Rudy Martinez brought a multi-cultural element to the Community Thanksgiving Service Nov. 24, recalling his family’s arrival in Pelican 22 years ago--and their introduction to the American “turkey day” tradition.

Mexican immigrants journeyed to Pelican to work at the turkey plant;
but were puzzled over how the heck to prepare the big bird for dinner

Offering an interesting sidenote to our “turkey talk” was Rudy Martinez, who spoke about Mexican immigration to Pelican Rapids. His talk was at the Community Thanksgiving service Nov. 24, and explored ethnic diversity connected to the turkey biz. 

The Martinez family came in 1997–after eight years of applications and processing through the immigration system.  

“We were from a rather poor agricultural area in Mexico,” said Rudy.  His family worked as migrant labor in the California fields to earn extra money. 

“It was the (West Central) turkey plant that brought us here.”  Dozens of neighbors and extended family in that part of Mexico had been moving to Pelican prior to Rudy’s family, and continued afterwards.  

“We transplanted almost an entire community of relatives, friends and neighbors from Mexico to Pelican Rapids,” said Rudy.

“What is Thanksgiving?” asked the Martinez parents, when the first November rolled around. 

“I don’t know,” said Rudy, who was about eight years old at the time, and not yet skilled in English, nor American traditions.  “I think you’re supposed to eat turkey.” 

So, when West Central provided turkeys to employees, Mrs. Martinez was scratching her head.  “What the heck do you do with this thing?…Well, my mom took the big turkey and turned it into a Mexican meal…She is an excellent cook!” said Rudy. 

“Nowadays, we cook the turkey the way you’re supposed to,” laughed Martinez.  

—Louis Hoglund, managing editor