In the Latino community, the worry surrounding coronavirus isn’t just contracting the illness itself. Instead, it’s more of a concern of “how can we continue to provide for our families?”
That is the question that Bakersfield filmmaker David Gonzalez documented from his father, Juan Gonzalez, and stepmother’s perspective in his short film, “The Seeds They Grow.”
The film was released on Feb. 18 through PBS, as part of the Latinos are Essential program, which is a collection of videos that tell the stories of what Latino workers are dealing with during the pandemic. In the video, the 23-year-old takes viewers into his family's experience with COVID-19 when his stepmother, a hospital maintenance worker, and father, a chef, contracted the virus.
“It never dawned on me that anyone close to my family would actually get it,” Gonzalez said. “Once they got it and they were telling me about their experiences, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is seriously no joke. This is something that really is hurting them. This is something that is deteriorating them in some sense.’”
At the time, Gonzalez was attending the University of California Santa Cruz when his parents told him they had the virus. He immediately felt worried and out of reach, but said his extended family stepped in to help deliver necessities as they quarantined. His father, unfortunately, had a tough battle and still struggles with complications today.
After graduating in 2020, Gonzalez was given the opportunity by a professor and mentor to submit an application for Latinos are Essential. She had confidence in him and inspired by his work in college. Gonzalez felt that this would be an opportunity to shed light on his culture that he held so close to him.
“It’s important because during the last four years [in] America, there’s this whole stigma about Latino people, but it’s now given this idea of essential workers,” Gonzalez said. “I think Latinos make up a large population of that. I think during that whole time, nobody thought about it in that way.”
The title, “The Seeds They Grow,” stems from the background that most Latinos in Bakersfield can relate to; it’s a symbol of migrant parents who come to America and work in the fields to provide for their families. Gonzalez’s parents migrated from Guadalajara, Mexico, became field workers and gave their children a chance to grow in an environment full of opportunities.
“I’m practically the seed that they grew because through their hard work and through their labor, they were able to create a child, and [gave] me the opportunity to flourish as much as I can just because they choose to do the essential work that they were dealt with,” Gonzalez said.
Although Latinos held the title of essential workers before the pandemic, they haven’t necessarily been treated as such. Gonzalez mentioned that his father was grateful to receive unemployment, but his stepmom felt discriminated against for asking for help since she mostly spoke Spanish. He expressed that many Latinos are facing hardships and challenges to receive government aid because they are undocumented and aren't fluent in English.
“I think that was one thing that they highlighted toward me, when I was talking to them, about how they kind of made ends meet because they had to kind of fight even [to get] the resources that were there for them,” Gonzalez said.
“The Seeds They Grow” sheds light on the hardships the Latino community is currently facing, but it also sends a message that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The short film can be found online at PBS.org.