I would like to thank The Times' Chris Kraul for helping provide greater public awareness of the increasing dependence the United States has on imported produce from Mexico ("Boom in Baja," May 16). But while focusing on economics, he failed to mention the important social issue of the exploitation of the field workers in Baja.
Kraul correctly stated that the decline in tomato production in San Diego County and the corresponding surge in production in Baja is due primarily to less expensive farming costs south of the border. Business is increasing. Imports are rising. Baja is booming. But at the expense of whom?
The base of the cheaper agricultural labor force in Baja California (concentrated in the San Quintin region) is being provided by Indians who are migrating from their native lands in the southern states of Mexico in search of seasonal employment. In San Quintin they are living and working in conditions far removed from the minds of the general public here who have come to depend on large, "vine-ripened" tomatoes throughout the year.
I have spent over a year working in the San Quintin area for a U.S.-based international relief and development organization and alongside the local office of the Mexican National Institute for Indigenous Peoples. While assisting in the establishment of a mobile health-care program in some of the 24 labor camps where the majority of the migrant laborers live, I became well aware of their depressed living conditions.