Campesino, you plant the seed
Campesino, it’s the world you feed
You live by the sweat of your brow
We couldn’t eat without your know how.

I see you throughout the Third World lands
Your wife, your kids close at hand
And as I pass by on the first class bus
You stop to wave and smile at us.

Campesino, you plant the seed
Campesino, it’s the world you feed
Let’s say a prayer for the salt of the earth
Who receive far less than they are really worth.

You never learn to read or write
Barely surviving, it takes all your might
The basics of life are not much to ask
In the house on the hill the bossmen bask.

Under cool palms they sip their drink
Never do they stop to think
At bargaining time to give a bit more
Actually, it’s the rich who are really poor.

Campesino, you plant the seed
Campesino, it’s the world you feed
Cesar Chavez was a hero to me
As he struggled to bring the poor liberty.

As a teenager in the early 1970’s, I hitchhiked down the Pan American Highway from Mexico to Costa Rica in Central America. In Guatemala, I discovered Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, what I considered at the time to be paradise on earth. Little did I know…...

At sunrise, I saw the colorfully-dressed Mayans with their machetes walking through the lush hills en route to their patches of corn, chilies and vegetables. At night, they returned home with their small harvests and firewood on their backs. The women, while weaving or doing other tasks, wrapped their babies on their backs in brightly-colored, hand-woven material. On the surface, it seemed idyllic.

However, in conversation with them (through translators) and literate Guatemalans, some social workers, and human rights advocates, I discovered that in the recent past there had been an ongoing murderous land grab by the rich and powerful white elite. The ruling class had enlisted the military to try to systematically eradicate the Maya, including their children, whom they regarded as “subhumans.”

If anyone should be branded as subhuman, it is the men who ordered their soldiers and police to carry out what is now known as the Guatemalan Genocide or Maya Genocide. Nearly 200,000 Guatemalans (about 85% indigenous), who had been at one on and with the land for centuries, were massacred.

Of course, this is a universal malaise, executed constantly, through the millennia. Now that workers are increasingly urbanized, the slavery continues, perpetrated by greedy, whip-cracking corporations like Amazon and Walmart, whose profit supersedes the well-being of their exploited workforces.

Throughout recorded history, all over the planet, men, women and their children have been virtually and literally enslaved, subjugated to backbreaking labor, growing food, cotton, etc. on land they don’t own, almost always miserably housed and abysmally compensated.

From the pharaohs in Egypt to European royalty and the Vatican itself, from colonizers in Africa and Asia to the United States South, even into the 60’s and 70’s in the grape orchards in California: campesinos, serfs, peasants, pawns have been used and abused from cradle to grave.

Their names are many, their numbers uncountable, their suffering immeasurable.

This poem, Campesino, is a metaphor for all the laborers of the world.

When you eat your food, when you dress in your clothing, when you rest on your soft sheets in your comfortable bed, say a prayer for the salt of the Earth, whose often forgotten drudgery in the fields and sweatshops, provide these comforts for us.