A Mexican farmworker tells his own story

MIDDLEBURY — A normally hidden population was visible in Middlebury last Saturday, when Mexican nationals gathered to meet with Daniel Hernandez Joseph, consul general of Mexico in Boston, at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society.
Luis, who asked that his real name not be used to protect his privacy, was one of hundreds of farm workers who headed to Middlebury to get Mexican passports and paperwork, to ask questions, learn about their rights and obligations and to attend to basic medical needs.
Jeyko Garuz, a University of Vermont medical student, translated for Luis, who said he works on a dairy farm in Addison County. He is one of an estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the United States. He and his wife headed to Middlebury on Saturday so that both could obtain Mexican passports, which will eventually allow them to travel home.
Read more about the consul general’s visit to Middlebury
For the two, that time is drawing near. Luis has been in the U.S. since 2004, and has saved up nearly enough to return to Mexico and run his own farm on a property he owns in Tabasco, where his wife grew up.
“Here, at least I could save money,” he said. “In Mexico, I could work and work and there would be no savings.”
In June, the Veracruz native will have been working in Vermont for three years; before that, he worked construction in Florida.
Luis said the trip from Mexico to the U.S. in 2004 was a very difficult one.
“I spent three days walking in the desert, then got caught,” he said. “The second time, it took me only two days.”
Since then the borders have become more closely regulated, he said, and it’s harder for people to enter the country illegally over the U.S./Mexico border.
 In Florida, Luis joined his younger brother and began working construction, working on many buildings — one that was 50 floors high — until the work dried up. Then, his brother headed to Vermont, where his wife had a family member.
Shortly afterward, Luis came to Vermont himself. The trip, he said, was easy — just 24 hours in a car, and he was here, ready to start work on the dairy farm where his brother already had a job.
Vermont weather was very different from Florida weather.
“I arrived here in June, when it was warm, but it got cooler and cooler,” said Luis. “The first year was really tough. It was an ugly feeling.”
And it’s harder to find ingredients for Mexican food here in Vermont — in Florida, he said, Mexican groceries were everywhere.
But after arriving in Vermont, he was also able to bring his wife from Mexico, in stark contrast to many of the lone farm workers in the state who are single or send money home.
Luis said life in Vermont is good — he said he is happy working with dairy cows, and he feels he is treated well.
“Most (migrant workers) are decent, but some people give immigrants a bad name,” said Luis. “I have to pay for it with tough regulations.”
Luis said he’s not here to harm anyone.
“I came to have a better future,” he said.

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