Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms In the Groves

A collaborative art project by poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern, Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms (2017) features the pickers and packers of the citrus harvested from groves at the California Citrus State Historic Park. The project puts into view that which we rarely consider when we eat an orange or gaze upon any grove or field: the people whose laboring hands have left traces on the fruit and the landscape, and whose backs have carried the weight of industrial agriculture. The poems and photographs presented here dignify this labor and place it within a cycle of which we are also a part. As Delgado puts it in one poem: “When you peel an orange, does the oil of their labor linger in your manos?”

Men in Manos exhibition: Jose Luis Abargo, Tomas Aguilar, Marcel Aviles, Domingo Leonardo Clemente, Pedro Diaz, Urbano Garcia, Jose Guadalupe Gomez, Humberto Z. Hernandez, Wilver Hernandez, Israel Lopez, Jose Luis, Marcos R. Martinez, Carlos Quintana, Jeronimo Sanchez, Ubaldo Sierra, Humberto Uvzua, Jose Villagomez.

Men in groves

Juan Delgado and Thomas McGovern, Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms (2017)

Twenty photomurals and trail markers installed along paths through the park, framed works on exhibit here, and a handmade chapbook of the poetry in the artwork comprise Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms. It features images of Latino pickers and Latina packinghouse workers integrated with lines of verse from varied sources: conversations with and among the men in the fields, interviews, snippets from the life stories of others from the region’s past, and the visceral experiences of the artists in the groves.

The project also draws from the structure of a 1920 publication, Easy Lessons in Everyday English for Citrus Fruit Workers, by the California Fruit Growers Exchange (later called Sunkist). The textbook teaches the steps of citrus cultivation and distribution, from seed to market, as it trains immigrants to serve as a readily reproducible labor force. In 1920, immigrant labor was the backbone of the industry, largely from Mexico and Asia, with smaller numbers from Eastern and Southern Europe. Men picked and women packed—then and now, though today both positions are held primarily by Latino/as.

Manos, Espaldas y Blossoms – Wonder of Faces

With Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms, Delgado and McGovern render visible these layers of history and memory, particularly of the immigrant experience, that are part of the citrus landscape this park was established to preserve. They call our attention to the ways that human toil and handwork contrast both the gridded, symmetrical rows of fruit trees and the assembly-line efficiencies of packinghouse machinery. Most importantly, they invite us to experience the space and to consider our place in it.


Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms is in the “Sweet N Sour” series organized by the Public History Program, University of California, Riverside (UCR). It is part of the Relevancy and History Project, a partnership between UCR and the California State Parks.

Thanks are due to the gracious men and women featured in Manos, Espaldas, y Blossoms; the artists for creating these works especially for the park; Gless Ranch, which oversees the commercially harvested portions of the park’s groves; and the Corona-College Heights Lemon and Orange Association, which kindly granted us access and toured us through its packinghouse. For more information about the artists, please visit

Poetry Posts

Around the Park, along the groves are ten poetry posts including photographs of citrus pickers and orange peels accompanied by lines of poetry.

Manos, Espaldas y Blossoms – Stretching
Manos, Espaldas y Blossoms – Enough

Poetry Posts

Trail Markers