Sunday, October 09, 2016

"The Mayans Among Us: Migrant Women And Meatpacking On The Great Plains"

Redding resident Ann Sittig teaches Spanish at Shasta College. Back in 2001 she taught in Omaha, Nebraska (her home state), and began studying the experience of Mayan women in Guatemala--and in Nebraska itself.

In the mid-1900s, meatpacking plants in Nebraska moved to "rural areas to be closer to the animals along with the railroad and highways." Mayan immigrants, fleeing the civil war that lasted from 1954 to 1996, found work at the plants so they could "fund their remesas, remittances or money wires, back to Guatemala."

Sittig "sought out a local Catholic mass in one of the meatpacking cities and from the pulpit I bid the women to tell me their stories. That day I met Martha Florinda González, and in 2005 we eagerly began our collaboration to gather the oral history of contemporary Mayan women living in Nebraska.…"

"The Mayans Among Us: Migrant Women And Meatpacking On The Great Plains" ($24.95 in hardcover from University of Nebraska Press; also for Amazon Kindle; and see, by Ann Sittig and Martha Florinda González, highlights the often harrowing stories of a group of interviewees. They journeyed to "El Norte," sometimes with purchased "papers" as documentation, "inventing a new Mayan-Nebraskan identity."

Sittig writes of González that "as a female Mayan leader in Guatemala, and now in her Nebraska community, Martha is trusted by the women, who followed her lead in opening up to me." Among those who shared their lives are Juana, twenty-six, mother of four, who spent at least three years at a local plant; and Manuela, twenty-five, mother of two, with five years at local plants.

These are real people, facing "psychological, sociological, and economical wounds" of war, poverty, and life in a new country. The book is "an "homage to the invisible, to the immigrants who often live in quite difficult physical and economic circumstances while contributing the unsung labor that keeps the U.S. economic machine in motion."

Sittig is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman, host of Nancy's Bookshelf, this Friday at 10:00 a.m. on There's a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Chico October 28, from 2:00-5:00 p.m.

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