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Plight of Mexican Rural Workers and Farmers Documented in Lightner Gallery Exhibit

El Campo: La Crisis En Silencio (Rural Mexico’s Silent Crisis), an exhibit of photographs by Joseph Sorrentino, is on display through Feb. 28 in Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.

An artist’s reception is scheduled Thursday, Feb. 18 from 3-4:30 p.m. in the gallery, located in the Lightner Library. Sorrentino will discuss his work at 3:30 p.m.

Sorrentino has made two trips to rural Mexico—in 2003 and 2008—and spent time in some 15 villages in five states.

“I photographed campesinos (rural workers and farmers), who grow gourmet coffee, nopal (an edible cactus), jicama (a root vegetable), cacao, and vanilla to sell,” said Sorrentino. “They also grow corn and beans for auto-consumption. The story was the same in every village: dire poverty.

“A common refrain I heard was, ‘We don’t have enough to live; just enough to survive.’ Faced with unending work and little pay, more than two million campesinos—about 15 percent of the population—have abandoned their villages and are seeking work in large Mexican cities or the U.S. Sadly, there are few jobs in Mexico and, with our own economic downturn, fewer jobs in the U.S.”

More than 80 percent of campesinos are defined as “extremely poor,” meaning they earn less than $2 a day,” according to Sorrnetino.

“Due to trade agreements and the Mexican government’s own agricultural policies, produce imported from the U.S. often sells for less than Mexican-grown produce,” said Sorrentino. “Campesinos with a couple of acres of land are competing with multinational corporations.”

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