MEXICO CITY — Adriana Salgado, 10, spends her days in a field in northwestern Mexico, picking spinach, cabbage and other vegetables that fill American salad bowls.
Salgado attends school for one hour a day, and she doesn’t know how to read. Her 15-year-old sister, who works with her, can’t read either. Salgado had an 8-year-old brother, too, until he was crushed by a tractor while working in a tomato field last year in a case that garnered nationwide attention.
About 300,000 youngsters such as Salgado work illegally in Mexico’s fields, the United Nations Children’s Fund says. In some cases, child farm labor is used to produce goods that are exported to the USA. The practice persists despite harsh criticism from international groups, rules imposed by U.S. distributors and increasingly strident warnings from the Mexican government.