Arts, Farmworker Children, Health & Safety, Labor, Pesticides, Work Hazards, Working Conditions

Full Frame: Young American Migrant Workers in ‘The Harvest/La Cosecha’

From, “Full Frame: Young American Migrant Workers in ‘The Harvest/La Cosecha'” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, 15 Apr 2011.

Submitted photo. A scene from “The Harvest.”

Submitted photo. A scene from “The Harvest.”

DURHAM [NC] — Zulema, 12, is a migrant worker in Texas. So is Victor, 16, in Florida; and Perla, 14, in Texas. All are American citizens, and second- or third-generation migrant workers. Their lives — the hard labor, the struggle of poverty and the love of families — are shown in the documentary “The Harvest/La Cosecha.”

The U.S. premiere of the film, directed by U. Roberto Romano, was shown Thursday morning on the first day of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in downtown Durham. Romano has been an activist on child labor issues since 1995. In a post-screening question and answer session, he said that the film is about labor laws in the United States. Because they are American children, there’s no argument over the film about immigration, he said.

Emily Drakage of Children in the Fields and N.C. Farm Activist Network said that children are permitted to work in the fields at age 12 if not during school hours; and age 10 if they are with a parent.

In “The Harvest,” Zulema tells filmmakers that she has no dreams. She works to help out her family, who are also migrants. They harvest onions in El Cenizo, Texas, then move on to Michigan for strawberries, cucumbers and apple crops. Filmmakers followed the workers over two summers.

Victor fills 25-pound buckets of tomatoes in Quincy, Fla., and wants to move beyond the fields.

Perla shares an insightful view of migrant work and lays out the cycle of poverty. You can’t get a better job because you didn’t finish school, and you didn’t finish school because you are a migrant, she said. Her family moves before she gets to graduate from middle school with her friends. She does have dreams — to become a lawyer, to stop people from becoming migrants, and to help others like herself.

The film shows how car trouble or illness impacts the ability to work and how dangerous the work can be, especially around pesticides and other chemicals. Filmmakers interview the youths’ families, too. There is significant footage of working in the fields, but not of everyone.

Romano said that the most difficult part of filming was getting to the farms. They also needed to keep from jeopardizing the workers’ jobs.

Drakage said that this year, North Carolina will receive about 150,000 migrant workers, mostly in the eastern part of the state.

“The Harvest” is presented by Shine Global. Producers are Albie Hecht, Susan MacLaury, Eva Longoria, Rory O’Connor, Raul Padilla and Romano, who is also the cinematographer.

Contact Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan at; 419-6563.

For information, visit

Source:, “Full Frame: Young American Migrant Workers in ‘The Harvest/La Cosecha'” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, 15 Apr 2011.


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