Readers React

Thinking of the children who work so Americans can eat

To the editor: I was raised on a farm in Iowa in the 1950s. We were tenant farmers, a Yankee name for sharecroppers. Like 12-year-old Alejandrina Castillo, the Mexican farmworker profiled in your article, I and my four brothers worked as children. We even hired out to nearby farmers. ("In Mexico's fields, children toil to harvest crops that make it to American tables," Dec. 14)

My first paying job was for 10 cents an hour. In another job, I was taken from one farmer to the next to pick weeds out of acres of corn and soybean fields, earning 1 cent for every 2 button weeds pulled.

Yes, we occasionally missed school at the height of harvest, but we were never hungry or abused, and we never felt desolate like Alejandrina. My memories of those days are fond.

I ache for Alejandrina and all children forced into labor. This is the residue of globalization, the fee that must be paid to pay less for our serrano peppers. So the next time we raise our chile-pepper margaritas in a toast, let's salute Alejandrina and all the dear children who have dedicated their youth so we can save a few pennies.

Stephen Kienzle, Whittier

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To the editor: For the American version of the drama reported by The Times, readers should check out a book written some time ago by a man named John Steinbeck. It's called "The Grapes of Wrath."

I believe that if the final scene of that book had occurred at a Mexican labor camp, the woman who helped the starving man most likely would not have nursed him, but certainly would have cleaned his pockets of any money he had.

Jake C. Henn, San Diego

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To the editor: Why was the word "sharecropper" floating around in my mind as I read this series? Maybe because I can't bear to say what these labor practices really are: slavery.

K.F. Lisovsky, Venice

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To the editor: In this country, as well as around the world, when poor families have many children, it multiplies the problem of feeding all of those mouths. Children working the fields in Mexico are the result not only of corporate greed, but of the absence of reasonable family planning.

That is the elephant in the field, so to speak.

Janet Campbell, Glendora

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