WHO IS JUAN GARCIA?
Juan (Juanito) Garcia was born in 1913 at the end of the Mexican revolution when instability and poverty were widespread. These unfortunate circumstances contributed to the fact that Juan never had an opportunity to go to school, not even for a single day. In the early 1940’s, when he was a young man, jobs in Mexico were scarce and salaries were very low. Like other young men in his community, Juan signed up for a U.S. temporary guest worker permit, the Bracero Program, to work as a farm laborer when U.S. farmers were in great need of farmworkers. His first job was in Brownsville, Texas where he labored in the citrus orchards and cotton fields, often working all night irrigating crops for a salary of $24 per week. It was not until 1953 that Juan legally immigrated with permanent residence with his entire family, his wife Cesaria and five children, with the sponsorship of his employer. Two years later he moved his growing family to Parlier, California to work in the grape harvest, which at that time was plentiful although laborers were few. Along with his wife and children, Juan worked year round planting fruits and vegetables, irrigating crops, pruning grape vines and fruit trees, and picking a variety of fruits, tomatoes, and cotton. During the slow winter season, when fewer farm workers were needed, the farm owners continued to keep Juan employed because he was dependable, toiling long hours without complaining because he was grateful for the work. During all those years of work, Juan and his wife Cesaria rose early every morning at 5:00 am (or even 4:00 am when work was far away), and while Juan got ready for work, Cesaria would prepare his breakfast and lunch. In the 1970’s Juan became a member of the United Farm Workers which sought to improve the working conditions of farmworkers by providing prevailing wages, retirement benefits, and protect field workers from abusive work practices.
When Juan was in his late 50’s he enrolled in evening adult classes at Reedley High School in an effort to learn English. After a few weeks of classes he stopped attending because he was unable to concentrate on his studies after an exhausting day in the fields. Besides, he needed to go to bed early in order to be up very early the next morning.
Had Juan been given an opportunity to go to school, he would have greatly appreciated the value of an education and would have no doubt worked very hard at his studies. Juan was grateful for his job as a farmworker and never complained about the hard toil, long hours or extreme weather conditions in the San Joaquin Valley. The fact that Juan never missed a day of work because of illness or any other reason, spoke of his appreciation for his job, no matter how menial. Juan passed away in 1992 at the age of 79 after living a fruitful life, one blessed with ten children and many grandchildren who loved and respected him greatly.