Vermont Humanities

More About Migrant Workers

Black and white cartoon drawing of a farmer in rubber boots with cows in a Vermont barn yard
Vermont Reads

This list of materials may help readers of The Most Costly Journey better understand the context of Latinx farm workers and their migration to Vermont.

Podcast Episodes

Before Your Time, “After the Crossing”
Many different groups of people, from many different continents, have helped build our state. But from the 19th century through 2019, the stories of immigrants have largely been excluded from the popular image of Vermont. Includes a segment about The Most Costly Journey, featuring interviews with Julia Doucet and Marek Bennett. Produced by Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society.

Brave Little State, “What’s It Like to be a Migrant Worker in Vermont?”
Vermont Public Radio’s people-powered journalism podcast spends time with some of the members of the work force that keeps many of Vermont’s farms running. Some of these workers crossed the U.S. border through a legal checkpoint, and some crossed in secret.


Coyotes by Ted Conover (1987)
To discover what becomes of Mexicans who come illegally to the United States, Conover disguised himself as an immigrant, traveling and working across America for more than a year. He formed strong friendships with Mexican farm workers, worked with them on fruit farms, and traveled with them from their home town in Mexico to cross the border.

Crossing Over by Rubén Martínez (2013)
Martínez follows the Chávez family’s progress from their small southern Mexican town of Cherán to California, Wisconsin, and Missouri where far from joining the melting pot, Martínez argues, the seven million migrants in the U.S. are creating a new culture that will alter both Mexico and the United States.

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005)
In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil’s Highway. Fathers and sons, brothers and strangers, entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. Twelve came back out.

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States by Seth Holmes (2013)
An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and healthcare. Holmes tells the stories of food production workers from as close to the ground as possible, revealing often theoretically-discussed social inequalities as irreparable bodily damage done.

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (2018)
Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him.

Life on the Other Border by Teresa Mares (2019)
Through ethnographic portraits of Latinx farmworkers who labor in Vermont’s dairy industry, Theresa Mares, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Vermont, powerfully illuminates the complex and resilient ways workers sustain themselves and their families while also serving as the backbone of the state’s agricultural economy.

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers by Juliet Menendez (2021)
Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today! In this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and across the United States, Juliet Menéndez explores the first small steps that set the Latinitas off on their journeys.


La Bestia (The Beast) (2020)
In this short animated film, a young Mexican smuggler and a little girl travel illegally on top of a cargo train, called La Bestia, to get to the USA. An injury transforms his perception of the journey.

La Ciudad (The City) (1998)
Four vignettes plunge viewers into New York City neighborhoods where Latin American immigrants, many of whom speak little English, live at the mercy of exploitative employers and inflexible institutions. Many of the characters are in the United States illegally to make money in order to send back home to their poor families.

Estrellita (Little Star) (2018)
In this short animated film, a girl growing up on a Vermont dairy farm discovers a tragic reality about her family.

El Norte (The North) (1983)
Two indigenous youths flee Guatemala due to the ethnic and political persecution of the Guatemalan Civil War. They head north and travel through Mexico to the United States, arriving in Los Angeles, California, after an arduous journey.

Silenced Voices (2014)
Migrant Farmworker Josʹe Obeth Santiz Cruz was killed in a farming accident in December 2009 in Vermont. The Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project sent a delegation to Mexico to return his remains and document his family and community coming to terms with his death and sharing stories about the causes, effects, and their experiences of migration.

The Unafraid (2018)
A feature-length documentary that follows the lives of three DACA students in Georgia, a state that has banned them from attending their top state universities and disqualifies them from receiving in-state tuition at any other public college. Shot in an observational style over a period of four years, this film takes an intimate look at the lives of Alejandro, Silvia and Aldo as they fight for the rights of their families and communities.

Under the Cloak of Darkness (2008)
A feature-length documentary about Vermont’s migrant Mexican farm worker population that aims to humanize this invisible community and bring to light the issues surrounding migrant labor.

Who is Dayani Crystal? (2013)
Starring Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal, this feature film tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story. The film is available to stream from Google Play.

Articles and Short Videos

American History TV: 20th Century Mexican Immigration to the United States with Professor Ana Minian (2016)

National Park Service: American Latino Theme Study: Immigration

National Public Radio, “Riding ‘The Beast’ Across Mexico To The U.S. Border” (2014)

Seven Days, “Who Wants to Work on a Vermont Dairy Farm? A Reporter Spent a Week Finding Out” (2019)

Vermont Public Radio, “”A New Way To Look At The World’: Cartoonists Collaborate With Farmworkers In ‘El Viaje Más Caro” (2021)

Vermont Humanities*** April 5, 2022