Sugarcane is a farming staple in Mexico, serving as a valuable source of income for many families. Harvesting the sugarcane that grows in these hot, tropical lands is a common job for many men in the region. The work is hard and the pay is not good, but a lack of jobs and skills leaves no other option for survival.
Mariana’s family is one of many that rely on the sugarcane harvest. Her father has worked farming these lands since he was about 14. Last year, Mariana’s 14-year-old brother started to work alongside his father to help the family.
Mariana is part of a big family. Her mother Luisa was only 14 when she married Mariana’s father. They have been together ever since.
There are 10 children total; three of them are married and have families of their own. The remaining seven are still young. Mariana is 6.
With a big family and a small income, it is nearly impossible for the family to meet all of their needs. The entire family, including the three older children and their own families, live in a small wooden shack with no amenities or luxuries. The family barely gets by with enough to eat; the kids can’t attend school. school. They all depend on the sugarcane fields.
Mariana’s father and older brother Mario leave the house while she is still sleeping. With only a cup of coffee in their stomachs, they walk in the dark and start working when daylight breaks. They normally spend 12 to 14 hours working in the fields, with little time to stop or to eat. Their weekly pay is calculated on the number of furrows they cut.
The father normally earns an average of $20 a week. With the help of his son, sometimes he makes as much as $30.
It takes two years for the cane to be ready to harvest. During that time, the father and son weed, spray for bugs, and work on other fields when needed. Once the sugarcane is ready, the cutting season starts and lasts for about six months.
There are different ways to cut the cane. Some farmers allow the cutters to burn the fields and cut faster, which makes the sugarcane lighter and cheaper. Mariana’s father is one of the cutters who cut the cane while still raw. Although it takes longer to clean the canes and separate the leaves, the profit is greater because the leaves can be sold as feed for animals.
The life of a sugarcane farmer is challenging. Thankfully, Mariana’s family benefits from her enrollment in the Campeones DJ Student Center. This program has affected her family not only financially, but spiritually as well.
Mariana’s family heard of the church and the program through church-organized family reunions. The reunions are designed to spread the gospel and share the Bible with families in the church and nearby communities. And the church works not only with the children at the programs, but also hopes to disciple the entire family.
When she was first registered, Mariana had trouble attending the Compassion program because her mother was ill. No one could bring her to center activities, so the teachers and center staff got involved. They decided to visit Mariana’s home to offer their support and help. They found out that the mother, Luisa, had been sick and inappropriately treated by the local clinic. They made all the arrangements to ensure Mariana’s attendance, and assured Luisa was taken to the doctor.
Unfortunately, things were a lot more complex than expected. Luisa was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. After being initially treated only with painkillers, the church intervened in order to get her properly treated.
Although there is not much hope for her recovery, Luisa is well taken care of and comfortable with the medication she is receiving. The only thing she can do is trust the Lord for a miracle.
After only a few months, Mariana is already committed to learning and is excited about going to school next year. Out of all her siblings, she will be the first to attend school. She will have an opportunity to read and write. She wants to become a teacher to her siblings and to other children in the community.
While Luisa is still very ill, her children look after one another. The older siblings work. Mario works in the field with his father.
Elias, at 11, is the oldest at home during the day. He is responsible for all of the children. Axel, who is 9, cooks beans for the family and gathers wild plants to eat. He places coal on the burner and heats a pan to cook the plants with oil and salt. His relatives usually provide a few tortillas, and this is the children’s only meal per day.
Mariana washes the dishes and everyone else has a different way of helping at home. Even younger children go out to the fields to collect fallen fruit from the neighbors who allow it, and they are able to share a bite of the peaches or pears that are still edible.
Under these difficult circumstances, Luisa still keeps her family together. She is the one encouraging her husband and children to keep the faith.
“If God decides to heal me and leave me here to take care of my family, then may the Glory be to Him. But if He decides to take me home with Him, then the Glory will be for Him.”
She gathers all her family around her at night to read a portion of the Bible and to pray together. She knows this is the best inheritance she could leave her children.