Guadalupe, a city of 5,000 in the northwest corner of Santa
Barbara county that is 80 percent Hispanic, may be a harbinger of the
socio-economic future of farmworker towns in the agricultural areas
of California. An early 1990s survey of 350 farm workers in Guadalupe
reported that 70 percent were from Guanajuato, in Mexco's central
highlands north of Mexico City.
Unlike California as a whole, in Santa Barbara county, 70 percent
of the $500 million in farm sales were from fruit and nut, vegetable
and melon, and horticultural specialty commodities (FVH), versus 50
percent of $18 billion in all of California. Within Santa Barbara
county, this means that the number of farmers and family workers has
been decreasing as the acreage of mostly mechanically harvested field
crops declines, and the number of seasonal hired workers has been
increasing as strawberry production expanded.
Strawberries are the crop that expanded fastest, and they are
perhaps the most labor-intensive crop grown in California.
Strawberries require an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 hours of labor per
acre, while an acre of corn or wheat (63 million acres each). The
5,300 acres of strawberries in the early 1990s in Santa Barbara
county required an estimated eight million man-hours per year of
labor, 4,000 FTE workers in theory, and 10,000 workers who averaged
800 hours per year each in reality.
Mayor George Hobbs of Santa Maria said in 1990 that this central
California city had a "Mexican problem" because recent immigrants
were "destroying Santa Maria's neighborhoods by crowding into rental
houses, drinking beer outdoors and urinating in yards, working on
junk cars all over the place and draining the state's social and
medical programs." Hobbs was re-elected mayor of this city of 70,000
Since the mid-1970s, Hispanic students have gone from 25 percent
of the student population to 75 percent. The children of migrant
works make up one-third of the district's 9,700 students and have
doubled in number during the past eight years.
Mark Shaffer, "California considers a lid for melting pot," The
Arizona Republic, October 23, 1994, A1;