A hundred people, brown and white young and old, stood Monday noon on the steps of the downtown San Joaquin County Courthouse. They demanded just punishment for the rich bosses who let 17 year old farmworker Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez —and the unborn baby in her belly— die of blazing heat in 2008 in a Lodi vineyard. No water, no shade.
The County’s District Attorney James Willett wanted a deal: community service, but not one day in prison. People in this County have been punished more severely for beating horses. Fourteen farmworkers have died of heat in Valley fields since 2005.
Red UFW flags waved. Maria Isabel’s family stood, sad and proud. A Catholic priest stood and a Lutheran priest with a guitar, all in black, singing De Colores. Two nuns in white robes. Short wide brown women in blazing red Guatemalan dresses, and their tiny girl walking about. Union officials, and a young woman organizer with a strong clear voice. Schoolteachers, lawyers, carpenters, a schoolboard member. And of course, farmworkers.
“We do not want revenge, but we insist on accountability,” said Stephen Blair, the Catholic Bishop of Stockton.
“Si, se puede!” roared the crowd, gringos and Latinos alike. “Si, se puede!” and, “The people united will never be defeated. The workers, united…. El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido. Los obreros, unidos….”
It was like Egypt, and Madison.