1920 x 640_Newsletter




The Gracias por la Vida exhibit will be on display throughout the Main Library (4001 N. 23rd St., McAllen, TX 78504) during normal library hours.


Monday - Thursday: 
9AM - 9PM
Friday - Saturday: 9AM - 6PM
Sunday: 1PM - 9PM


About Celia Roberts, Photographer
Honoring Nature and Humanity

Celia was a professional photographer/artist whose work revealed her sensitivity to nature, as well as to special cultures in developing countries and in the United States. Her images placed emphasis on the beauty and delicacy found in the natural world along with the grace and dignity she experienced among diverse populations. These qualities are reflected in images Celia took of our nation's migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.

Her extensive photographic essay began in 1992 when Celia was commissioned by the Colorado Department of Migrant Health to undertake a black and white study of Colorado's fieldworkers which was featured at the 1993 National Migrant Health Conference in Denver, Colorado. Recognizing the importance of the contribution that they offer each of us through their labor, she chose to continue documenting these remarkable workers and their families while traveling throughout the United States and parts of Mexico for the next twenty-two years.

Celia was an honored recipient of a 2006 Plate of Bounty Award from the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association for making a difference in the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworker children and families. She also received a national Migrant Education Harvest of Hope Award in 2010 for her contribution to the farmworker community. Her work has been featured at numerous other conferences over the past two decades.


Captions for "Gracias por la Vida"


  1. “First Born” La Belle, Florida, 2005
    During a visit to this day care center, felt blessed to experience this young Hispanic mom's profound love for her infant son. The strength of the family in this culture does much to empower these workers to keep striving towards a better future for their children.

  2. “Ohhhh” Holley, New York, 2008
    With infant care being offered by Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, working parents can be assured their babies will receive the best possible care and loving attention from all of the teachers and staff. A tender cuddle is offered, to the universal sound of “ohhhh,” for an infant at an ABC Migrant Head Start center in upstate New York.

  3. “Love at First Sight” Olathe, Colorado, 2012
    Health exams are offered at Migrant Head Start programs across the country on a regular basis. The nurse offered so much love and tenderness during her exams of the children, a gift that obviously touched this shy little boy from Myanmar who had spent much of his life in a remote refugee camp in northern Thailand.

  4. “Homemade Hammock” near Hood River, Oregon, 2000
    Many farmers offer families basic housing in camps while they are harvesting their crops. Even so, space can be limited, so creative sleeping arrangements are devised as with this homemade hammock. In many situations, housing for the workers is substandard or non-existent, making it especially hard on the children.

  5. “Sharing Stories” Immokalee, Florida, 2005
    By sharing children’s stories with these little ones at a Migrant Head Start center, their teacher is engaging in the traditional way for grandparents in the Latino culture to pass along important values to future generations. Holding true to these values surely helps agricultural workers meet the many challenges they must face as adults.

  6. “A Whole New World” Olathe, Colorado, 2012
    Fitting into a new culture can be very difficult for children, especially those who have experienced severe trauma in their native country. This young girl is from an indigenous tribe in Myanmar, the Karen, who were sought after and often murdered. After being taken to refugee camps in Thailand for their protection they have now found new homes and safety in western Colorado.

  7. “Young Students” Queen Creek, Arizona, 199?
    Surely one of the greatest joys in a child’s life is learning how to read, as you can see in the faces of these two little girls at an Arizona Migrant and Seasonal Head Start center. Teaching children to read at an early age makes a profound difference in the lives of millions of our nation’s less-advantaged youth which is why I applaud the work of our Head Start programs.

  8. “Tying Grandson’s Shoes” near Marana, Arizona, 2004
    Older hands guiding young hands, what would we do without their lessons? Perhaps we would never learn how to tie our own shoes! Not the case for this young boy as he watches intently while his grandfather guides him through this important learning process.

  9. “Young Artist” Queen Creek, Arizona, 1998
    I’m convinced there is a talent in every child and given opportunity, it will flourish in abundance, as with this young boy who was totally engaged in the fun of putting paint on paper, while all around him was busyness. It reminded me of how rewarding it is to focus on what we love to do!

  10. “They’ve Got Rhythm” Queen Creek, Arizona, 2012
    It’s no wonder children love being in Migrant Head Start. They have lots of opportunities to listen to music, dance and play fun instruments, all the while developing a wonderful sense of rhythm and self-confidence at an early age. Certainly, all children are inspired by clean, bright and colorful surroundings and an enthusiastic, talented teacher.

  11. “Waiting by the Blackboard” Olathe, Colorado, 1997
    The desire for a better life for their children is expressed by virtually all migrant parents. Often lacking an education themselves, they know that providing an education for their children is the way to break the cycle of poverty in which most of them live. This photograph was taken on my first visit to a Migrant Head Start program in 1992 and remains one of my favorite images, revealing how well-behaved these children are even when they are eager to move along.

  12. “Tykes on Trikes” Cornelius, Oregon, 2006
    Laughing and having fun have been shown to lengthen our lives. Since I was somewhat serious as a child, being playful was something I needed to learn. Not so with these two youngsters, expressing pure delight on their tricycles at a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start center in Cornelius, Oregon. As always, photographing them was fun, too!

