Zenaida Harvesting NopalHarvesting JicamaFelicioSelecting Coffee Beans For PlantingErecting A Light PoleWalking Through A Corn FieldMariaPabloArturoFrancisca Husking Corn
Joseph Sorrentino
Website: www.sorrentinophotography.com

Email: joso1444@usa.net

El Campo: La Crisis En Silencio
Rural Mexico’s Silent Crisis

Mexico’s rural area—el campo—is in crisis. Over 80% of campesinos (rural workers or small farmers) are defined as “extremely poor” meaning they earn less than $2 a day. They’re receiving less revenue for the crops they grow at a time when the cost of growing those crops has increased five-fold and the cost of food staples—corn, beans, rice—have increased 80% to 100%. And now, largely due to trade agreements and the Mexican government’s own agricultural policies, produce imported from the US often sells for less than Mexican-grown produce. Campesinos with a couple of acres of land are competing with multinational corporations.

I have made three extended trips to rural Mexico, staying for several weeks each time. I have spent time in about 20 villages spread over six states, photographing campesinos who grow gourmet coffee, nopal (an edible cactus), jicama (a root vegetable), cacao and vanilla. They also grew corn and beans for autoconsumption. The story is the same in every village: dire poverty. A common refrain I heard was, “We don’t have enough to live; just enough to survive.” Faced with unending work and little pay, over 2 million campesinos—about 15% of the population— have abandoned their villages and are seeking work in large Mexican cities or the US. Sadly, there are few jobs in Mexico and, with our own economic downturn and concerns about border security, fewer jobs for them in the US.

Millions of people are at risk of starvation, yet we hear almost nothing about it in the media. It is a major crisis that is unfolding in silence.

The images here are from the project I undertook in 2008. Funding for that project was generously provided by The Puffin Foundation and The Institute for Justice and Journalism.