Beto Rocha


Wakened, in the cold night, about 3:30 or 4 a.m. in the morning; a breakfast of eggs, beans, bread, and mud at the ranch house, then boarding a small passenger bus with his compa–eros, along with some other farmworkers, they traveled down a country road in the darkness before dawn. In front of them, the busesŐ headlights shown on fences as it rumbled along, with row after row of standardized orchard trees appearing on the roadside as moving black silhouettes behind long lines of flat, painted white boards with their intermittent fence posts. The air was cold and biting - yet it was early summer; in Los Angeles it was probably smoggy and tepid – and David filled his lungs with the good smelling freshness, y una cancion popular Mexicana came to his mind, en que dice un refran, ŇEn la fresca y perfumada ma–anitaÓ. . . They arrived at the work place as the sky had begun to light up. The bus rolled to a stop on hard earth near a peach tree grove, and when the motor was turned off, its obnoxious rattle, was replaced by the post dawn singing of birds, and the music of crickets. Los braceros formed up in a straggling line, and were given each a ladder, a pail, and a double pouched bag, which was put on over the head, and hung on the shoulders, the pouches were to hold the fruit, the pails were to be left near the foot of the ladders, the peaches were paid at 5 cents a bucket, and one had to make sure to fill the bucket to the top. When a man had enough fruit picked for a pail or two or more, he would climb down off the ladder, fill up his pail [algunos mas abusados, habian conseguido dos baldes], and carry it over to the contador [tally man], then the picker would carefully


                                              [ 8.]


spill the peaches into a wood crate, and handing the contador a

tally card, who would then punch a hole in the slip of paper for each bucketful.

     On a ladder, within the dark boughs of a peach tree, David began slowly at first, being yet uncoordinated to gather and fill the bag efficiently with the sparse fruit in the early morning light, and hang on to the ladder at the same time. And while doing all that, stopping for long moments to eat some of the fruit, ignoring the irritating fuzz that clung to his tongue and throat, and ignorant of pesticides, swallowed tasty morsels of the sweet, sun ripened peaches he came across. Nor did he pay attention to the grit he swallowed down with the fruit, because he was much more interested in savoring the fresh air, and smelling the sweet odor of the ripe peaches, and in seeing the changing blueness of the sky from turquoise to light cerulean touched with yellow, to pale sky blue. And in watching the rising of the sun and feeling its warmth on that cold summer morning, than in a hurry to fill a bucket – he didnŐt have the work experience of the older trabajadores who picked the peaches for the necessity of making a living.

     Climbing down and unloading the bag of its heavy cargo into the pail, moving the ladder to another spot, his high top, black tennis shoes easily grabbing the rungs as he clambered back on the ladder, his face, hands and arms getting scratched on the branches of the tree as he reached enthusiastically for the hard to get at fruit. David, young and limber, had begun for the first time in his life, one of his three or so experiences as a Mexican-American farmworker, putting him on the path to becoming a Chicano.

     They had been at the rancho for a little over a week, and

had only worked a few days. Yet they were being charged daily


                                              [ 9.]

for room and board, paid for with money from their wages, which David never saw an accounting of. Well, the few dollars they had accumulated between them went for la comirucha, so they ate and slept, and showered outside in an open-air stall, pero todo a costo, leaving them with little money. To–o, delegated himself to hold all the communal money, and distributed it among the others, but in DavidŐs case, received none at all. Pues habian chambeado muy poco durante casi dos semanas que estubieron en el rancho, y del dinero que habian acumula-

do en comun, les descontaban la comida, y tambien por el lugar que ocupaban para dormir. Uno de los hermanos se puso al control del dinero, pero David nunca vio un centavo. Se ba–aban en ba–o de regadera, que se encontraba en la yarda cerca del dormitorio, estaba acercado de madera y sin techo. A David le gustaba mucho la ducha, ba–andose bajo el sol a diario.

     Al fin se decidieron salirse de ese lugar, que es que se supo que habia trabajo en la zanahoria, y se fueron temprano un dia, completos con todo sus kits and kaboodles, sin embargo no llevaban mucho. Having come to the decisi—n to find work elsewhere, one of them knew or had heard that there were carrots to harvest, and so, they hit the road early one morning, and headed for greener pastures.

     Once on the highway, they stuck out their thumbs, hoping to get a ride, and amazingly in no time at all, un gabacho, buena gente, so it seemed to David, came by in a pre-war V-8 Ford, the auto slowed down as it went past them, the old car pulled over onto the shoulder of the road a bit down the highway and stopped. The door on the passenger side of the

black car, its non color faded and dusty, The driver wore glasses that had lenses the thickness of the bottom of coke


                                              [ 10]

bottle, and his eyes appeared to be the size of raisins, behind  the thick polished glass, and said little or nothing. ŇCould you give us a ride to the carrot fields?Ó asked David, and the man mumbled something like, ŇIŐll take you as far asÓ. . . and then motioned for them to get in, which they did. And, as soon as the hitch-hikers settled into the V-8 rattle trap, the driver sped off whaling down the road as fast as the old jalopy could go. It must have been a sleeper, because the trees and the fields were a blur as the car zoomed down the highway going south; tele- phone poles went by at an alarming rate. The auto had traveled a good distance in a short space of time, when of a sudden a black and white highway patrol car, its siren screaming, appea- red behind them. David turned his head, and could see the patrol car closing in fast as the driver of the V-8 slowed down, and in obedience to the law, stopped the car by the side of the road. The patrol car stopped in front of them, blocking the old car. There were two chippies [California Highway Patrol Officers], and one came to the passenger side, and asked us, not in an intolerable tone of voice, for identification. David was the only one who did, he had a high school card with his name on it, and told the officer in his best school learned English, that he was an American citizen, and that he had been born in the United States. The officer then ordered the four compa–eros to get into the patrol car. David recalls clearly, the heavy metal screen separating the passengers from the driverŐs bench, and, from where he was sitting he could see the other chippy at the driverŐs side of the V-8, who seemed to be writing on his ticket pad. David felt that all that had occurred was just so matter of fact, so routine, and happened, one could say, in  the twinkling of an eye. He had had no time for reflection, and could only observe the event. Nor did he suspect the reality of

the situation, which was that they were caught by the police


                                              [ 11.]

cooperating with the Immigration authorities, using a method of entrapment carried out so smoothly, that this devise prac-ticed then, is still in play now.

