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Working At The Bottom Of The Food Chain


This past Thanksgiving Sunday, Miguel Perez walked onto a stage two-and-a-half hours outside Calgary at a lunch for Mexican migrant farm

workers.

The group was singing karaoke as an ice-breaker, and Perez (whose name has been changed) chose “Que si me duele tu adiós,” a sad Mexican song about lost love. With his emotions close to the surface, he crooned in Spanish to around 50 workers and volunteers: “What if your goodbye hurts, and I was silent?”

In the crowd was Karla Vazquez, secretary and outreach director for the Calgary Association of Mexicans, the volunteer group that organized the lunch.

After singing, Perez told Vazquez that his brother had died in Mexico two weeks before, but he wasn't able to attend the funeral. They were quite close and Miguel’s mental health was suffering.

Workers are told at orientation in Mexico that they are only allowed to leave the farm when a spouse, parent or child dies—not a sibling. And although they can request special permission, not many workers can afford to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Canada.

“They’re so alone,” said Vazquez, referring to the migrant workers she’s been visiting weekly since June. “They show you pictures of the children they’re missing, the weddings they’re missing. They’re away from everything so that [Canadians] can have a pumpkin.”


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