Mauricio Espinoza. Coachella, Riverside County.
"I spent all my life in farming."
Mauricio Espinoza was raised on his grandfather’s farm in Mexicali, where they grew cotton, wheat and vegetables. As a teenager in the 1970s, he moved to the Imperial Valley and worked harvesting lettuce. He moved to Gilroy and worked in strawberries, peaches, nectarines and cherries, and in 1981 he moved to Coachella to harvest celery. He spent twelve years running his own business growing Asian vegetables, and since the late ’90s he has worked as a foreman on various farms in the valley.
I met him at his current job, helping to start the southern arm of an herb company based in Washington. The farm was next to an ammunitions plant, and in September the land appeared nearly bare except on close inspection. There were no permanent buildings, just a rented office trailer with a single file cabinet, a trash can, and some plastic chairs—hardly the idyllic rural setting in which one imagines a devoted lifetime farmer. And yet when I asked him if he ever wanted to do something different, he replied simply that if he stopped farming, he would die.
Unbidden, he told me that when that his final day does come, he does not want to be buried. “I want to be on top of the ground,” he said. “I always told my sons not to bury me; cremate me. And tie the vase on top of a car or the pickup and let it open and run and let the ashes fly.”
“Is there a particular place you want them to drive?” I asked.
“Anywhere in the valley,” he said, speaking of Coachella. “Anywhere here, in Mexico, or wherever, but in the open, open sky.”
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