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"As the frost receded, the asparagus harvest began. Then came the hoeing of sugar beets, followed by the cucumber harvest..."
Three Generations of Migrants: A Family History
presented by Jesus Salas
Mexican immigrants and Mexican American migrants, like other 19th century European immigrants, settled in both rural and urban Wisconsin communities. Jesus Salas’s grandparents were sharecroppers in Texas. They lost their ties to the land during the Great Depression. The Mexican Revolution caused further turmoil and the Salas family, along with other migrants, traveled to the Great Lakes region. His family followed the seasons and resulting opportunity. As the frost receded, the asparagus harvest began. Then came the hoeing of sugar beets west of the Kettle Moraine, followed by the cucumber harvest in the Central Sands until early September. As the cold returned, the family moved south to harvest tomatoes and pick cotton. Jesus will share stories of working alongside his siblings and parents, of being part of the migrant community, and of the changes he experienced. His parents first came to Wisconsin in early 1940s; by 1959, over 10,000 migrants were coming to the state yearly. During this time, agriculture changed in Wisconsin from a household industry to big business. Jesus and his family were on the ground creating the wealth, as well as fighting for their fair share.
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Jesus Salas is the descendent of a Mexican American family who first came to Wisconsin during the 1940s. He worked throughout his early school years as a migrant farmworker. Salas led protests, marches, and organizing efforts to secure rights and improve conditions for himself, his family, and the migrant community during the 1960s and 1970s. Salas has an undergraduate degree from the UW-Milwaukee, and an advanced degree from the UW-Madison. He has worked as teacher and scholar at MATC, UW-Madison, and UW-Milwaukee. Salas served as a member of the UW-System Board of Regents from 2003-07.
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