When I first came to Bakersfield at the beginning of the summer I had no expectations about what my experience with the UFW would be like. From other previous internship experiences I had learned that there are many organizations that may look good on paper, but in practice they do not live up to expectations. Taking this into account, and drawing from my own personal experiences, by the end of the summer I could confidently say that the UFW exceeded its paper-based expectations (which says a lot given the legacy of Cesar Chavez it had been endowed with and the many accomplishments the Union has achieved since its inception in 1962). The UFW is the living embodiment of social change for marginalized immigrants, laborers, and families throughout California and the rest of the United States.
I can also confidently say that I’ve changed as a person from this experience. The organizers were my friends, my family, but more then anything else my heroes. They had undergone struggles and were making sacrifices because they knew in their hearts that they were fighting for a just cause that would change the lives of thousands of farm workers. It was truly a privilege to be in the presence of such high quality individuals on a daily basis. The same holds true with the workers as well. They labor so many hours each day, withstanding the heat, pesticides, and treatment just so that they can make ends meet and support their families. They opened their homes and their hearts to me, and I am truly grateful for this.
This summer I learned what it truly meant to be a global citizen, because I was in the presence of global citizens each and everyday. The selfless commitment of organizers who are devoted to improving the lives of others, and the gentle strength and humility of the workers who are organizing for their rights captured the essence of what global citizenship entails: social actors fighting for social change. I carry a piece of each of these humble revolutionaries within my heart, and they will be my motivation to continue to live out my global citizenship at Macalester this fall.
In Spanish we have a unique word that pretty much embodies global citizenship: “convivir.” It literally means “to live to together” or “to coexist.” But this summer I learned about another definition: “to share life.” Over the past seven weeks, I’ve had the privilege to partake in the lives of many of my farm worker friends and organizers. I’ve gotten to know their families, personal achievements, and joys just as much as their work challenges, personal struggles, and sorrows. Farm workers are human beings and citizens of this globe just like the rest of us. Let’s be proactive global citizens by recognizing that the fruit and vegetables that we share with our families each night are the product of another family’s hard day’s work, and offer support and solidarity to our campesino brothers and sisters. !Viva la causa!