As the sun dipped toward the horizon, pulling the last streaks of daylight from the sky over North Carolina’s capital city, dozens of migrant workers raised flickering tealights.
They gathered with advocates a bit more than a stone’s throw from offices of the state Department of Labor to rally for measures to protect workers from extreme heat in agricultural fields, the food service industry, construction, transportation and warehousing jobs.
José Arturo Gónzalez Mendoza, a 30-year-old farmworker from Guanajuato, Mexico, died Sept. 5 after harvesting sweet potatoes in a Barnes Farming field in Nash County. Temperatures that week rose into the 90s, according to Accuweather.
The state labor department has said it’s investigating his death.
The rally-goers in Raleigh the first weekend of November hoisted a large poster of Gónzalez Mendoza and four other migrant farmworkers who have died in North Carolina in recent years.
“Ni una vida mas,” they chanted. “Not one more life lost.”
The event, organized by the Farmworker Advocacy Network, It’s Our Future, Casa Azul de Wilson and NC FIELD, was the same week as Dia De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a holiday to honor the deceased. It is traditionally celebrated Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
Gónzalez Mendoza, a husband and father of two sons, and other migrant farmworkers who died were honored with brightly colored altars — known as ofrendas — set up on portable tables.
Some of the deaths occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, but much of the focus was on extreme heat and the health problems that can result from prolonged exposure to such conditions.