Before Orange County was covered in suburbs, it was covered, of course, in orange groves. The thousands of workers who picked and packed those oranges now have a memorial to commemorate their contributions to the economy and culture of the county.
Local officials recently unveiled a memorial to agricultural workers at the the Orange County fairgrounds. Entitled “Table of Dignity,” the memorial is a collaboration of various artists and was many years in the making.
Its centerpiece is an oblong wooden table held up by a large rock whose sharp point juts through the center of the table. Grape vines climb up four posts surrounding the table and will eventually provide shade.
An excerpt of the inscription at the monument:
These agricultural workers used their minds, bodies and spirits to feed a growing nation while fighting for fair treatment.
We celebrate their had work, sacrifices and numerous contributions to the economy and culture of California.
At either end of the table, free-standing walls made of compressed, multicolored earth are shot through with round portals. On the inside of one of the portals, the entrance to the memorial, local artist Emigdio “Higgy” Vasquez Jr. painted images of a grape and strawberry picker, along with the words “justicia” and “dignity.”
“It’s kind of connected to my family because they were orange pickers, and my aunts also packed oranges,” Vasquez said of his work on the project. He also sees it an extension of his father’s work.
Vasquez’s father, renowned Chicano artist Emigdio Vasquez, often depicted farmworkers and other working class Mexican-Americans. Dozens of his murals adorn indoor and outdoor walls across Orange County.
Vazquez Jr. said people often take for granted that most of the food they eat comes from right here in the state.
“This monument is really about the people who make that happen,” from farm workers to truck drivers, he said.
Table of Dignity is located next to the Centennial Farm at the Orange County fairgrounds. Hours are Mon. - Fri., 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Sat. - Sun, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.