Forged under the Sun/Forjada bajo el sol

The Life of Maria Elena Lucas
Edited and with an Introduction by Fran Leeper Buss
The compelling oral history of a remarkable woman's life and political struggle


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.

Praise / Awards

  • "An important book: it finally gives a politically and poetically potent voice to and analysis of a Chicana and mexicana farmworker and impoverished woman writer's experiences from her own mouth and pen."
    —Laura Pérez, University of Michigan
  • "[W]e witness [Buss's] creation of a document of re-memory that gives voice to that which mainstream America has forgotten, ignored, exploited, and even despised. Weaving together persistent fragments of diaries, songs, poetry, letters to God, and hundreds of hours of oft-interrupted stories shared over an old kitchen table in a small trailer or while driving from field to field, Fran Leeper Buss has compiled this awe-inspiring story of the life of Chicana activist and migrant farmworker, Maria Elena Lucas. It is truly a document of resistance and hope."
    Daughters of Sarah
  • ". . . an inspirational story that 'explores the nature of memory and resistance.'"
    Feminist Bookstore News
  • "This is an absolutely breathtaking and excruciating account of the life of the Chicana Maria Elena Lucas. It is a monument to women's strength and fortitude. . . . This is an excellent text for classroom use."
    Journal of Women's History
  • "This book inspires and engages with its narrative of destruction and endurance, confirming Leslie Marmon Silko's assertion that a good story is a powerful weapon against evil."
  • "Viva Maria Elena Lucas and Fran Leeper Buss, for bringing Lucas's story to us in this wonderful book."
  • ". . . Maria Elena Lucas . . . strikes me as one of the most amazing, inspiring, and flat-out wonderful women I've ever come across. No excuses for her: under circumstances so difficult most people would be happy just holding on to their humanity, Lucas became both an important union organizer for the migrant worker farm labor movement and an artist, producing songs, poems, drawings, and a short play."
    Sojourner: The Women's Forum

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 336pp.
  • 20 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1993
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06432-8

Add to Cart
  • $19.95 U.S.