Even after a nearly lethal dose of pesticide from a crop-dusting plane left her permanently disabled, María Elena Lucas has been a tireless activist for migrant workers in the United States. The oldest of seventeen children, she began her working life at age five in the shrimp basins of the Gulf of Mexico. Forged under the Sun/Forjada bajo el sol provides the rich oral history of this remarkable Chicana woman and recalls her struggle to survive poverty, hardship, and violence to become an outspoken champion of the Farm Worker Organizing Committee.
The story of Lucas's journey has been faithfully transcribed by Fran Leeper Buss from hundreds of hours of interviews. Woven into the narration are the songs, poetry, and diary entries through which María Elena Lucas has expressed herself since childhood, often writing at night by flashlight after days filled with grueling physical labor and the never-ending demands of family life.
The themes that thread through this extraordinary life history include the emergence of Lucas's political and religious consciousness and her growing awareness of the deeply rooted sexism of American and Latin American society, including that of the "enlightened" male union organizers. Fran Leeper Buss's introduction places Lucas's story in cultural, historical, and political context and then, relating the details of her unique collaboration with Lucas, explores the nature of memory and resistance.