The Washington Post reports:
“Outside Robledo Family Winery, south of Sonoma, on a cool April Sunday, the U.S. and Mexican flags whipped a stiff salute in the wind blowing off the San Pablo Bay. A third banner bore the winery logo. The flags represent three themes central to the lives of Reynaldo Robledo and many other Mexican migrant workers who have helped shape California’s wine industry: heritage, opportunity and family.
Robledo is part of a small but growing community of Mexican American families who started as migrant workers and now have their own wineries. They have emerged from the invisible workforce of laborers who prune the vines in bitter winter cold and tend them under searing summer sun. We read about them when they collapse from heat exhaustion in California’s Central Valley or perish in a winery accident. But they rarely appear in the glossy magazines that extol the luxury wine lifestyle, except as cheerful extras in harvest photos.
Amelia Morán Ceja worked in vineyards after school in the early 1970s. Now she owns Ceja Vineyards. The Cejas are one of five Mexican American families recognized by the Smithsonian for their work in California’s wine industry. (Ceja Vineyards; Sarah Deragon/Ceja Vineyards)
Five Mexican American families are helping craft the next chapter in the story. They started as migrant workers and now have their own wineries.
They came from Michoacan or Jalisco, two agricultural provinces near Mexico City. Their fathers left for El Norte as migrant workers — some under the Bracero guest-worker program, others crossing the border illegally but gaining legal status in a time when papers were easier to come by. They worked in California’s burgeoning agricultural industry before settling in wine country. They encountered some of Napa Valley’s most celebrated winemakers and contributed to California’s wine revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, a period that saw dramatic changes in viticulture and food culture as the United States became a wine-loving nation.
“Their story is the journey,” says Steve Velasquez, associate curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, which honored the families during its annual winemakers’ fundraising dinner in May. “A journey from Mexico to the U.S. to work in agriculture, from a handful of families to a thriving community of Mexican Americans, from vineyard workers to winery owners. . . . These families represent Mexican Americans who once just supported an industry but now help shape it.”
Read the five inspiring stories at the link.
I observed similar success stories in many of the families that came before me in court. Laborers became supervisors. Cooks became chefs. Waiters became restaurant managers. Drywallers started construction companies. Truck drivers started trucking companies. Mechanics bought auto repair businesses. Gardeners started lawn services and landscaping companies. Folks took care of their own family members; but, they also created jobs and opportunities for other American workers. They were all about quality service, hard work, skills, family, and a certain amount of risk taking. Just what America needs for a great future!