‘The Consequences’ by Manuel Munoz – Caught in a Double Bind, US Migrant Workers and Their Families


‘The Consequences’, stories by Manuel Munoz   (2022) – 181 pages


Most of the stories in ‘The Consequences’ take place around Fresno, California, perhaps the truck farming capital of the United States, and most involve people who speak Spanish. The truck farm owners need workers who will pick their fruits and vegetables at small expense to the owners themselves, and thus they hire many workers from Mexico and other South American countries. However many of these workers and their families who work hard still get in trouble with the migration authorities. Sometimes the truck farm owners are in collusion with the migration authorities.

Here is how the large scale California fruit and vegetable farmers get their produce picked. It is the last day of the month so these California farmers near Fresno or Bakersfield or Visalia – grapes or peaches or plums – call the migration police. Then the migration police in their green uniforms arrive at the farm and round up the Mexican or Latin American men and women working there – illegal migrants – and put them in vans. None of the workers are paid for that week’s labor, and they are all hauled off to jail in Fresno or Visalia. That night they, the illegal migrants, are hauled back to Tijuana in the migration police vans.

Then many of these Mexican men and women somehow make their way back into Los Angeles where they are picked up by vans to work on another farm or the same farm the next month. This is the regular process by which our fruits and vegetables get picked. It is all very convenient and profitable for the large-scale fruit and vegetable farmers, and wretched for their Mexican and Latin American workers.

Liz, one of the field workers, describes the picking the vegetables or fruits:

It’s easy but hard at the same time, said Liz. Anyone can do it. It’s just that no one really wants to.”

‘The Consequences’ is a strong collection of stories because it causes its readers to relate to and even identify with characters who are much different from the readers themselves. In the stories we have migrant workers, both legal and illegal, We have legal Latino Americans who have relationships and families with illegal migrants.

Manuel Munoz helps us identify with these people by showing them doing the same types of things we do for much of the day. Instead of playing up the differences, the author shows those things we have in common.

We have men in these stories who live with and are in love with other men. Often when I have read stories about people having intimate relationships with others of their same sex, these seemed distant and far removed from me. These stories help one understand the various situations.

In the story “Compromisos”, Mauricio is married to Alba. They have been married for a long time and have two children, a teenage boy and a seven year-old daughter. They are separated, and Mauricio is now intimate with a male friend Pico. Mauricio realizes that everyone including his future wife and even himself recognized early on his natural inclinations, and if he had been braver when he was younger, life could have been different.

A couple of the stories, “Presumido” and “Susto”, have one-word Spanish titles. In “Susto”, a foreman driving a tractor in the row of a field finds the dead body of a man lying in the field.

Susto, she said. You know Spanish? You know what that is?

I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know what it means.

She searched upward to find the right meaning. A scare, she tried. But in your soul, deep down.

Here in the United States, the migrant workers and their families are caught in a double bind. Our agricultural industries require these migrant workers, yet our politicians and authorities treat them wretchedly.


Grade:    A



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