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Home of Mexican Migrant Worker, 1937

Migratory Mexican field worker's home on the edge of a frozen pea field. Imperial Valley, California.

Migratory Mexican field worker's home on the edge of a frozen pea field. Imperial Valley, California.

Library of Congress, LC_FSA_LC-USF34-016425-C
 
Document Description
Migratory Mexican field worker’s home on the edge of a frozen pea field in California, 1937. Dorothea Lange, photographer.
 
Questions
Describe the home this family is living in.
Describe the environment this home is in.
What time period could this be? Why do you think that?
How long do you think the family may have lived here? Why do you think that?
What might be the positive aspects of being a migrant worker? The negative aspects?
Divide the photo into quadrants.  Make a list of everything you see in each quadrant.  What do these items tell you about the standard of living of this migrant family?
 
Historical Challenges
During the Great Depression, the government employed many artists, writers, and photographers to document the lives of migrant farm workers. Dorothea Lange was one of these photographers. Find more of her photos and compare the conditions she documented to those in this photo.
Research the effect of the Great Depression on farms, farm prices, and migrant labor in New York State.
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Visit this website, research the lifestyle of most migrant workers during the Great Depression, and explain: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/afctshtml/tsme.html
Art: Imagine the small joys this family might have. Draw a picture that the child in the doorway might have drawn for her father. Use images appropriate to the family’s lifestyle.
 
Resources
 

 

Historical Context
Mexicans have a long history of farming in the U.S.  Some accounts suggest that Mexican farm laborers have been here since the land in our Southwest was taken from Mexico.

More than one million agricultural workers migrated to the U.S. in the early twentieth century.  The majority of them found work on small family farms in California because the white owners of these farms welcomed cheap labor.  Most migrant workers in California today are of Mexican descent.

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit Mexican immigrants especially hard.  Along with the job crisis and food shortages that affected all U.S. workers, Mexicans and Mexican- Americans had to face the additional threat of deportation. As unemployment swept the U.S., hostility to immigrant workers grew, and the government began a program of repatriating immigrants to Mexico. The farm workers who remained struggled to survive in desperate conditions. Bank foreclosures drove small farmers from their land, and large landholders cut back on their permanent workforce.  As with many Southwestern farm families, a great number of Mexican-American farmers discovered that they had to live a migratory existence and traveled the highways in search of work. This photograph, taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, is part of the Farm Security Administration collection that documents conditions of farm workers during the Great Depression.
 
Essential Question
Why do people migrate?
How does migration affect the migrants and the communities into which they migrate?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the impact of migration on this family.