A Dual Language Book
By Maia A. Surdam
Raised among Mexican American farmworkers, singer-songwriter Cris Plata spoke Spanish, ate Mexican food, and heard Mexican music played by family and friends. He also spoke English, went to school with mostly white children for at least half the year, and grew familiar with mainstream American culture. Until he was seven, he and his family lived and worked on a ranch near Poteet, Texas. The family became migrant farmworkers, moving from Indiana to Arkansas and Florida before finally settling in Wisconsin in 1966 to work at an Astico farm.
This dual language book shares the Platas’ family story of migrant farming, music, and family amid the constant change and uncertainty of migrant life. While hardships—from poor working conditions and low wages to racial prejudice—were constant in Cris Plata’s upbringing, so too was the music that bonded and uplifted his family. After long days in the fields, Cris’s family spent their small amount of free time playing and singing songs from Mexico and South Texas. Cris learned to play the guitar, accordion, and mandolin, beginning to strum when he was just five years old. Today, he writes his own music, performs songs in English and Spanish, and records albums with his band, Cris Plata with Extra Hot.
Following Cris Plata’s journey from farm fields to musical stages, the story explores how a migrant, and the son of an immigrant, decided to make Wisconsin his home. Maia A. Surdam is an educator who has a PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research explores farming, family, and community in the rural Midwest. Born and raised in a small Michigan town and educated in Ann Arbor and Madison, she is a Midwesterner at heart who currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.