Published March 18, 2016
It is before 10 a.m., and yet the summer sun is already blazing down on dozens of workers scattered across a dusty bean field in Imperial, Peru—a district about two hours outside Lima, the country’s capital. Field labor is a common occupation for people in poorer regions such as this, where much of the population received little education.
“I dedicate myself to the field,” said Brigida Quispe, a worker from Imperial. “It’s not a secure job—picking beans—that’s what I dedicate myself to.”
Covered from head to toe in long sleeves and pants, Quispe plucks green beans from long rows. She is methodical and efficient.
Quispe said she only received one year of primary education as a child.
“When one isn’t prepared they don’t know how to express themselves,” Quispe said. “Sometimes I don’t know how to express myself because I don’t know the letters well.”
Now she works in the fields where she experiences little pay and harsh working conditions.
“I’ve been working about 20 years in the field to give a bit to my son,” Quispe said.
Her son Anthony Quispe used to work with her in the field, but she said he didn’t like it. Now he finds work in Lima when he can.
Anthony, 16, just finished secondary school and plans to study engineering at a nearby university if accepted.
Unlike many students from poorer homes, Anthony receives some support from his family, which gets no financial help from the government.
“I have always been on top of my kids,” Quispe said. “If I had [free time] I would go to the school and see how he was doing, and his grades. I would go to the conferences.”
Quispe said money is tight so she often has to make many financial sacrifices.
But she does this because she believes it is important for her son to get a better education than she did.
“Sometimes life is going to hit you hard,” Anthony. “I know I will have the support of my parents and my family. Like they say, nothing in life is easy, so I will have to put up a fight.”
Quispe grimaces as she stands upright, taking a quick break from bending low to pick and place the beans in a large sack. One of the men will eventually carry the sack to the edge of the road, dumping its contents beneath a tent where another group of workers sorts through the vegetables.
“There’s a lot of heat,” Quispe said. “The field is sad. Sometimes it rains and we get wet. And in the winter we’re working, planting garlic, picking tomatoes, cutting grapes, apples, everything. Because of that, I support my son.”