Ramón Mesa Ledesma. Migrant Earth. ISBN:13: 978-1-888205-53-4. $22.95
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.
Ramón Ledesma again invites readers into the world of his youth as a migrant worker through evocative poetry and prose. In stories both heartbreaking and bursting with joy, Ledesma deftly shares his family and life experiences in imagery so vivid and words so powerful you will feel like you were there. The visit into his world is a journey well worth taking. —Laura Gjovaag, Daily Sun News—Reporter
Señor Ledesma was born in Toppenish, Washington into a family of sixteen brothers and sisters. He spent his formative years living and working in migrant labor camps throughout the Pacific Northwest. He is a Vietnam veteran. He attended Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, earning a BA with majors in history and sociology and a minor in anthropology. He also earned a master’s in counseling. He worked as a mental health therapist for thirty-eight years before retiring in 2012. He now devotes himself to writing. He lives with his wife, Kendra, a high school mathematics teacher on ten acres in rural Sedro Woolley, Washington.