Tortillas and Tomatoes: Transmigrant Mexican Harvesters in Canada


168 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2338-3
DDC 331.6'2720713





Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


Written from an anthropological and sociological point of view,
Tortillas and Tomatoes deals with the life and working conditions of
Mexican seasonal workers in Canada. It is a fair, serious, and objective
study that tries to portray the problem from both sides. Basok has a
social conscience, concerned as she is with the exploitation of the
migrant workers, and yet sees the difficulties facing the bosses. Her
useful introduction traces the history of the labour phenomenon and
shows the justification for the migrant workers given the reality of the
Canadian economy and the labour situation.

Part 1 deals with the Canadian growers, with chapters describing the
difficult market situation and the labour problems facing the growers
(in this case, the Leamington region of southwest Ontario, with its
special labour defects in the greenhouse industry). Part 2 focuses on
the Mexican harvesters, tracing the history of these poor day labourers
(and their families) and the special problems they face not only in
Canada but vis-а-vis their own Mexican Ministry of Labour and Social
Planning. The migrant workers are often forced to accept substandard
conditions, poor pay, and demands by the owners that are paternalistic
at best, harsh and cruel at worst. Much depends on the goodwill and
human kindness of the bosses, and the honesty, industry, and fair return
of the workers.

A useful bibliography, a glossary, and valuable tables and figures
round out this lucidly written and important study.


Basok, Tanya., “Tortillas and Tomatoes: Transmigrant Mexican Harvesters in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 28, 2023,