agricultural
workers. Our commitment is the empowerment of the farmworker
community to develop and to implement long-term solutions to
the economic and social problems which are the result of the
exploitation and oppression of an agricultural system which places
profits on top of human dignity.
This purpose is achieved by (1) organizing farmworkers committees
which serve to raise the consciousness of the farmworkers and
by (2) organizing collective pressure to improve working conditions
and availability of human services.
For more than twelve years, our efforts have played a key role
in organizing the farmworker community in Doña Ana County
in New Mexico, and El Paso County. During this period, much has
been accomplished. Small gains have been achieved in the issues
of wages, working conditions, health and housing. Our most important
project has been in the development of leadership and in promoting
active participation by the farmworkers themselves.
Collective activities, meetings and educational activities around
specific issues such as the use of pesticides, labor rights,
immigration policies, etc., have been our most important means
to unite and organize the farmworkers and their families.
Our project is part of the Farmworker Network for Economic
and Environmental Justice and as a such, we work very closely
with 5 of the most active farmworker organizations in the nation.
We are also active members of the Rural Coalition and
the Southwest Network. We have working and fraternal relations
with farmers, indigenous, labor, religious and human rights groups
of this country, including México and other countries.
We firmly believe that change is the result of the struggle and
the work of the same community being affected. Therefore, the
farmworkers themselves are an integral part of all aspects of
our work. They set priorities and objectives, receive training
necessary to represent themselves, and organize collective pressure
to solve their problems.
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