Nothing is what it appears to be! Turn over a rock and you find all kinds of critters suddenly racing for cover. Poke around in the accounting practices of an Enron or Apple, and you find all kinds of corporate malfeasance. Check out where and how you clothing and Nike shoes are made, and you find abusive sweatshop labor practices. Look beyond the label on a bottle of wine and you find, the sweat of Mexican labor. How do the grapes get to the winery? To a large extent, they are harvested by Mexican workers. American businesses like meat packers and grape growers depend on Mexican labor. Very few American citizens want to do this dangerous backbreaking work. The Mexican economy and government depend on remittances from these workers for 20% of the Mexican GDP. Yet to varying degrees both governments put on a show of opposing migration to the North. There is truly an insane revolving door circus going on at the Mexican/American border. But this is not just a border state issue. There are Mexican migrants all over the United States -in Midwestern meat packing plants, apple orchards in Washington state, vineyards in California and Oregon, and all over the Southeast and New England, too.
Both economies depend on migrants. Immigration from Mexico has become a hot political issue, despite the fact that several studies in Arizona, Texas, and Riverside County, California have show that migrants make a significant net contribution to the economies of areas where they work. And don't forget we are all the children of immigrants whether Native Americans whose ancestors migrated from Asia, English men and women who arrived on the Mayflower, Germans who arrived in the mid-eighteenth century, Jews, Italians, Irish who arrived around the turn of the previous century, or Russians, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, or Dominicans who arrived more recently. We are a nation enriched by diversity. The Mexicans actually lived in California and the Southwest before we arrived.
So what's immigration got to do with wine? Everything! Without Mexican workers in the U.S., there would be no American wine and we would be forced to drink from the lake of wine in France and Australia, so next time you imbibe, think, with gratitude, of the good people who made your Merlot and Pinot Noir possible and encourage you legislators to pass sane compassionate legislation to recognize the people who risked their lives so that they could work hard in the North to feed you and their families back home. Let's give these people some human rights and dignity, and provide a pathway to citizenship for those who want it and a pathway for those who want to be able to return home. Mexico and Mexicans are not just about Cinco de Mayo and drinking Margaritas and Tequila, they are about "Mexican" wine. To their credit, a group of Oregon grapegrowers who have been practicing sustainable agriculture employ Mexican workers in year round vineyard management and have undertaken to provide health care and other services to these workers and their families. This is a model for others to follow. We need to treat more Mexican workers with respect and dignity. Next time you toast with a glass of wine, make it - "Salud". By the way, you can support Hispanic winery owners by checking out Ceja wines from California, and Canon de Sol and Manchego Real from Washington, among others.