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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Traveling slavery museum shows abuse of farmworkers

<p>Andy Bachmann, a minister at the United Church of Gainesville, visits the Modern Day Slavery Museum held Thursday on the Plaza of the Americas.</p>

Andy Bachmann, a minister at the United Church of Gainesville, visits the Modern Day Slavery Museum held Thursday on the Plaza of the Americas.

About 200 UF students herded through a cargo truck on the Plaza of the Americas on Thursday.

The truck housed the Florida Modern Slavery Museum, a traveling exhibit funded by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and parked on the plaza for about four hours while curious students meandered by.

The exhibit showcased memorabilia that documented labor abuse in the past decade, particularly abuse against migrant workers in farmland-rich Immokalee.

Among the collection was a bloodstained shirt — a reminder of the punishment a worker received when he paused for a drink of water in 2007.

“I’d heard about workers being exploited, but I didn’t realize it’s so prevalent,” said Toni-Lee Maitland, a 20-year-old history junior. “It shocked me.”

Marley Moynahan, an exhibit staff member, said the truck is a replica of the vehicle used to confine Immokalee laborers during off-the-clock hours in a slavery case documented in 2008.

Eric Castillo, director of UF’s Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, said labor abuse affects students, because they consume food harvested by abused workers.

“We are all directly tied to this issue,” Castillo said, tapping a photo of a farmworker’s wrists, swollen from being chained in a truck by his employer overnight.

“I literally didn’t know this was going on,” said Jaime Estes, an 18-year-old marketing freshman. “The more people that know, the quicker it will stop.”

Andy Bachmann, a minister at the United Church of Gainesville, visits the Modern Day Slavery Museum held Thursday on the Plaza of the Americas.

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