Teton Valley’s Seasonal Workers and Visitors Head Home: ‘When Everything Turns White, I Run.’

KHOL spoke to two seasonal residents who are returning to Mexico for the winter.
Ana Lupercio
Ana Lupercio helps out at her family's restaurant Agave in Driggs when she visits Teton Valley about every two years. (Natalie Schachar)

 

Bundled up against the chill of an early November morning on a recent Monday, Teodoro Sánchez settled into one of his last days at work in Driggs this season. Sánchez drove a tractor, scooping up dirt from a large mound and dumping it into a truck nearby. 

Sánchez has been coming to Teton Valley for the spring and summer seasons since 2017, spending about seven months away from his home in Mexico while he works for MD Landscaping.

“Work, work. That’s what I dedicate myself to. I almost don’t have any free time,” Sánchez said. “I normally rest on Saturdays but this year, I worked Saturdays. Sundays I do cleaning and chores for the week ahead.”

Sánchez focuses on irrigation, although he frequently finds himself performing a variety of tasks, like planting cottonwoods and aspens. He also said he feels lucky to have a temporary visa, which allows him to work in the U.S. legally. 

“It’s difficult to get,” he said. “So many people would love one. It’s luck, a lot of luck.” 

With the arrival of the off-season, however, Sánchez is one of many temporary workers and visitors across Teton Valley who will be returning home after months abroad. 

Ana Lupercio

“When everything turns white, I run,” Lupercio said. “I flee the cold.” (Natalie Schachar)

At the nearby Mexican restaurant Agave, Ana Lupercio comes to visit her family for a few weeks about every two years. “It’s something beautiful to have this contact again with my family after years of being far away,” she said. “I was longing to see them.”

Her nephews, who run the business in Driggs, are frequently overwhelmed by the number of customers who come in, so Lupercio lends a hand when she’s in town. But she also enjoys the landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which don’t resemble anything she sees in her home city of Guadalajara.

“Here, I see the white hills, the houses, the beautiful white roofs [covered in snow],” Lupercio said. “It’s beautiful, the snow season is beautiful.”

Thousands of foreign nationals like Sánchez come to the state each year to do seasonal labor, according to the Idaho-based Snake River Farmers’ Association. Many others like Lupercio come to visit their family members abroad. Both said they’re grateful for their time in Teton Valley. But as the cold sets in, they are finally getting ready to hit the road.

“When everything turns white, I run,” Lupercio said. “I flee the cold. I’m very cold blooded.”

In mid-November, Sánchez will also be headed home to reunite with the rest of his family, almost all of whom still live in Mexico.

“I’m just thankful to God that I have life and that I have work, even if it’s in a country that’s not mine,” he said. “I don’t reject my country, but it’s more difficult to live there economically. I hope in the future things will get better.”

Lupercio said she sometimes feels like she has “one foot here and the other there,” since she feels torn between family members living in both Mexico and the U.S. But she also said she’s already looking forward to her next trip.

“I have this beautiful memory of my time with them for the next two years until I return.”

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About Natalie Schachar

Natalie Schachar is a journalist currently covering the American West.

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