Artist Jacalyn Lopez Garcia created her photography exhibit with the intention of deconstructing the negative stereotypes of farmworkers.
The results of her more than 200 interviews will be presented at the Temecula Valley Museum from Jan. 23 to Feb. 28.
“Life Cycles: Reflections of Change and a New Hope for Future Generations” puts the spotlight on Coachella Valley migrant families in 21 black-and-white and 63 color photographs depicting life today. The photographs show their personal stories of struggle and accomplishment in the growing colonia communities in the Riverside County desert.
Lopez Garcia, who is retired as director of the UC Riverside/Communities for Virtual Research and now teaches art and photography in Riverside and Los Angeles, found success stories among the families.
“Immigrant families come in hope of a better life and are adamant that their children receive a good education here,” she said. “They know it’s the key to their ability to succeed and do well.”
The project took more than two years to complete and was partially funded by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities and the UC regents. It debuted at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside and is on tour.
One farm worker Lopez Garcia interviewed was passionate about working on a farm. The man moved up from picker to driving a tractor and other farm chores. He loved the work for himself, but was didn’t want his children following in his footsteps, she said.
Lopez Garcia said some older migrant children, like her own mother once did, work the fields before or after school or on weekends so their younger siblings could have more opportunity.
One person featured in the exhibit is Victor Manuel Perez, who said his parents taught him the importance of education in bringing a person out of poverty. He earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and serves on the Coachella Valley Unified School District board.
Dale Wilkins, Temecula Valley Museum specialist, said the photographs show the families at high school football games, repairing their homes, sitting in front of the TV playing video games, using computers and interacting in other ways with their families.
He said it surprised him seeing how good the living conditions looked in the photographs.
When migrant workers began living in the Coachella Valley, they lived in areas called colonias, without much infrastructure such as water, electricity or sewers. Lopez Garcia said progress has been made, but some areas remain impoverished.