Tropical Fruit

Growing up in Washington State where agriculture is a huge part of the local economy, getting my hands on certain types of fruit was not a problem. My parents to this day work in warehouses or “bodegas” where apples, oranges, cherries, pears and nectarines are sorted, packed and shipped throughout the world. Which reminds me of a joke I once heard a standup comedian say about the profession of his family members: “My family is filled with boxers. (brief pause) We box apples, we box pears, we box any fruit that comes through work.”

Either way, if you were Latino in the Yakima Valley and you were caught buying any of the fruit I just mentioned, meant that you were either from out of town or were middle/upper class. As a matter of fact, you were made fun of if you publicly admitted to buying an apple. Talk about the pressures of holding onto the migrant identity! I still remember my friends and I joking about the apples the school cafeteria would include in the lunch and we would say, “I bet you my dad probably picked this apple.” Sad, but most likely, true 🙂 I guess you can even consider it a “perk” of the job to have access to all these fruits for a very cheap price, if not for free.

Everyone and their mother had at least one relative that worked in the industry and had access to the fruit. Every once in a while I did see Latinos buying these fruit from the store even when the fruit was in season. Given the assumption I and the rest of the migrant families in the area operated by, perhaps these Latinos did want to distinguish themselves as non-migrant by publicly buying fruit. I’m overgeneralizing here, but it’s still a valid point. I guess there were Latinos who had grown out of the migrant worker family background.

However, everyone, regardless of race, considered tropical fruit a luxury–pineapples, bananas, kiwis, papayas, mangoes, and even avocados. That’s right, the avocado is a fruit. I had to re-educate myself on that one. If it has a seed, it is a fruit. It’s really ridiculous how expensive these fruit can be at groceries store in the US. I remember the last time I bought an avocado at a US store they were selling them 2 for 5 dollars and they were advertising that like if it were a deal! It actually was.

Moving to Mexico has reversed the scenario for me. I have had more mangoes and avocados this year than I have in my lifetime. For the most part, all the mangoes have been free (when they’re in season). Even when they’re not, they’re pretty cheap. I can easily buy two avocados for a dollar and the other fruit is relatively cheap as well. Granted, I am closer to the tropics where this fruit is grown and the standard of living that determine the price make sense.

It really hit me one day when I went over to my cousin’s place of work. They have several trees filled with mangoes, coconuts and avocados. I took a bag and after putting like 10 avocados and 15 mangoes in my bag, I realized that would have been like 50 dollars in the US. Bendito sea Dios for free fruit.

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3 thoughts on “Tropical Fruit”

  1. You’re making me hungry!!! Mangoes and avocados sound so good right now 🙂 It’s good to eat the local fruit for free. Most of the added cost of the “exotic fruit” is shipping costs. The people who grow, pick and box the “exotic fruit” don’t see much of that inflated price. The only problem with the eating local approach is living where there are no mangoes, no pineapple, no papaya, guava, oranges, avocados… good think I know someone who can hook a girl up!

  2. I’m going to mail you a copy of the DVD my class made about migrant workers (along with the pile of stuff that’s been sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be mailed for the past 2 months). It’s pretty touching how into the project the kids got.
    Also, I LOVE mangos!! Did you ever eat that huge bag of them your uncle picked for me? mmmmmmm I’m drooling just thinking about it. Guavas and avocados too….mmmm. As for other tropical fruits…most of them would kill me, so that’s not good.

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