Photos a recent California college graduate took with her parents in the fields where they worked as migrant farm laborers went viral this week, after her school shared the images and the story of her journey on their Facebook page.
Jessica Rocha graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a degree in sociology on Saturday. In the post, Rocha said her parents came from Michoacán, Mexico, and that while she was growing up, they had her work in the fields alongside them to “understand how important it was to pursue a higher education.”
She started working in the fields in high school after classes and cross country practice, she said in the post. She would work overnight with her father and plant strawberries, finishing around 2 or 3 a.m. and waking up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the city bus for school.
“I admired the workers because they kept working despite backaches while flies, mosquitos, and bugs kept roaming their faces, getting into their eyes,” she said. “Nobody thinks about nor sees what happens behind a vegetable you grab at the grocery store. But behind it is someone who breaks their backs every day working in the fields.”
She said she continued to work in the fields on weekends and school breaks even after she left for college and had a job with the University of California Police Department. She credited her parents for the motivation.
“Many times I wanted to give up, but my parents and their pieces of advice and support were the reason I kept going,” Rocha said. “If it wasn’t for how my parents raised me I don’t know who I would be today.”
One of the images from the photoshoot showed Rocha and her two parents holding her graduation cap over bell pepper bushes, all locking eyes on the hat. Other pictures showed Rocha carrying a bucket on her right shoulder.
Many online praised her for her work ethic and wished her congratulations on the feat.
“Working in the fields builds and molds a different type of character,” Rocha said. “A character that does not give up, and one with resilience and strength to withstand the hazards that come from that job.”