This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a Mexican immigrant farmer and rancher outside of Homestead, Florida. He came to the United States as a boy to work the fields, became a citizen, built an agricultural business and now is a successful American of Mexican descent in South Florida.
His “Rancho Victoria” contracts up to 500 agricultural workers during the peak season. This past week, he was employing around 250 for the current harvest that is mainly Okra.
While I was there, it was reported that Francis Suarez, the Mayor of Miami had come down with the coronavirus. He was one of the participants in the meetings with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro whose Communication Director had the virus.
This got me to thinking about how the Latino community, especially immigrants, have faced crisis of this magnitude in the past. In this regard, I clearly remember the effect of the Great Recession on the country and on our economic system.
I saw President Bush and then President Obama work to blunt what was a nosedive into what could have been a Depression. A lot of money was spent in stimulus packages of every kind and on the bailout of key industries.
As people were losing their jobs and unemployment went into double-digits, I saw a phenomenon I did not expect. Latinos, especially immigrants that were here to work, found themselves, like everybody else, also without jobs.
However, in their case, instead of having 3 jobs they had 2 and instead of 2 jobs they still had 1. Also, for those that needed a second or third job and could not get it, they soon were creating their own.
Some of the best homemade tamales came to the market during this period of great economic turmoil. So, I wonder what creative ideas will the Latino community come up with as we go into the most difficult part of the Coronavirus crisis because it is not going to be an easy situation.
I am not so much thinking of the employment landscape as much as other necessary gatherings like school. What happens when we have school closings, parents working and children that must stay home?
It used to be that many mothers stayed home to raise the children and manage the household. That is no longer the case as both parents must work to make a living for the family.
That is the case in my family where both of the parents of our two granddaughters are on the job. Our granddaughters are lucky however, to have a grandmother that looks after them while mom and dad work.
That is not the case in many of the Latino households where everybody works. Many Latino immigrants, for example, do not have their parents in this country.
Also, many in the community live paycheck to paycheck, are below the poverty line and can not afford ready-made meals for the children. They have depended on the schools to provide lunches for which they qualify.
Finally, what if one or both of the parents catch the virus? In many cases, the jobs they have come without insurance.
This raises the notion that many of the jobs created after the Great Recession pay less and do not have benefits. That is the legacy some have ignored as they point to the low unemployment rate.
These pocketbook issues represent major challenges to the country and more specifically to Latinos. Being creative in these difficult circumstances will determine our economic future.