Monday, August 22, 2011
the last book I ever read
from Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland:
Less than an hour after leaving Naples, you round a long curve and enter the city of Immokalee (pronounced broccoli). A few years ago, county officials attempted to bring a veneer of vaguely Latino urbanity to the main drag by laying down a paving-stone median and crosswalks, planting some small palms, and erecting fake antique streetlights. Maybe the hope was that tourists passing through would not notice conditions a block or so away. Downtown Immokalee is a warren of potholed lanes leading past boarded-up bars and abandoned bodegas, moldering trailers, and sagging, decrepit shacks. The area is populated mostly by Hispanic men, although you will see the occasional Haitian woman (a holdover of an earlier wave of ethnic farm laborers) walking along the sandy paths that pass for sidewalks with a loaded basket of groceries balances on her head. Scrawny chickens peck in the sandy yards, and packs of mongrels patrol the gaps between dwellings, sniffing at the contents of overturned garbage cans. Vultures squabble over a run-over cat lying in the middle of a street. Immokalee's per capita income is only $9,700 a year, about one-quarter of the national average. Half of the people in the city of fifteen thousand live below the federal poverty line. Two-thirds of the children who enter kindergarten drop out of school without high school diplomas. Your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in Immokalee are six times greater than they are in the average American municipality. On the crime index, where zero is the rating given to the most dangerous areas in the United States and one hundred is the rating given to the safest, Immokalee comes in at one. Even the police there are sometimes criminals. Glendell Edison, a deputy sheriff who patrolled Immokalee for fifteen years, was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted for extorting money from drug pushers and possessing cocaine and crack. Florida's largest farmworker community, Immokalee is the town that tomatoes built.