ODELL — Reyna Gomez-Larios and Belialdo Galvez have always worked in the field. In Mexico, they owned a ranch where they planted 50 acres of maize. They even tried planting rice one year. When they came to the United States in January of 1999, they started working in the orchards.
“We imagined that we were going to pick and work in the field,” said Gomez-Larios, describing their thoughts on leaving Mexico, “because it’s the only thing we know, but we didn’t know how cold it was going to be.”
Gomez-Larios and Galvez were married in Mexico. Every year, the bank in Ciudad Guzman, the city which they lived near in Mexico, loaned them money to raise their maize crop. During harvest, they would receive help from local teenagers.
“They’d get out of school,” said Gomez-Larios, remembering the teenagers who helped she and her husband pick maize, “and they’d come over. Up to 12 kids would come over. As they grew older, they started coming (to the United States). They’d turn 16 and come over here.”
“Once the maize was harvested,” said Galvez, “we’d get helped by older people. I’d take the horses and load up the maize and take it to the ranch. Once it was all there, I’d take the machine and thresh it. From there, I’d take it to where they’d buy it from you to be able to pay the bank for what they loaned you, and then the bank would help you again next year.”
They only tried planting rice one year but found it much too bothersome to continue. They planted the rice in a cienega, a marshy spring where groundwater bubbled up, to keep the rice plants in water. They only planted about three acres, but even that was too much work. A few years later, they came to America.
“We decided to come here because there wasn’t any work in Mexico,” said Gomez-Larios. “There was only labor. There was no future.”
Family here in the U.S., Galvez’s brothers and sisters, promised to help them when they arrived.
“They told us, ‘If you come up north, we will find you work,’” said Galvez.
“When we were at the border, we’d call them,” said Gomez-Larios. “They lent us money, and when we got here, we paid them back.
Their first orchard job in the United States was working for Calvin Smith in Odell. There they picked pears for four years.
“I feel like I did not miss work in Mexico,” said Gomez-Larios, “because in Mexico you carry a basket behind your back, and here, you carry it in front.”
They started their second job the same year they started the first, 1999, but a few months later. It was a job at Lava Nursery where Galvez’s brother, Antonio Galvez, works as a supervisor. There they planted and sorted trees.
Gomez-Larios works year-round at different places. During fall and winter, she works at a packing house for Wells & Sons. In the spring and summer, she works at Galvez Orchards, the orchards owned by her brother-in-laws, as well as at Lava Nursery.
Galvez has almost the same schedule. Only, in the fall, he works at Galvez Orchards when Gomez-Larios is usually in the packing house. There is less work for him in winter, since he doesn’t work at a packing house.
“Sometimes, my brothers give me jobs. I’ll go tie branches, or I’ll go to the nursery to shovel snow,” said Galvez, “and sometimes, I sleep.”
They like their assortment of jobs.
“All of the bosses we’ve had have been good,” said Galvez. “My boss at the nursery tells me, ‘Belialdo, you work with joy’.”
For both Gomez-Larios and Galvez, work doesn’t stop once they leave the field. They have eight Chihuahuas — three adults and five puppies.
Gomez-Larios loves to cook and has a portrait in her kitchen with a prayer asking God to bless the food they eat. She also likes to knit and decorate the house with anything that catches her eye.
Together, they keep a garden in their backyard where they’ve grown tomatoes, onions, and squash.
News intern Gilberto Galvez is Reyna and Belialdo’s nephew. Later this month Gilberto will be a freshman at Linfield College.