Blanca Isla Perez grew up in a small village in the sate of Tlaxcala. She was 5 years old when she began helping her mother earn money by sewing and washing clothes. At 14, she went to Mexico City to find a job as a domestic worker. By 17, she had returned and married Artemio Rodriguez, who grew up in the same town. Together, they worked his father’s land until Rodriguez began travelling annually to Canada as a migrant worker.
 A family portrait that has been photoshopped together shows Blanca Isla Perez (third left) and Artemio Rodriquez (centre) with their five children. It hangs in the middle of Perez’s living room wall.
 For the seven years Rodriguez worked in Canada he wrote letters to his wife and children. Isla has kept every letter her husband ever wrote to her from Canada in a dark green briefcase inside a glass cabinet in her bedroom.
 Rural villages in Mexico like Perez’s are heavily dependent on remittances. Last year, the average seasonal agricultural worker in Canada brought home around $12,368 a year to their home states, after mandatory deductions in Canada like income tax, employment insurance, health insurance, and travel costs.
 Jodmery Villanueva De Los Santos, 14, helps her parents pick through their corn after school in the small town of Cuijingo. Her family is one of the few in the village that does not participate in SAWP. A report by the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the North American Free Trade Agreement had a significant impact on small-scale Mexican farmers, many of whom are unable to compete with US subsidized corn production.
 For part of the year, while the town’s little white-washed school is in session, Isla supports herself by waking up at 6 a.m. and setting up a small table outside selling hats, necklaces and pencils to students and parents for five pesos each.
 Soledad Garcia Aguilar’s four brothers all work in Canada as seasonal agricultural workers. They are the third generation of her family to participate in guest worker programs in Canada or the US. Garcia Aguilar, a single mother, has considered going north seeking work too, but her 9-year-old daughter, Liliana, doesn’t want her to leave. Instead, Aguilar works at a local greenhouse that she busses to every morning, where she earns 1150 pesos a week, or around $75 CDN.
 New migrant workers told the Star they were nervous to leave home for Canada, a country they knew almost nothing about. Their hope is to improve conditions for their family in Mexico.We were born into poor families,” says one worker “but we have imagination and ambition.”
 A submission to the Canadian government from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change says many workers “feel they have no choice but to continue working under abusive conditions.” This is because their immigration status is tied to one employer, who often exerts significant control over their daily lives.
 Reynaldo Garcîa Aguilar walks back to the bunkhouse he shares with eight other migrant workers from Mexico just outside of Brantford, Ontario. Aguilar has spent most of the year in Canada for the past 18 years. “Canadians, they like you if you work, but they don’t like it if you get sick,” he says. “They think we’re animals.”
 Martina Garcîa Juárez, 51, a single mother and domestic violence survivor, started participating in the program in 2002. Around seven years ago, she was placed on a farm she says was abusive. She reported it to the Mexican authorities and was not called back to Canada until this year. Every year she has paid 1300 pesos, or nearly $90 CDN, for a medical exam to get clearance to come to Canada without getting a placement. When in Mexico, she works at a sewing factory to make ends meet.
 A graveyard sits against the backdrop of Popocatépetl, an active volcano,in the village of Cuijingo, where a large portion of the male population goes to Canada as migrant workers. Last fall, Julio Lucio Robledo, who had been going to Canada for 26 years, died near London, ON after falling down the stairs in his bunkhouse. His brother, who is also a migrant worker, says his body stayed in Canada for a month and a local church had to pressure the authorities to repatriate him to Mexico.
 Isla’s daughter, Blanca, comforts her two children, Lesli, 10, and Luis Angel, 7, on Perez’s last day in Mexico before departing to Canada. As Perez wheels her suitcase out the door, her family erupts in tears. Each year that her mother travels back to Canada, Blanca fears she will suffer an accident.
 Isla calls home to her family in Mexico from her tiny, shared bedroom in Ontario and learns that her elderly mother has fallen and injured her shoulder. Distressed that she is not there to help, she bows her head in grief.
 A group of Mexican migrant workers sit on the front porch of a house in Lavaltrie, Quebec, after finishing their work on a nearby farm. Some 97 per cent of workers participating in SAWP are men. As a result of complaints filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Mexico stopped allowing employers in Canada to request workers of a specific gender in 2016.
 Christ Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, an Anglican church, holds Catholic mass for Mexican migrant workers every Sunday, and provides a meal for them afterward. Perez regularly attends, and prays for her husband. Rodriguez “lives on in me and my children,” she says. “I am proud of that.”
 A man sits outside of his shared one-bedroom bunkhouse at Les Jardins Vaes in Lavaltrie, Quebec.
 Raised by her single mother who works as a migrant worker, Natalia Nayeli Garcîa, 19, dreams of seeing places like Niagara Falls, which she has only seen on postcards. Throughout the house the pair share are reminders of her mother’s absence – a set of Calgary mugs sit behind glass in their kitchen, and a CN tower magnet adorns their fridge.
 Isla’s youngest daughter, Blanca, regularly checks in on her childhood home while her mother is working in Canada, bringing along her two children, Lesli, 10, and Luis Angel, 7.  “My dream for my own children isn’t economic,” she adds “If God helps them and gives them a good career, that is good, but if nothing else I hope they have strong values and help others. This is what I always pray for.”
 Isla prepares to start work for the day on a farm in Ontario. “Canadians don’t understand the sacrifices we make,” she says.
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