  13. “Dia del Niño” Navarette, Nayarit, Mexico, 2008
    Having an appreciation of one’s culture as well as other cultures enriches all of our lives. This was certainly the case at a children’s celebration of various cultures in a rural part of Mexico. It was held on April 30th, Día del Niño, a special day set aside to honor the lives of all children, a holiday worthy of more recognition in the U.S.

  14. “Reading with Grandpa” Boonville, California, 2005
    Migrant and Seasonal Head Start along with many other communities and agencies are taking part in a nationwide movement to involve parents more directly in their child’s education. Reading to young children is known to increase their literacy skills. An added bonus comes when family members decide to enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

  15. “Passing Out Snacks” near La Junta, Colorado, 1995
    Children of migrant families sometimes work alongside their parents, as in this case where a daughter was passing out sacks during an onion harvest. Some young people begin their school year in local Migrant and Seasonal Head Start or Migrant Education programs before returning home in the late fall, only to repeat the cycle the following year.

  16. “Daydreaming” La Junta, Colorado, 1995
    Working in the fields and orchards can be physically challenging for the youngest children and is rarely seen now. However when they are helping out, taking a little time our just to daydream or play is a good thing, as with this boy whose entire family was harvesting a field of onions in eastern Colorado. When workers specialize in harvesting a particular crop, it is often the case that they move frequently, which means that the children do not have an opportunity to participate in a Migrant Head Start program, even though there might be one close by.

  17. “Crayfishing” Ejido Johnson, Sonora, Mexico, 2000
    These children are having fun with friends while catching crayfish in a local irrigation ditch, a frequent pastime wherever irrigation water is needed. Ditches such as his one pose a grave danger to young children, not only due to the risk of drowning but also because of their exposure to toxic chemicals used in most pesticides.

  18. “Consoling Little Brother” near Mosier, Oregon, 2000
    To me, this photograph speaks to the closeness that seems ever-present among migrant children. They are always looking out for each other, expressing a sense of real devotion among siblings. When she is old enough, the first daughter in a family will frequently take on the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings, freeing their mother to work in the fields.

  19. “Dedicated Student” Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, 2004
    Living with her parents in a makeshift one-room dwelling near Agua Prieta, MX, this young woman demonstrated the determination and resolve that is needed to get an education under very adverse conditions. Immediately across the border separated only by a fence the conditions in a very successful Migrant Education Program in Douglas, AZ proved what can be accomplished when there is a solid commitment to education our country’s worth.

  20. “Proud Dad” Olathe, Colorado, 2001
    The pride expressed by this father for his graduating daughter exemplifies how so many farmworking fathers feel about the accomplishments of their children. The looks of support from her fellow classmates lets us know that they too understand what it took for this young woman to graduate, given that she had arrived at their school four years earlier speaking only Spanish. As with so many successful migrant students, she could not continue with her education due to her undocumented status, a loss to her as well as to our country, when we consider how many talented students face this same dilemma every year.

  21. “Angel in Fight” near Olathe, Colorado, 2004
    This young father and his wife were in the process of transitioning out of the fields into other jobs, which is the case for many youth from second and third generation farmworking families. It was a joy to reconnect with this young man, after photographing him in 1992 as a nine-year old working with his family in an onion field near Delta.

  22. “Hugs” Center, Colorado, 1992
    Although living with limited financial resources is a constant reality for most migrant families, they are often quick to offer help when help is needed. During this visit I found out that this Guatemalan family had returned to Colorado after losing all of their belongings during Hurricane Andrew and were welcomed into the small quarters of another migrant family.

  23. “Four Strong Moms” Albion, New York, 2008
    Although it may look like a style show, these young mothers are displaying their ankle bracelets, electronic devises used by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers to track undocumented workers. Since many fathers have been picked up and are imprisoned or deported, outreach workers offer much needed support to thousands of moms who are dealing with broken families.

  24. “Woman of Courage” near Alamosa, Colorado, 1992
    When I first met her, I was struck y the powerful energy of this Guatemalan woman. After leaving, the migrant health worker who took me to visit with her said that she was a very courageous woman, having left an abusive relationship in a culture where women are taught to endure. I am sure that courage was called on often, as she was now a single mother making a living in the fields.

  25. “Family in Onion Field” near Delta, Colorado, 1992
    These workers, weeding between rows of young onions, remind us of the many jobs that go into producing a successful harvest, no matter what the crop. From planting, which is often done by hand; to hoeing, thinning, doing pest management, harvesting and packing, each takes skill, focus and a willingness to work hard in all kinds of conditions.

  26. “Home Away from Home” near Delta, Colorado, 1992
    Men often travel north without their families, seeking work in the fields. Money sent home sustains life in thousands of rural villages throughout Mexico and Central America. I was particularly impressed with how tidy the men had kept this simple cabin and its grounds.

  27. “Longing for Family” Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, 2006
    It had been eight years since this grandmother had seen her son who moved to Colorado to find work in agriculture. Here she expresses sorrow over having never met the youngest grandson. Because pay for fieldwork in the U.S. is about ten times of Mexico, many young people are forced to make this difficult decision to cross the border in order to be able to provide for their families who are left behind.

