Wealth Disparity Makes Dreams Difficult for California's Latinos


Fresno, California is the state’s unofficial agricultural capital. The north side of the city is home to doctors and lawyers who live in picturesque, All-American homes, while the northeast section is home to immigrants who are living well below the poverty line, Fox News Latino reported.

The wealth disparity is painfully obvious, and Hispanics in Fresno County are some of the most affected by it. There is not much room for Latinos to move up the job ladder in the San Joaquin Valley, an area between San Francisco and Los Angeles, because of  the lack of educational opportunities.
“American’s communities have become divided between economic winners and losers,” David Lichter, a Cornell University sociologist and past president of the Population Association of American told Fox Latino. “Increasingly, Hispanics begin life’s race at a decided disadvantage, raising the specter of new Hispanic ghettos and increasing isolation.”
The process is cyclical, and the amount of children of manual laborers turning to jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction is increasing.
Cristina Melendez, a 36-year-old farm worker from the area, was smuggled into the United States as a child; her family wished to achieve success and chase the American dream.
A few years after entering the United States, Melendez dropped out of high school in order to run away and escape a life working in the fields. She was finished with grapes, asparagus, and chili peppers and wanted to pursue something more.
However, as an undocumented immigrant with no high school diploma, the odds were stacked against her. She had no choice but to return to her former job.
“It was loneliness. It was sadness,” Melendez said. “I hated grapes.”
Today, Melendez is still working agricultural jobs where she picks various fruits and vegetables in Fresno County. Making minimum wage, it is rarely enough to make ends meet for her and her seven children. She often performs side jobs, like selling barbequed beef or tamales, to fill the financial gap. However, it does not cover nearly as much as it needs to.
“That’s what I have, and that’s what I make do with,” she said. “Because the process of doing something else is difficult.”
Although slow-moving, the problem is gaining more public awareness, moving policy-makers to enact change.
“The number of working people in poverty is increasing, and we’re falling further behind in education and health,” Caroline Farrell, executive director of the Valley-based Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment said. “And it will get worse … We won’t have a sustainable community.”
(Photo by Bob Jagendorf via Flickr)