Labor Day Nostalgia

This labor day weekend is hitting me differently than it usually does.
Perhaps it’s Because my hometown, Hatch, NM,  is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its annual Chile Festival.
More than 30,000 people are expected to pour into my hometown to purchase roasted chile peppers and join the festivities.
… and although I’m all about enjoying salsa, chile rellenos, enchiladas, chile con carne, and “all things chile”…. I can’t help but think about all the farm workers that labored heavily to harvest this “green and red gold”.
I can’t help it because, from the age of 5 to 17, I was one of them.

Growing up in a small farming comunity didn’t give me the privilege of applying at Mcdonald’s or the local grocery store for my first job.
On the contrary, at the age of 5, my father took me to the chile field to work alongside him and the other farm workers (most of whom were undocumented immigrants).

For those of you that never had the “pleasure” of harvesting chile peppers. Know that you escaped:
• ⁣Heavy labor in the boiling hot sun
• Being unable to wipe the sweat from your brow (chile pepper hands sting)
• Having to settle for a wage that doesn’t cover basic living expenses.
• Ending the day in exhaustion with barely enough time to prepare for a back-breaking day the following day.

It may sound torturous…
Yet I survived.
• ⁣I bought my first bike.
• I bought my school clothes.
• I bought a trapper keeper for school.
• … and I made friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Today,  I don’t take it for granted that I had the opportunity to pursue my education.
I don’t take it for granted that my work environment has refrigerated air.
I don’t take it for granted that I can purchase chile peppers that my hands didn’t have to pick.
I don’t take it for granted that others are still doing the work that was a great part of my childhood and adolescence.

Today, I am grateful.

Unapologetically yours,

John Eli

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