Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As a former migrant worker, and in solidarity with you all, I genuinely feel compelled to share my story with you.
“Was thinking of some of my life experiences and thought back to some of those times when racism and discrimination were really overt in American society. As a child, I was the target of racial slurs and ridicule growing up in the rural Midwest.
To my knowledge, Child Labor Laws do not exist to keep an 8 year old (circa 1980) from working in an agricultural occupation, and as such, I picked my share of tomatoes and cucumbers for twenty-five cents a bushel to help bring income to the family.
As we migrated in search of work and lived in less than desirable shacks that we cleaned up and called “Home,” I remember asking my parents on certain occasions, “Why do I have to work while all of my friends are enjoying their summer vacations?” “Why are we moving around so much?” “Why did those people move out of our way, look at us funny, and call us ‘dirty’ and ‘filthy’?”
One cool and sunny summer morning in Ohio, a crop duster flew over us and sprayed us with pesticide in a cucumber field as we worked. We scurried into a nearby barn and waited for the duster to go away. I remember seeing the women cry and the men curse urging the “mayordomo” to speak to the farm owner and take serious action. I didn’t cry and I didn’t get mad.
There were a few good times though. I remember finding arrowheads, knives, and parts of tomahawks belonging to our Native American ancestors—-products of my sweat and hard work in “el azadón.” Whenever I made a find, I always felt that the Native American spirits wanted me to find the pieces of their past as if it was my destiny to do so. Unfortunately, because we moved around a lot, my collection was lost.
Although we never belonged to the Union, I recently did a search of the UFW logo and am seriously considering getting it tattooed on me as a reminder of my journey as a person—not to commemorate the unspeakable acts of Racism, Hate, and Oppression, but to commemorate it as symbol of personal victory. In order to achieve victory, there must be conflict, struggle, and perseverance—all of which we have experienced.
Along the way, I came across a Mayan phrase that I had never heard of before—even in my days as a University student minoring in history and as a member of MeChA: “In Lak’ech Ala K’in.”
Even as I write this, I am struck in awe with its meaning. Over the past year, I have made the following statement to all of my Brothers and Sisters out there in cyberspace: “I am you, and you are me.” Oddly enough, this is precisely what “In Lak’ech Ala K’in” means.
This Mayan greeting is an honoring for each other regardless of culture. “In Lak’ech Ala K’in” mirrors the same sentiment of other beautiful greetings such as Namaste for East India, Wiracocha for the Inca, and Mitakuye Oyasin for the Lakota. It is a statement of unity and oneness.
Like finding arrowheads in a tomato field long ago, finding this phrase and knowing that I’ve believed in its meaning since I was a boy is not a coincidence—it’s Destiny.
Perhaps this explains why I am not consumed by hate and resentment despite having been oppressed the way we were. Victory is in the hands of those that choose to understand and master their own destinies as well as help others to do the same.
“I am you, and you are me.”
It is this philosophy and my personal experiences that eventually lead me to participate in “Uvas No” demonstrations and further lead me to Thailand—always sympathetic to the plight of farm workers in Northeast Thailand. Congratulations to the UFW on its 50th Anniversary and we hope that our organization can be of service in helping achieve the UFW’s goals and initatives in the future.
Felicidades Hermanos y Hermanas…siempre es posible!
Kru Kayan Sitsanthaparn (Birth Name: Rudy Cisneros)
Chairman, Muay Thai Alliance of Texas (MTAT)
Owner/CEO, Rio Grande Valley Ocelots FC
Founder/Chairman, Los Tejanos Del Sur