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LA History Museum exhibition spotlights migrant farm workers

The Los Altos History Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “In the Fields of the North/En los Campos del Norte,” chronicles the lives of contemporary migrant farm workers.

On display March 19 through June 21, the exhibition features photojournalist David Bacon’s evocative photographs alongside oral narratives from migrant farm workers. Fully translated in both English and Spanish, the display aims to give insight into the food people eat and the lives of the workers who harvest it.

Traveling with migrant workers as the fruit and harvest season moves from the Mexican border to Washington state, “In the Fields of the North/En los Campos del Norte” sheds light on basic questions, according to exhibition organizers, including: How much do people know about the lives of the workers who feed them? Where do they live? How does it feel to do some of the hardest repetitive labor imaginable? And what answers do farm workers themselves have to end their poverty and endless migration?

“The museum wanted to host this traveling exhibition as a follow-up to our successful bilingual exhibition on Juana Briones, ‘Inspired by Juana: La Doña de la Frontera,’” said Elisabeth Ward, museum executive director.

Bacon, a photographer, journalist and activist, spent more than three decades documenting the lives of migrant workers, building on his previous work as a union organizer. The exhibition is based on the book of the same name, recently published by University of California Press.

“Bacon captures the humanity of workers who work each day in demanding physical labor, in the hot sun, and for poverty wages,” wrote Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center. “This is one of the few publications that captures the authentic stories of California farm workers, through their own voices and with the images of their living and working conditions.”

Bacon is also the author of “The Children of NAFTA,” “Communities Without Borders,” “Illegal People” and “The Right to Stay Home.”

An opening reception is scheduled 2-5 p.m. March 21 at the museum.

Additional related programming will include:

• “Life in the Fields” lecture, 6:30-8 p.m. March 31

• Screening of the movie “Dolores,” 6:30-8:30 p.m. April 22

• Heritage Orchard Workshop, 6:30-8 p.m. May 14 at the Los Altos main library

• “The Legacy of the Bracero Program” lecture: 6:30-8 p.m. June 3

“In the Fields of the North/En los Campos del Norte” is produced in partnership with California Rural Legal Assistance, the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations and History San José. The display is touring the U.S. through Exhibit Envoy, which provides traveling exhibitions and professional services to museums throughout California.

The Los Altos History Museum is located at 51 S. San Antonio Road. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is free.

For more information, call 948.9427, ext. 14, or visit losaltoshistory.org.

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