Now updated with a new prologue and epilogue, Seth Holmes’ bestselling book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, With a Foreword by Philippe Bourgois provides an intimate examination of the everyday lives, suffering, and resistance of Mexican migrants in our contemporary food system. Holmes was invited to trek with his companions clandestinely through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with Indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the United States, planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. In a substantive new epilogue, Holmes and Indigenous Oaxacan scholar Jorge Ramirez-Lopez provide a current examination of the challenges facing farmworkers and the lives and resistance of the protagonists featured in the book.
Seth Holmes is an anthropologist and medical doctor, Chancellor’s Professor at UC Berkeley, Founder of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Co-Director of the MD/PhD Track in medical anthropology, ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona, and recipient of a European Research Council Award for the project FOODCIRCUITS.
What has changed since the first edition published and why does your book continue to be relevant — potentially now more than ever?
Over the past 10 years, the farmworker families in the book have continued to invite me into their lives and ask me to share their stories as a way of working toward a world in which they experience more respect, inclusion and health. Today, the world is experiencing more transnational migration than ever, as well as renewed forms of racism, anti-immigrant prejudice and the scapegoating of immigrant workers. At the same time, there is increased awareness — especially after the COVID pandemic — of the reliance of our food systems on migrant farmworkers. The health of our societies and our bodies depends on the fruit and vegetables provided by migrant farmworker families like those in this book. They continue to engage in demanding physical labor — and experience the health consequences — that allows the rest of us to eat fresh, healthy food. Their stories are more important now than ever for helping us understand the ways we can all support the health, well-being and fair treatment of all people — including those who feed us.
What new content can readers find in the book?
The new edition includes a prologue and an epilogue —co-authored with Jorge Ramirez-Lopez, a Triqui and Putleco historian of indigenous transnational social movements — that updates readers on the migrant farmworker families in the book, including introducing readers to the second generation in these families, who are now youth in high school. These inspiring people have worked hard picking berries and vegetables, navigating anti-Latine and anti-indigenous discrimination, and even directing a multiple award-winning documentary film about their indigenous Mexican transnational families and communities. Students are likely to find the documentary to be a powerful departure-point for discussion and learning. The epilogue also follows three of the central families in the book as they joined movements for farmworker labor rights and immigrant health rights. These families describe their experiences with collective action for positive social change and with ongoing structural violence that continues to put them and their families at risk. They ask readers to take seriously their own role in transnational food systems and encourage readers to be part of the solution by supporting movements of immigrants and farmworkers.
Reflecting back on the last 10 years, what strikes you about the book’s reception and how you’ve seen readers and students engage with it?
When I first wrote Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies in conversation with these families, I thought it might be interesting to students and professors in anthropology and possibly social medicine, the medical humanities or public health. Over the past decade, however, the book has become widely read in classrooms not only in these fields, but also in sociology, food studies, geography, immigration studies, Spanish, English, Latin American studies, and it was covered by National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Radio Bilingüe and other popular media. I have received several hundred letters and emails from students who have found the people in the book inspiring. I am grateful that many students who grew up in immigrant and in farmworker families have found the book helpful in understanding their family background and their parents and am glad I could contribute the proceeds from the book to farm worker organizations. I am honored that the families in the book continue to include me in their everyday lives, inviting me to birthdays, baptisms, hometown festivals as well as visiting me and giving presentations together with me at universities and conferences. We see each other regularly in California, Washington State and Oaxaca, Mexico, and have worked together on participatory community health research projects and the documentary film previously mentioned. As the families in the book continue to inspire me and invite me to work with them, I hope that their ongoing work will motivate readers to work toward a more just and healthy world for all.
The updated Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, With a Foreword by Philippe Bourgois publishes November 2023. Reserve your exam copy today.