Fall in love with the people behind your lettuce with this moving film on farmworkers

Every American who eats lettuce is responsible for José Ansaldo. He’s the 8-year-old protagonist of the new documentary East of SalinasHe’s a slight kid with an easy smile. He gets good grades, even though his family’s frequent moves force him to keep changing schools — three times one year. He especially likes math. He has a brother and sister who were born in the U.S., but he — like his mother and stepfather — was not.

His parents work in the fields. Despite his age, José has also done this work a few times. They cut lettuce in the Salinas Valley, America’s salad bowl. If you eat lettuce in the U.S. there’s a good chance that it came from California, which means you are creating the economic conditions that set the parameters of José’s life. Under the circumstances, it might be worth your time to see what that life is like.

The documentary, directed by Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow, simply follows José’s family as he progresses from third to fifth grade. It premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, Dec. 28, on PBS (check local listings).

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