Notes on Organizing and Emotions in the Farms: Bonifacio never returned

Temporary Foreign Worker Programs structure marginality and exclusion among people who are part of the most precarious of these schemes. In turn people are pushed to the very edges of themselves as they fight to survive and hold themselves together.

Bonifacio was falling apart in the hospital. It was his second or third visit. The doctor on duty knew what his condition was- chronic anxiety. Bonifacio described symptoms, that for me, only a curandera could heal. Tenia mucho susto. He felt like the left side of his body was being taken and invaded. Ants were crawling on him and part of his body would tingle and then go numb and be overtaken. Insomnia haunted him for more than a week yet he still had to show up to the greenhouse fully energized for the labourious physical work of hothouse vegetable production.

In the hospital beside him at 4 am on a Sunday morning, I felt like he was breaking open into two; between his family, his life in Guatemala and his new found love in Leamington. She is a blushing joyous, Josefina, who smiles from heart to eyes all the way from rural Canada to rural Tecpan.

I had to leave because there was no point in staying. Min Sook was waiting and we were exhausted from all the driving, house visits and filming in Leamington. The doctor was going to sedate him to sleep and repeat all the tests he had ordered in previous emergency visits.

While lying on the hospital bed, I turned to Bonificio and asked for his permission; me permites? I extended my hand and went for one of his. I guided him to go within. “In you there is a light, in you there is peace. Feel your strength; feel my strength. Everything is going to be fine. You are safe. You are alright.” I got closer so I could hold and cradle him like a grandmother. I felt his body let go into mine and he gave himself permission to breakdown. He cried profoundly in my arms and I just held on and let him release all he could at that moment.

I never saw him again. I left him money to take a taxi in the morning. In a couple of weeks he returned to Guatemala where he started to make new promises to Josefina about starting a new life together far away from his current partner in the country and the mother of his four children.

Canada, its policies, these lands, leave imprints on migrant workers that they carry around for the rest of their lives. Families are fragmented and so are migrants themselves who have to contend with contradicting realities, emotions and commitments at “home” and in a place where they live and work yet denies them belonging.

People breakdown, emotionally, psychologically and physically under these programs that purport to respond to labour shortages. These programs are nothing about the people who comprise them because they are not seen as people. At best they are seen as foreigners and as such without the rights of citizens to be cared for and respected. They are seen as units of production that can be discarded at any moment.

In my organizing work I seek to be a witness and counselor for all that is moved within migrant workers; the interiority of the self that is shaken and forever changed as a result of government policies and the urgency of survival that have brought our peoples from the Global South into this fortress of power, privilege and oppression, known as Canada.

Migrant workers love, desire and feel across complex spatial boundaries of nation-states and to the very boundaries of themSELVES….

****Raw writing by moi (eve)
***Real names not used


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