.Open Mic: Working Hands

Sonoma County’s not-so-hidden reality

A la supervisora Shirlee, es clave decir lo que uno siente y ser leal con la palabra.

Against the backdrop of rolling hills, pristine rivers and photoshopped wine glasses glistening in the sun, our county continues to peddle tourism ads, inviting strangers to our county while we adapt to our second lockdown. You would not even know the county is breaking down unless you peeled back these layers. What is carefully cropped out are the businesses closing for good, the families set for eviction and the Latinx peoples still recovering from the fires and devastated by Covid-19, terrorized by ICE and still ignored.

¿Al supervisor James, voy a perder mi casa?

¿A la supervisora Lynda, me puede ayudar a solicitar el desempleo?

If you want to continue to offer refreshments to our wealthy guests, honor the laborers. Keep them housed, keep them fed, keep them here. It’s necessary if you want to keep your cups filled with expensive wine, to swish it around your mouths, to taste the ash and exploitation, only to spit it into a bucket. This is your pleasure, and their work.

Al supervisor David, yo cosecho las uvas pero no puedo pagar el vino.

As I write this, the county has just introduced more restrictions on public participation at their weekly meetings. All of this, and still they are only conducted in English. No translator. Essentially, gatekeeping over 1/5 of the people they serve. Mostly poor, mostly working class.

¿A la supervisora Susan, por qué no me dejan sentarme en la mesa?

There is perhaps no better metaphor for the way our county has softened its exploitative history than the “white hand” art piece in Santa Rosa. The white hand, owned by a multimillion-dollar development firm, designed by a white man living a thousand miles away, was built to honor our BIPOC labor class. Recently painted black, it was soon restored to its original color and as the black paint was stripped away the other day, it is another painful reminder of what we find underneath every facet of our socioeconomic experience here in Sonoma County—something old, rich and white.

“Sin embargo, frente a la opresión, el saqueo y el abandono, nuestra respuesta es la vida.”

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Roman Campos lives in Santa Rosa. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected]


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