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Special Feature November 2, 2006

Our Museum . . . and its Memories . . .

A Review - by lyle e davis

As Ansel Adams created a legend with his phenomenal photos of California landscapes, so, too, is photojournalist Rick Nahmias creating his own legend with stark and moving black and white photographs of the migrant worker and his story.

On display at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, the exhibit, “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers,” drew rave reviews from an advance preview audience this past Saturday.

This project represents something of a tour de force for Nahmias as he presents a traveling photography and bilingual text exhibition. The exhibition will continue at the Center for the Arts, Escondido, through January 2007.


A grave for an unclaimed migrant body not far from the border. This dirt lot is the final resting place for many who die crossing the border as well as for migrants who die in America and whose families are unable to afford to have their remains sent back home. Over 2,600 people have died trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S. in the past decade, ten times the number of people who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall during its entire 28-year existence.

An exhibit that just naturally ties in with the primary exhibit of The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers is the Memoria del Hombre exhibit by Eloy Tarcisio, the internationally acclaimed Mexican artist that creates the annual installation, Muerte de todos ofrenda de participación (Death Comes to Everyone: A Participatory Offering). The wall, with objects left behind over the 12 year span of the installation here at the Museum proves a powerful reminder of the history of this community event.

Another treat for Museum patrons is “Broken Chandeliers,” featuring sculpture by Hugo Heredia

Hugo Heredia's large scale sculptures combine glass and metal in intimate and beautiful configurations. Heredia has exhibited his work at galleries and events throughout Southern California.

Still another exhibit, “Where Do You Store These Dreams?” features the paintings of Anna Zappoli Jenkins

A San Diego based artist, Anna Zappoli Jenkins, explores basic human emotions in her paintings and mixed media creations. She finds “inspiration in everyday life,” and is influenced by artists such as Picasso, Dali, Modigliani, and Morandi.


Tomato workers are given one token for each pair of buckets they fill, totaling approximately 30 pounds. The value of the tokens fluctuates with the market price of the tomatoes. On this day, the tokens were worth $0.95. This man holds his wages for one morning’s worth of work.


To avoid possible damage to the tomatoes, picking cannot begin until the fruit is dry. Since tomatoes are paid as piece rate, before beginning work, workers may need to wait several (unpaid) hours after arriving at the field depending on weather conditions. Most pickers get jobs on a first-come-first-hired basis, developing into skilled teams on which pickers who prove amongst the least productive, drop out. During the height of the season, California tomato fields produce 2 billion pounds of tomatoes per week.


This man holds a $74.08 paycheck, his net earnings for two full days of work. Too tired to cross the border and return home to Mexicali after a day’s work, he sleeps in the railroad yards which double as an end-of-day migrant depot. Some time after midnight, he will go out and begin looking for his next day’s work.





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