  28. “Woman Clipping Onions” near Rocky Ford, Colorado, 1992
    Women who are often full-time participants in the agricultural industry, make up close to 20% of the workforce. Conditions in the fields are often difficult for them, requiring good concentration as exemplified by this woman harvesting onions in eastern Colorado.

  29. “Culling Cabbage” near Center, Colorado, 2006
    The overwhelming size of this cabbage harvest in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado is an example of scenes repeated in thousands of fields across the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of us have no idea the magnitude of the job it takes to feed our population. Just as I had no idea until photographing in the fields, that our food was frequently not washed before being shipped to our local markets. As a result, I have become a true advocate for carefully washing produce before eating.

  30. “Tossing Broccoli” near Delta, Colorado, 1992
    In many cases the last hand that touches the produce we buy is the hand that harvested it, as with this worker who sends broccoli on its way to market. This reveals the close connection that exists between the farmworkers and all Americans. Apparently I must have exclaimed when the timing was right with this phot. The worker turned and gave me a big grin and a peace sign.

  31. “Boxing Lettuce” Delta County, Colorado, 1995
    The land in this 1995 photograph has either been developed or is available for the future development in Delta County which benefits from approximately $40 million in agricultural revenue annually. The U.S. is losing an estimated two acres of agricultural land every minute, a precious resource which will surely be needed for food production in the future if this county expects to remain food-secure.

  32. “Morning Break” south of Oxnard, California, 2010
    We arrived in this spinach field as the workers were taking a well-earned morning break. It was one of those magical peaceful moments with the mist hanging in the hills along the coast of California. In many ways I think these people are blessed given how deeply connected they still are to Mother Earth. It is difficult for those who walk on concrete every day to understand how important this is if we are to live in peace.

  33. “Workers – Friends” near Owensboro, Kentucky, 1996
    These friendly guys had just gotten off work in the fields of western Kentucky. With such long, hot days I was surprised at their enthusiasm seeing me with a camera. This was one of many moments that makes me grateful for their daily contribution to each of us. Gratitude goes a long way in validating and nourishing their lives, as well as our own!

  34. “Tweaking his Mustache” near Phoenix, Arizona, 2004
    As is often the case, this fieldworker was delighted to have his picture taken. Receiving workers’ permission to take photographs is a must, before I spend time with them in the fields, honoring their choice if they decline. Interestingly enough very few of the workers have refused over the years. I think they realize that I am there to support their cause.

  35. “Kids with their Grandpa” eastern Maryland, 1996
    African-Americans still work in agriculture in the easter part of the U.S., although in far fewer numbers than during the early to mid-1900s. Here a retired farmworker cares for his three grandchildren while their parents leave before dawn to spend some 12 to 14 hours a day in the fields during harvest time. Because these children were not enrolled in a Migrant Head Start program, they would likely be at a disadvantage once they entered first grade.

  36. “Maria Making Tortillas” Eido Johnson, Sonora, Mexico, 2000
    While visiting a village in northern Mexico, I was blessed to meet Maria, ‘grandmother’ to this little community. She was puzzled why I would want to photograph her, not realizing the joy that everyone experienced in her presence. Her gift of making delicious tortillas is repeated in millions of farmworker homes each morning, as food is prepared by the women for those who often leave for work before daybreak and return home long after dark.

  37. “Strawberry Harvest” near Unicoi, Tennessee, 2008
    Harvesting this field of strawberries in east Tennessee exemplifies the physical challenges involve in stoop labor. Knee guards worn by the gentleman on the right can ease the effects of their work. Nonetheless, the average life expectancy of male workers is around 20 years less than the average 75 years average life expectancy of male citizens in the U.S., in part because they are engage in agriculture, one of this country’s most dangerous industries.

  38. “A Family Farewell” near Marana, Arizona, 2004
    There is a real blessing in becoming friends with people in the farm working community. Even though there may be farewells and your paths may never cross again, you will always be remembered as their friend. Unfortunately, this family had been faced with the challenge so many others have faced, when the young boy’s undocumented parents were deported to Mexico, needing to leave their young son behind to be cared for by his grandparents. Divisions such as this have increased dramatically since this photograph was taken in 2004, challenging family unity which is key to the strength of this culture.

  39. “A Simple Meal” Navarrete, Nayarit, Mexico, 2008
    Connecting with this gentleman in a simple restaurant in Mexico reminded me of how worthy are those who have lived an honorable, simple life, working to provide for their families, those who seem in harmony with their lives. It also reminded me of how important it is to stay in touch with that sense of harmony in our fast-paced, material-based world.

  40. “Honoring Their Loved Ones” Navarrete, Nayarit, Mexico, 2008
    In most cultures, honoring ancestors is a vital part of everyone’s life. Life and death are part of the same cycle. Therefore, graces are decorated on the anniversary of a friend or relative’s passing, such as here at this beautiful cemetery in Navarrete, Nayarit, Mexico. The Day of the Dead on November 2nd is another time this honoring takes place.



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