INTRODUCTION
More than anything else . . . we need to keep telling stories about why the past
matters and why all of us should care about it. Nothing is more important, for only by
the neverending telling of such stories is the dead past reborn into memory to
become living history, over and over and over again.

William Cronon, “Storytelling”
In June 1950, along with fi ve thousand of his countrymen, Esteban Casas
Martínez boarded an airplane outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and headed
to the sugar beet fi elds of Michigan, where he expected to earn enough
money to make a down payment on a two- room house in his rural commu-
nity. Thirteen months later, in July 1951, from the isolation of a tuberculosis
sanatorium in Puerto Rico, he penned a passionate letter to the head of the
island’s Department of Labor. His wife and children were starving and fac-
ing eviction without his income. Casas Martínez had been unable to earn a
stable living since departing that June day. He had contracted tuberculosis
while working in the frigid Michigan fi elds. He would probably never be able
BREGANDO THE
SUGAR BEET FIELDS
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