The Farmworker Voice

 
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PHOTO: Anita de la Vega Anita de la Vega outside the health center where she was a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Nurse Midwife.

Anita de la Vega was a lifelong champion of farmworkers.   She held from a unique perspective, having been both a farmworker herself and, later, a migrant health clinician. The excerpt below from her speech at the 1996 MCN Unsung Hero Award (12 years before her death) is an eloquent statement on the life of farmworkers and the dedication of the clinicians who serve them.

I am the product of undocumented parents who dared to swim across the Rio Grande so that they could find a better opportunity for themselves and their children… My mother had no prenatal care and none was available to her… I lived in tents, I picked fruit so I could get through school along with my other family members. I have had to deal with not wanting to be Hispanic because of the language and cultural barriers and what it did to women…

I am the eldest of five children and became my parents’ advocate because they could not speak English… Being an advocate at the age of seven, when I learned English as a second language, I encountered a system that was not very sensitive to people who had a different culture and a different language… And so, as I picked grapes and I was on my knees spreading those grapes for raisins, I decided that someday I would hope to work in the system. That I would try to change it so that it would be sensitive and poor people would get care with love,… dignity, and respect for their cultural barriers…

It is difficult being a clinician when you work with the poor… I am a graduate of (two universities). I choose to work with the poor and farmworkers. I want to be there as a role model and to develop programs that they can further themselves… Also, with my two languages, I can empower them to use a system that is sometimes very negative and very hard and very cruel. My people, like my parents, are being beaten because they try to come to this country to find opportunities…I think it is incumbent on all of us to remember where we came from and turn our face around to the injustices. And that together we make a difference.