[permaculture] Fwd: LA CROSSE TRIBUNE STORY: Postville workers to share their stories on stage

mIEKAL aND qazingulaza at gmail.com
Sat Dec 5 17:18:09 EST 2009


Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Mark A. Kastel - The Cornucopia Institute" <kastel at cornucopia.org 
> >
> Date: December 5, 2009 10:11:56 AM CST
> To: "Mark Kastel" <kastel at mwt.net>
> Subject: LA CROSSE TRIBUNE STORY: High-Impact Theater Tonight
> Reply-To: <kastel at cornucopia.org>
>
> Postville workers to share their stories on stage
>
> By Chris Hubbuch | chubbuch at lacrossetribune.com
>
>
> From left, Aaron Junech Vega, Onofre Macario Aguilar and Oscar Mejia  
> Santos watch TV at their Decorah, Iowa, home. The Guatemalan  
> immigrants wrote a play about their arrest in the May 2008 raid on  
> the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Released as  
> government witnesses against the plant manager, they now await  
> deportation. (Chris Hubbuch/La Crosse Tribune)
>
> DECORAH, Iowa - They came for the promise of prosperity.
>
> From villages in Guatemala and Mexico to a little town in Iowa. They  
> paid thousands - borrowed from brothers and cousins already in  
> America - to coyotes, smugglers who led them across the desert.
>
> They found jobs skinning cattle and cutting chickens, working 12- 
> hour days in dangerous conditions for $7 an hour.
>
> For this, they got prison.
>
> It's been a year and a half since immigration officials raided the  
> Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, where more than 300  
> workers, mostly from Guatemala and Mexico, were arrested on  
> immigration charges. Most pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five  
> months in prison.
>
> Now, as they wait to be sent home, seven are telling their stories  
> on stage.
>
> After serving their time, 24 of the Postville workers - all  
> government witnesses in a case against the plant manager - were  
> released. A handful settled in nearby Decorah, where church groups  
> helped them find a home.
>
> But the promised work permits were slow to come.
>
> As they struggled to get by on odd jobs, seven of the workers came  
> up with the idea of a play about their experiences.
>
> Over the winter, they would get together and tell stories while  
> Spanish-speaking students and recent Luther College graduates took  
> notes. Playwright Alex Skitolsky helped shape the work.
>
> The play is called "La Historia de Nuestras Vidas" - "The Story of  
> Our Lives." The men recite lines in Spanish, with a written English  
> translation provided.
>
> "When we left from the jail, we thought of this idea because we were  
> trying to get some money to send back to our families," said Oscar  
> Mejia Santos, a 30-year-old from Guatemala.
>
> It's also helped people understand their lives in Postville and  
> their struggles since the raid, said Aaron Junech Vega.
>
> They will perform the play for the 15th time tonight at the  
> University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Admission is free, though  
> donations are welcome.
>
> Mark Kastel saw the play this summer in Viroqua and was so moved he  
> helped bring it to La Crosse.
>
> As co-founder and policy analyst at the Cornucopia Institute - a  
> nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable food production -  
> Kastel saw the play as a reflection on the economics of cheap food.  
> He can remember when meatpackers earned good wages.
>
> "We have farmers going out of business. The people who produce our  
> food are treated in an abusive manner. ... We're supporting  
> companies that won't pay enough so that a domestic worker will take  
> a job," Kastel said.
>
> The men eventually got work permits and found jobs at the Postville  
> plant, now under new management.
>
> The pay is better - most now earn about $11 an hour, though without  
> benefits - but the work still treacherous. The days start at 5:45  
> a.m. and stretch to 5 p.m.
>
> And last month, Agriprocessors manager Sholom Rubashkin was  
> convicted of 86 fraud charges and may spend the rest of his life in  
> prison. A week later, the government dropped its immigration case,  
> eliminating the need for witnesses.
>
> The actors now face deportation, though they don't know when. A  
> farewell party is scheduled for next weekend at First Lutheran Church.
>
> They look forward to reuniting with wives and children they haven't  
> seen in years, but they don't know if they'll be able to provide for  
> them in a country where they might earn only $7 or $8 a day.
>
> "The situation is really hard. There's not very much work," Junech  
> said.
>
>
>
> If you go
>
> What: "La Historia de Nuestras Vidas," an autobiographical play by  
> seven workers arrested in the 2008 immigration raid at the  
> Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa
>
> When: 7 p.m. today
>
> Where: Graff Hall Auditorium, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
>
> Cost: Donations accepted
>
>
>
>
> Mark A. Kastel
> The Cornucopia Institute
> kastel at cornucopia.org
> 608-625-2042 Voice
> 866-861-2214 Fax
>
>
>
>
> P.O. Box 126
> Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
> www.cornucopia.org
>
>
>

  


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