Hard Harvest: Picking New Mexico’s Green Chile Is No Picnic

“They think we’re like Pancho Villa and will attack them”
LGF • Views: 28,152
Workers earn between 65 and 80 cents for each large bucket of chile they pick. The fastest pick 100 buckets a day. Photo: Joseph Sorrentino

From Joseph Sorrentino at the Santa Fe Reporter: Hard Harvest - Picking New Mexico’s Green Chile Is No Picnic.

The first workers start getting up a little past midnight to prepare for another day in “el field.” About 100 men sleep on the floor of the rooms and hallways in the Sin Fronteras Organizing Project shelter in El Paso.

The place is crowded and smells of stale sweat and onions, one of the crops they’ve been harvesting. Two or three women sleep in a small alcove off the reception area, sharing their cramped space with a water fountain. Most people sleep on a thin mat or a blanket spread out on the linoleum, spending the night in the clothes they worked in the day before.

All through the early morning, workers awaken, quietly stow their bedding and possessions, and get ready to go again. They fill their water bottles, stuff some food in their backpacks and head out. Then they walk the six blocks to El Paso Street and wait for a ride to the chile fields of New Mexico.

Last season, just under 78,000 tons of chile were harvested in New Mexico, with about three quarters of that coming from Luna and Doña Ana counties near the southwestern bootheel. While the annual pepper harvest is worth $65 million, according to the US Department of Agriculture, the real economic impact is much greater.


Guillermo, the fastest of the workers, managed to fill 90 buckets that day, for a gross pay of $72. It’s not a bad day’s wage for him, but most workers picked far less. Most were like Raúl, who picked 52 buckets, netting $38.42 for a little over six hours of work, or just over $6.40 an hour.

Certainly, no one’s earning a living wage, especially when other expenses are accounted for. “If you can pick 70, 80 buckets, that’s good,” Mancha says. “I can pick about 70 in a seven-hour shift. Let’s say you pay $6, $7 for a ride. You take a burrito from [the shelter] or you buy some burritos, that’s another $3; Coke is $1. After all that, you might come home with $20, $30.”


There’s surprisingly little anger and resentment among the workers, even though they’re aware just how little they’re valued by the people who consume the food they harvest. One worker sums it up best. I sit in front of the shelter when he approaches me. He stands silently next to me for several minutes, a tall, good-looking man who appears to be in his mid-40s. Finally, I ask his name. He turns slightly from me, and in accented English he says, “My name is Nobody.”

Some names have been changed at the worker’s request.

Read the whole thing, and see more beautiful photos, here: Hard Harvest - Picking New Mexico’s Green Chile Is No Picnic. It’s compassionate, honest, yet not (too) depressing.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
Rep. Adam Schiff: Trump’s Potentially Impeachable Offenses Include Bribery : NPR House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep during an interview at the Capitol on Tuesday that he thinks there's a clear argument to be made that Trump committed "bribery" and "high crimes and ...
7 hours, 34 minutes ago
Views: 106 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
#Thegreatpoolpondconversion - 191110Another really satisfying and curious weekend. Last week we reminisced about the tarp and how well it’s been holding up. Well during the week it tore and leaked a bit. Not enough to do damage. We’ll kludge something using both ...
DangerMan (misuser of the sarc tag)
10 hours, 30 minutes ago
Views: 120 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 3
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Dan Deacon - Sat by a Tree (Official Video) Dan Deacon - "Sat By A Tree", from 'Mystic Familiar', out 31st January 2020 on Domino Record Co.Please note: Viewers with an aversion to watching close up footage of insects should be advised against viewing this video.Hear Dan Deacon ...
1 day, 19 hours ago
Views: 146 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
Zero 7 - Somersault (Official Video) Ft. Sia Stream the brand new Special Edition of When It Falls here: smarturl.it 'Somersault', released in 2004, is a single taken from Zero 7's second album 'When It Falls'. The track debuted in the UK charts at #56 and remained ...
2 days, 3 hours ago
Views: 170 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Tender Is the Night — Henry Mancini Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment Tender is the Night · Henry Mancini As Time Goes By ℗ 1992 BMG Music Engineer, Producer: John McClureComposer: Sammy FainComposer: Paul Francis WebsterMixing Engineer: Robert HartMixing Engineer: Grover HelsleyAssociated Performer: The ...
6 days, 7 hours ago
Views: 326 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
A Facebook Fact-Checker Prepares to Propose a Solution to the Company’s False Ad Debacle New York (CNN Business)One of the companies that Facebook hired to fact-check posts on its platform will propose a change to Facebook's policy allowing politicians to run ads containing falsehoods, CNN Business has learned. Lead Stories, one of the ...
6 days, 15 hours ago
Views: 7,832 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
How to Exercise the Power You Didn’t Ask For Yale Law School’s Jack Balkin has invoked these examples and proposed that today’s online platforms become “information fiduciaries.” We are among a number of academics who have been working with policymakers and internet companies to map out what sorts ...
1 week ago
Views: 382 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
#Thegreatpoolpondconversion - BonusI planted a cactus in 2008. Being it's Florida, I don't know why. It was small. It grew. About 10 arms, straight up, probably 10 feet high.Don't have a picture of that.Back in 2017 or so, we managed to prune ...
DangerMan (misuser of the sarc tag)
1 week, 1 day ago
Views: 453 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 3
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
#Thegreatpoolpondconversion - 191103What a satisfying and productive weekend we had.We hit some milestones (which we’re making up as we go) and accomplished some tasks that have drawn out way too long. On Saturday we finally managed to lever the cactus out of ...
DangerMan (misuser of the sarc tag)
1 week, 1 day ago
Views: 405 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Jason Isbell — Runnin’ Down a DreamJason Isbell 10/25/19- Ryman Auditorium
1 week, 2 days ago
Views: 487 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 4 • Share to Facebook