A Migrant Harvester's Letters Home
By Bernabe Garay
Bernabe Garay from his Queretaro, Mexico, wrote letters regularly to keep in touch with his family during more than twenty years as a migrant worker in the United States.
In the early seventies, reporter Jane Kay of the Arizona Daily Star became interested in letters that Mexican migrant workers regularly sent home to their faraway families. Of the following excerpts, written by migrant worker Bernabe Garay of Queretaro, Mexico, she wrote:
"No matter how far Bernabe Garay traveled from his home in Mexico to the fields and orchards of Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, Texas, California, or Arizona, he never forgot to write. And his twenty years worth of letters give an account of the life he lived while harvesting the nations fruits and vegetables, always on the run. Now his two sons, Reginaldo and Francisco, are with him working in the orchards.
The following are only a few translations of excerpts from the dozens of letters he has sent over the years to his wife, Pilar, his mother, and his children. Of the letters, he says, smiling, With us, there were no secrets.
October 21, 1963
La Mesa, Texas,
Dear Little Regito:
I greet you and Celi and the other children. May you be happy and may you and Celi have a nice names day. May God keep you well for a long time, what your dad wishes for you, and that you be very good and obedient with your mother and dont be bad so that the Most Holy Virgin will love you much. And you take good care of the donkeys and the cows and let me know if we are going to have any small calves or piglets from the sow. I wonder I the horse has died; you dont tell me anything about him, if hes still alive. And be very obedient with your mother, because, according to Grandmother you have been behaving badly with your mother. Dont be bad; be obedient, because I love you all very much, but I will not permit you to disobey your mother, because she and I are the same, so be very careful. That is all from your dad who blesses you and does not forget you, not even for a moment.
November 30, 1972
My beloved wife:
I write this letter to greet you, hoping that when you hold this letter in your hands you will be enjoy-ing perfect health, as mine is, thanks be to God. About renewing the contract, I can tell you nothing right now, because the boss has not told us anything yet But I believe that he will renew, and if not him, someone else. It would be better to have him renew, though, because he is very kind to us; there are only two of us and he gives us watermelons, small bags with peaches, a half-dozen eggs. The old man is very good, and above all, he has very good cotton. God willing we will stay here with him; Ill let you know in my next letter.
Vieja, I am afraid to send Mexican money through the mail, but am enclosing ten pesos in your letter and ten in mothers. I am going to save as much as I can here. All I have spent is on a pair of shoes for myself last Saturday, because I didnt have any to wear and I looked like a beggar without shoes. And about what I told you, please tell her I asked for her to go visit her mother. It is true that I bought soft drinks for her and my compadre Claudios girls, but that does not mean anything; I did not hide from anyone to do it; so be careful of gossip. And please pray to God to help me out, for you know that what I Iearn is for you and my little cubs. You are right in telling me these things, but dont worry. That is all for the moment.
My dear wife:
We arrived after eight days and then, on Thursday, we began to work; we earn low wages, because there are many people, but something is better than nothing. We sleep right on the field. We already bought a blanket, because it is very cold and only that way can we stand it. Immigration cars almost daily are after us, but here where we are staying nothing happens to us; only, pray to God and my Holy Mother to take care of us. I send you $60, $50 for you all to eat, and the remaining ten you give to the Holy Virgin for her birthday gift in the name of myself and my son, and you all pray to her for us all you can. When you answer this letter, in case they have not caught us yet then I will send you something to pay some of all we owe; and you be sure to tell me the needs you have to see what we can do over here. Regards to all my children and my little mother-in-law, and tell me if Lollo has not left to come over here.... Dont fail to answer right away, please. ... I love you and I dont ever forget you.
October 23, 1967
I greet you lovingly, as I do my whole family.... Tell my mother that I am well, and please excuse me for not writing to her. Its because I have no stamps; I just have one.... I am enclosing my Social Security card so that I will not carry it with me and also that of my compadre. Please pray much to God and the Little Saint to take care of me so that we wont be caught. Your old man who loves you and wishes you the best.