De La Cruz, Alegria

Alegria de la Cruz is the Legal Director at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.

Tales of the Westside

By Alegria De La Cruz
Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

For most Californians, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is the flat, sere and desolate country you pass through on your way to someplace else. You’re more apt to remember the rest stops on I-5 than the features of the surrounding landscape. But the “Westside” is special to me.

My grandparents settled here in the 1940s. In the 1970s, they co-founded one of the region’s first farmworker co-ops near the small town of Raisin City. I remember picking and packing cherry tomatoes with my cousins on our land. My husband, too, has deep roots in the soils of the western San Joaquin Valley.  When he was old enough to do physical labor, he joined his parents, cousins and friends, laboring in the local fields and dairies. His family still lives and works in the region, and we celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries on their one-acre ranch near the small town of Burrell.