Ester Hernández grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where she unknowingly bathed in and drank polluted water and worked in an environment contaminated by pesticides. The Hernández family was actively involved in the struggle for farm workers’ rights, an issue of great concern to César Chávez.
Questions about the effects of pesticides on agricultural workers prompted her to create Sun Mad. Her posters have been controversial. She recounts how Sun Mad began when she went "home to visit my mother in 1979, reading the articles she saved about water contamination in the barrio.” After thinking about it for two years, and remembering her work as a farmhand, she focused her anger on the dangers of growing grapes for the raisin industry. "I focused on something personal, the Sun Maid box," she said. "Slowly I began to realize,” she continued, “how to transform the Sun Maid and unmask the truth behind the wholesome figures of agribusiness. Sun Mad evolved out of my anger and my fear of what would happen to my family, my community, and to myself." She finds strength and inspiration in the Latina women with whom she has worked.
The quote is taken from Therese Thau Heyman's Posters American Style (New York and Washington, D.C.: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the National Museum of American Art, 1998).
See more works in our collection by this artist »