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Essay and art contest winners share their experiences as the children of Central Valley farmworkers

Essay writer Edwin Juarez, 10, and artist Aaron Cruz, 15, share their experiences as the children of farmworkers in both words and images.
Edwin Juarez
Posted at 4:48 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 23:13:56-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif — As we prepare for our Thanksgiving meals, let's take time to remember the thousands of farmworkers working from dusk to dawn to make sure you have the food you need. As the children of those farmworkers will tell you, it's a hard job.

Edwin Juarez, one of the winners of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs Children in the Fields Campaign essay and art contest, understands this well.

"Let's just respect Mom, because she comes home late. She's tired, so let's just clean the house," said Juarez.

Juarez's mother is a farmworker. Like other farmworking parents, she works long hours at a hard job, but still comes home and takes care of her children, who notice her sacrifices.

"I am proud of my mom for being able to survive working under the hot sun, day in and day out," Juarez' essay reads.

At 10 years old, Juarez writes like he's already lived a couple decades, but it's not about the years. It's the experiences.

"She eats whatever she finds in the fridge, and if there's something I like, she leaves it for me and my siblings," writes Juarez.

Juarez has taken his experiences being the son of a farmworker and turned them into a love letter to his mother.

"Sweat that drops down from my mother's brow after along day in the fields. It is clear that the land of opportunity comes with a heavy price," Juarez wrote. It's a price he understands, adding, "Because it's hard work, paying a price just to come here."

The latest economic data shows that the average farmworkers is paid between $13.68 and and $14.62 an hour.

The essay Juarez turned in for the contest also proved therapeutic for him. Placing second in the contest is a big feat since he migrated to the United States just a couple of years ago not knowing a word of English.

"I had two friends that weren't really friends, they kept laughing at me that I didn't know English, so when I said I wanted to be a writer, they just laughed at me," Juarez said.

The award-winning essay proved them wrong, but Juarez now has his eyes set on a different path.

"When I grow up," said Juarez, "I just want to help people that don't have hands, legs, or something, to help them feel normal and not feel excluded."

Juarez has his sights set on California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo. Having met hard work at a very young age, he knows this is just the beginning for him.

"I am grateful for what my mom gives me," writes Juarez. "I thank God for my mom and how good she is. I will show the world that Mexicans and everyone can be good in this world, so sí se puede. Yes, we can."

Edwin Juarez' essay


Aaron Cruz, 15, took first place in the art category for the Children in the Fields Campaign. Cruz also uses his art to reflect his experiences as the child of farmworkers.

"The reason I put a dad there is to show - or, like, a parent - is to show farmworker parents support their children a lot," said Cruz.

It's a drawing that means so much more than just the award to Cruz. He was very close to not entering a piece in the contest at all. His father passed away when the contest started.

"If he was here, I know he would have told me to do it," said Cruz. "Always try. Even if you don't think you are going to win, at least try."

Cruz tells 23ABC that he stayed up all night finishing his entry for the contest, thinking of the times that both his parents worked from sunup to sundown just to provide and he didn't fully understand it.

But he soon realized why his parents were out all day.

"We don't have enough money for the bills, and then I see why they stayed out for so long," said Cruz. "To provide for the family."

Working in the fields is a job that Cruz says people who don't live it simply cannot understand.

"They're judged really harshly, and they do hard labor to feed our nation," said Cruz, adding that sometimes, those words of judgement make him feel less worthy, "But then, at some point, you feel really proud to be a child of farmworkers."

And that's tied to his parents' love for him.

"That's why he is carrying him on his shoulder, and then the basket," explained Cruz, "he helps the child in his education."

Cruz says he hopes to take the next steps in his own education at Cal Poly Pomona. He says his parents have both given up a lot for him to have more opportunities, and pursuing higher education is a way to honor that.

Aaron Cruz' drawing