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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Apartheid in America

.....or "Who Picked That Tomato In Your Salsa?"

From Raj Patel, author of the brilliant Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, this report from the tomato plantations of Florida:

Although I’d never been there before, our guided tour around the town of Immokalee felt familiar. Immokalee means ‘my home’ in Seminole. And it was peoples’ homes that I’d seen before, in another country. The trailers where tomato-pickers sleep reminded me of South African townships, filled with densely packed low-income houses, built by the government to keep the supply of black labour close, but not too close, to the cities where their work was required.

Except that the conditions in Apartheid era township houses were better than in Immokalee.

In Immokalee, the housing stock is largely owned by one family, the Blockers, who rule over an archipelago of run down and unsanitary houses. The picture shows a house in which eight people sleep, each queuing up to use the bathroom every morning, and stove-top every night, in wretched poverty. For this, they pay around $40 a week. If they want an air conditioner, they pay $20 a week more. In one case, if they wanted a shower to wash a day’s worth of pesticides off, workers were charged $5 to hose down outside. Some workers find it cheaper and more effective to wash their hands in bleach.

Read the rest on Raj's blog.


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