UNO Exhibit to Feature Farm Labor in the US

“One of the stories and photographs I took are of Lorena Hernandez who is a young single mother working out in the fields picking blueberries,” says David Bacon. The photographer, journalist and activist will be presenting his exhibit In the Fields of the North at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) September 1-30th. Members of the community interested in Bacon’s work will have the opportunity to have a conversation with him during his September 18th presentation at UNO. The presentation will be hosted at UNO from 6-7:30 P.M. Attendees are asked to RSVP to Yuriko Doku at ydku@unomaha.edu.

Bacon says he is excited to share his work with the Omaha community and there are a lot of stories that stick out. “The photograph of Lorena I took at work, the photographs show her hands and her working,” says Bacon, adding “when I am taking the photographs, I try to get really close to the person so you can really see what they are doing and look at their hands, their face, and also because it has a feeling of intimacy, I am trying to draw you closer to the person in the photographs so you can have some empathy and human feeling for the person that is in the picture.”

Bacon says he was particularly touched by her story and the current political climate makes her story very relevant. “She is a young woman that came to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico. She is a single mom and she talks in her story about how she has to leave the house really really early in the morning. She works out in the fields all day, comes home late, completely exhausted. Has to do the laundry, get the food ready for the next day and she says her daughter is asleep when she leaves and asleep when she comes home. She worries that her daughter is not recognizing her as her mom anymore because her aunt is taking care of her and she is wondering what that is going to mean for her relationship with her own daughter,” says Bacon.

He says that this is a common situation for many farm workers. “Lorena shared she would like to go back to school but can’t,” says Bacon, adding “I think that is the story of so many young people who are working out in the fields, it is the economic reality.”

“We have gotten the news from the Trump administration that they are going to withdraw DACA. That is going to have a profound effect on people. The photographs that are being show at UNO, a lot of them are of young people. People who this decision is going to affect,” says Bacon. The photographer points out that withdrawing DACA means that people can’t work legally. “How does the government expect them to support themselves and put food on the table for their families?” asks Bacon.

Bacon also points out there now there is greater danger that people are going to be deported. “When you look at the photographs you see these people are doing very important work. If they didn’t work we wouldn’t eat,” he adds.

Bacon mentioned that he has known an Omaha community organizer for twenty years and he remembers his words as he works with these farm workers. “I've learned a lot from Sergio Sosa, director of Omaha's the Heartland Workers Center,” says Bacon. “Sergio once told me that migrants were "citizens of the world."  He talked about Latinos in a way I've always remembered, and I put what he said into one of my books: ‘We are a new generation of immigrants, documented and undocumented -- the point of a lance opening the road for the next generation, who will become legal residents and citizens.’” Bacon adds that he knows the people he works with are contributing to the United States and their work define cities like Omaha. “I think that's a good thing to think about after hearing about this terrible announcement that the administration will try to repeal DACA,” says Bacon.  

Bacon, who was a union organizer for about twenty years says that the experience really educated him on farm labor, the use of immigration and also taught him a lot about Latino culture, which are the themes of the show at UNO.

“The photographs document very important work, the work of putting food on the table, something we all benefit from,” says Bacon.

During the community conversation on September 18th, Bacon will talk about these themes and also talk more about why he takes the pictures that he does and share the realities of farm labor in the United States today. “I am also going to talk about what people are trying to do to change their situation,” says Bacon.

More information can be found at www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/ollas.
Liz Codina

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