Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

View a database that includes artifacts, photographs, and documents in the History San José collection which relate to Del Monte Plant #3 in San José, California.

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In Their Own Words

Beatrice and Friends

Learn about Del Monte Plant #3 from the people who worked there.  See videos of former Del Monte employees sharing their memories.

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Labor: Ethnicity

End of season party, c. 1975.In the last 40 years of Plant #3’s history, the production workforce gradually became dominated by Mexican-Americans and immigrants from Central and South America. Administrative and white collar jobs were still more often held by white Americans, mostly men.  But even within the production workforce, ethnic divides persisted.  Worker networks were usually composed only of members of the same gender and ethnic group.  Some cannery workers identified the rift between “Chicanos” - Mexican-Americans who were born in the United States - and “Mexicans” - direct immigrants from Mexico.  Native-born Californians of Mexican descent often resented competition for jobs from Mexicans who migrated seasonally.  The two groups competed for the same jobs and did not see themselves as natural allies.  Despite their common language, the use of regional idioms and colloquialisms kept the groups separate.

Retirement Party for Maria del Bello, c. 1970.Throughout the history of Plant #3, workers who were bilingual in English and the language of the production workforce had more access to promotions and pay increases.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s, this situation tended to benefit native-born Californians of Mexican descent.  These workers were valued for their ability to communicate between managerial staff and Spanish-speaking assembly line workers.