     It was a set up, and the trap was sprung the moment they had set foot on the main road. Harvest time was over, at least for the agricultural product of that area; redundant laborers not needed at the time. Along comes an Immigrant agent full of fear or exitement, or both, doing his part in the round up of illegals, and picks them up; drives like crazy past a hidden patrol car, it giving chase, and the hitchhikers arrested for being in the country sin papeles, and the Mexican-American with the mojados put into protective custody. A sneaky job of entrapment indeed! For now its well known that illegal workers  are allowed into the country, the Immigration authorities shuts an eye so that the crops can be gathered during the harvest season. But, when itŐs over, rounds up the illegals who would stay in the U.S.A. The Mexicans, staying mainly in this country for economic, and historical reasons, are generally unaware of the insidious process behind the tactic of, ÔWe need you, and weŐll get rid of you, when we donŐt have a need for youŐ, a secret pact made by private agro-business in cahoots with the Immigration authorities, and the police.

     The patrol car drove past the point where they had thum- bed the ride, they were headed north to Stockton, and To–o of the Maldeojos brothers, spoke very quietly to David, taking advantage of the noise coming from the car radio, using it as a cover as he spoke – so that the chippies would not overhear – the radio was blaring out information, and the officer at the

wheel, speaking back at it into the mike, the other man was

busy making out a report. ŇHaste como que no nos conoces,Ó he said, Ňno menciones mi nombre ni los de ellos.Ó Signifying the

other two cuates. [ŇPretend that you donŐt know us, donŐt


                                              [ 12.]

mention my name nor of the others.Ó] Now the reason why

To–o told David to play the game of deception with the cops, was because, he had previously done time in jail for sneaking across the U.S.A.-Mexico border, and he and his brother had been caught. The Immigration judge threatened him, at the time of his sentencing, that if he were caught again, he would have to serve a longer term in prison.

     David was the first to be taken into custody, and at Stock- tonŐs Juvenile Hall, getting out of the car; just before being led into the building, and having forgotten To–oŐs instructions, inadvertently blurted out a farewell, ŇPues, nos vimos To–o.Ó [Ill be seeing you To–o] But when the Maldeojos brother did not respond, David instantly recalled why the man was silent, but it was too late.

      He spent three or four days in protective custody, in among youngsters more or less his own age, major and minor felons, who fought, cussed or horsed around, or sat around bored, spending their time in the kidŐs hoosegow. Initially, David was locked up for a day or so, and food was brought to him. He was in a cell with room enough for a metal cot, a toilet and a washbasin. He covered the cot with a thin mattress, on top of which he placed an institutional grey blanket, and a pillow, which he had been given in the process of his incarceration. The place must have originally been an old timey jail, for the walls of the cell were white washed bricks, and the door at the entrance of the tiny room was made of heavy lumber with a small barred opening, just enough space for a jailorŐs face to appear in or disappear from. Imprisoned also was a caged light bulb on the ceiling, which burned all night, making it a bit

difficult to sleep. A Mexican song, popular during that decade,

which went, ŇCuando estaba yo en la carcel, solito me entretenia, contando los eslabones que mi cadena tenia. Que


                                              [ 13.]

noches tan negras la de la prision, suenan los candados, la del

Corazon.Ó The melody being somewhat sad, with Ôsorry for yourselfŐ lyrics, much in keeping with how young David then felt.                                                                                                                                

     Yet, within that isolated cunuco [small, hidden tucked away place], was the consolation of a good size window, though covered with chain link fencing, nevertheless letting in the light of the glorious sun. David sat on the end of the cot, and for a time watched some of his fellow inmates play baseball, during his first day in the Stockton juvenile clink.    

     Before David was let out of the can, his mom was informed that he could only be released to the care of a parent or relative. So, mama had to take a bus north to Stockton to pick David up, bringing her second son Ikie with her, his baby sister Tina, was left in the care of a trusted relative. ŇMi esposo no podia dejar el trabajo, por eso tuve que ir sola.Ó On her arrival, David was released to her custody, and back to L.A., they went.             The brothers Maldeojos and Donato were already staying at the house on mamaŐs and DavidŐs return. DavidŐs slip of the tongue had not been not been enough evidence to have the two bro- thers condemned for months or up to a year of incarceration. Once in the hands of the Immigration authorities, To–o lied as to his and his brotherŐs surname, and they were able to escape being jailed. A el y a su hermano los habian arrestado y hecha- dos fuera varias veces del pais Norte Americano, y con esta ultima, casi les habia llegado el tiempo para que los metieran al bote for law breakers. They had both been arrested and depor- ted often enough to be thrown in jail. Mama, bien furiosa con los hermanos, decia de ellos, ŇEsos parasitos amigotes de tu

papa cuando uno de ellos, ŇCon el vino se tragaba no solo uno, pero hasta quatro vitaminas a la sentada.


                                             [ 14.]

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