This is a joint publication of Berkeley and Floricanto Presses. ”Migrant Earth” very eloquently documents the travels and travails of a family of Mexican migrant workers as they wander the Western United States in the nineteen forties and fifties. These are poignant tales that paint the life and death struggle of a family living on the periphery of a dominant white culture that simultaneously loathed and needed them. They owned but the clothes on their backs and lived in rat infested, dilapidated agricultural labor camps throughout the Pacific Northwest. They worked from sunup to sundown in pesticide laced fields under scorching, unrelenting summer suns. While wandering the countryside working the fields—White society was too genteel to harvest—they dreamed of better times and the safety of a piece of land they could call home. Ultimately they were able to save enough to purchase a small thirty acre farm in Eastern Washington. But just when the hard life seemed over, his padres divorced and mamá with nine children in tow was sent back on the migrant labor circuit. Señor Ledesma’s writes passionately about a hard as nails papá he feared but who taught him to love the land and respect hard work. He credits his mamá for teaching him the transformative nature of dreams. If he took them seriously, she explained a thousand times, they would save him from the brutal life that tragically killed his four older siblings. Migrant Earth is historical and hopeful. Until now Señor Ledesma’s stories have been too painful to talk about. His stories lie quietly in the shadows of a middle class life with no resemblance to where his family began or what they experienced. This book is about how those experiences shaped what he and his siblings became. These stories talk about the long journey of hope that brought them out of those desperate times. The voice you hear throughout the book is that of a frightened child living a life no child should live, trying in vain to make sense of who he was, where he was and what he saw . . . fearful he would never make it out of the camps alive. In our country’s present, contentious debate over immigration policy, Migrant Earth is helpful in bringing to light the subculture of the migrant workers in America. Through education comes understanding and understanding can lead to a more humane view of those of us who have sacrificed health and life to bring our nation’s food to our tables.
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Señor Ledesma was born in Toppenish, Washington into a family of sixteen brothers and sisters. His parents emigrated from Mexico in the 1930’s and his family spent the following twenty years living and working in migrant labor camps throughout the Western United States.
Señor Ledesma served in the military before attending Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, earning a BA and M.Ed., in history, sociology and anthropology. His graduate work was in counseling.
Señor Ledesma worked as a mental health therapist for thirty-eight years before retiring to write. He now spends his time chronicling his family’s early years on the road looking for something and someplace better. He lives with his wife, Kendra, a retired high school mathematics teacher on ten acres in rural Sedro Woolley, Washington.