Los Vendimiadores

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In the Fall of 1988, I drove a Volkswagen bug from San Francisco to the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, California.  The Alexander Valley is one of the most important regions in California for producing premium wine.  Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge that ran across the Russian River, nearly 100 migrant farm workers from Mexico and Central America had set-up a camp to live in while they worked in the vineyards during the autumn harvesting season.

When I arrived at the camp, I was invited to stay with a family living in a carpet-lined wooden box under the bridge.  As I was making a portrait of the family in their “home,” there was a poignant moment when a blanket fell and exposed a large television set in the back of the box.  There was no electricity in the camp, yet the family had been packing this television set around from one camp to the next, and now it was here.

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Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California

Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlexander Valley, Healdsburg, California thumbnail

Over the next few months, I followed them and others into the vineyards and watched them work from sunrise until the late afternoon.  Sundays were the only day off from working.  Although the harvesting was done predominantly by the men, the entire family would work the vines, including the children.  Early one morning, the vineyard foreman remarked on how hard-working the entire family was, including the children – “You’ve got to start them while they’re young to get the most out of them.”

Returning to the camp in the afternoon each day, we would share meals and enjoy each others’ company with talk and music.  While the family slept in their box, I slept curled up in the backseat of the Volkswagen parked under the bridge.

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Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Russian River, Healdsburg, California

Russian River, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California

Along the banks of the Russian River, Healdsburg, California

Along the banks of the Russian River, Healdsburg, California

Under the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California thumbnailRussian River, Healdsburg, California thumbnailUnder the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California thumbnailUnder the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California thumbnailUnder the Alexander Valley Road Bridge, Healdsburg, California thumbnailAlong the banks of the Russian River, Healdsburg, California thumbnail

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