El Contrato: A Documentary

DVD, 2003, 51 min
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"El Contrato" follows Teodora Bello Marinez, a poverty-stricken father of four living in Central Mexico, and several of his countrymen as they make an annual migration to southern Ontario. For eight months of the year the town's population absorbs 4000 migrant labourers who pick tomatoes for conditions and wages no local will accept.

Under a well-meaning government program that allows growers to monitor themselves, the opportunity to exploit workers is as ripe as the fruit they pick. Only men with families to support and no more than an elementary school education need apply. Grievances--among them, abusive bosses, unhealthy conditions and paying for benefits they don't receive--are deflected by a long line of others "back home" who are willing to take their place.

Despite a fear of repercussions, the workers voice their desire for dignity and respect, as much as for better working conditions. "El Contrato" ends as winter closes in and the Mexicans return home. Back in the embrace of their families, some pledge, not for the first time and possibly not the last, that it's their final season in the north.

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