SOLAS Lecture Highlights Plight of Los Chileros

October 21, 2013

The Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS) announces a presentation with photographer and journalist Joseph Sorrentino, who will discuss "Los Chileros: The Chile Pickers" on Thursday, October 24, 2013, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in the LAII Conference Room. The event is co-sponsored by the Graduate Art Association and the Spanish & Portuguese Graduate Student Association. For more information, see the SOLAS website.

According to SOLAS: Joseph Sorrentino tells stories. Expressed through photographs and news articles, these stories are about the lives that we do not see or hear about often: those who harvest the food we eat. Sorrentino's visual and verbal narratives speak of the experiences of migrant workers in chile farms in southern New Mexico. The median income of a chile picker is less than $6,700 a year. Because of that, most live in substandard housing and reside in emergency shelters. As migrant laborers, their employment fluctuates with the daily demand for labor. Living a precarious existence, they wake up at dawn to wait on the streets of border towns hoping a contractor will select them. If they are not chosen to work or the contractor doesn't arrive, they oftentimes return to the shelter to wait for the next day.

These are the stories of chile farmers who are exposed to the uncertain realities of our international economic system. Yet Sorrentino's photographs don't dramatize their situations or convey misery or injustice felt on behalf of the workers; rather they focus on portraying the blunt realism that relates to these working conditions: survival and hope.

Sorrentino's images are evidence that the food on our table has a narrative of its own. These images are of people trying their hardest to get by on what little they earn. The photos reveal to us that mechanized tractors don't harvest these agricultural products; rather the hands of migrant workers pick them. Sorrentino's work demands that we not forget that behind most fenced off farm areas, that before these chiles reach the produce aisle, there is someone on the other side, laboring, subsisting and hoping for a better day to come.