Fausto Empleo is the last manong—one of the first wave of Filipinos immigrating to the United States in the 1920s and 1930s— at the home for retired farm workers in the agricultural town of Delano, California. Battling illness and feeling isolated in the retirement village built by the United Farm Workers Union, Fausto senses it’s time to die. But he cannot reconcile his boyhood dream of coming to the “land of opportunity” with the years of bigotry and backbreaking work in California’s fields. Then, his estranged cousin Benny comes with a peace offering and tells Fausto that Benny’s son will soon visit—with news that could change Fausto’s life.
In preparation for the impending visit, Fausto forces himself to confront his past. Just as he was carving out a modest version of the American Dream, he walked out of the vineyards in 1965, in what became known as the Great Delano Grape Strikes. He threw himself headlong into the long, bitter, and violent fight for farm workers’ civil rights—but at the expense of his house and worldly possessions, his wife and child, and his tightknit Filipino community, including Benny.
In her debut novel, Patty Enrado highlights a compelling but buried piece of American history: the Filipino-American contribution to the farm labor movement. This intricately detailed story of love, loss, and human dignity spans more than eight decades and sweeps from the Philippines to the United States. In the vein of The Grapes of Wrath, A Village in the Fields pays tribute to the sacrifices that Filipino immigrant farm workers made to bring justice to the fields.