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Racial Borderlands: Suburban Plantation Culture and 'Rancho California (por favor)'
Unformatted Document Text:  Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.1 “ Racial Borderlands: Race, Space, and Rancho California (por favor) ” “We (would) pick up pieces of bread in the garbage. We lived in the fields. We would make holes, like gophers. We lived under the dirt, we would cover ourselves with a carton.” --Migrant’s description of design of California home “It’s like giving free room-service to someone’s who has broken into a hotel.” --California Governor Pete Wilson on immigration This paper interrogates the spatial, geographic, and iconic ways that landscape in Southern California is used inscribe, naturalize, and exploit a profitable racial caste system in San Diego County—the very border region that the ICA has chosen as its theme in 2003. The project summarizes five years (1995-2000) of field work and media work by the author among migrant farm-workers—primarily indigenous Mixtecs from Oaxaca and Mayans from Guatemala--in northern San Diego county; a region that might more accurately be described as a “suburban plantation culture.” California promotes its intensive agriculture as breadbasket for the nation and as a key to consumer utopia. Few realize, however, that California intensively tills and farms, not simply crops, but human labor as well. In the post-NAFTA age of globalization “raced-labor” is, arguably, one of the state’s most important economic products. My project, and the documentary that resulted from it—Rancho California (por favor)—focus on several of the hundreds of farm labor camps that exist in Southern California suburbs; camps that are always slightly, and conveniently, out-of-view. In some cases, scores of families live in makeshift shacks within a few hundred feet of the gated communities that employ them in Carlsbad, La Costa, and Del Mar. In other cases several hundred indigenous Oaxacan boys live and work invisibly in vast produce farms near Fallbrook and Escondido. Rancho California (por favor) documents the organization of these camps; their functions; and the meticulous ways that this human product is cultivated by managed deprivation on

Authors: Caldwell, John.
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Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.1
Racial Borderlands: Race, Space, and Rancho California (por favor)
“We (would) pick up pieces of bread in the garbage. We lived in the fields. We would make
holes, like gophers. We lived under the dirt, we would cover ourselves with a carton.”
--Migrant’s description of design of California home
“It’s like giving free room-service to someone’s who has broken into a hotel.”
--California Governor Pete Wilson on immigration
This paper interrogates the spatial, geographic, and iconic ways that landscape in Southern
California is used inscribe, naturalize, and exploit a profitable racial caste system in San Diego
County—the very border region that the ICA has chosen as its theme in 2003. The project
summarizes five years (1995-2000) of field work and media work by the author among migrant
farm-workers—primarily indigenous Mixtecs from Oaxaca and Mayans from Guatemala--in northern
San Diego county; a region that might more accurately be described as a “suburban plantation
culture.”
California promotes its intensive agriculture as breadbasket for the nation and as a key to
consumer utopia. Few realize, however, that California intensively tills and farms, not simply crops,
but human labor as well. In the post-NAFTA age of globalization “raced-labor” is, arguably, one of
the state’s most important economic products. My project, and the documentary that resulted from
it—Rancho California (por favor)—focus on several of the hundreds of farm labor camps that exist
in Southern California suburbs; camps that are always slightly, and conveniently, out-of-view. In
some cases, scores of families live in makeshift shacks within a few hundred feet of the gated
communities that employ them in Carlsbad, La Costa, and Del Mar. In other cases several hundred
indigenous Oaxacan boys live and work invisibly in vast produce farms near Fallbrook and
Escondido. Rancho California (por favor) documents the organization of these camps; their
functions; and the meticulous ways that this human product is cultivated by managed deprivation on


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