Took this picture of a day laborer taking a rest while waiting for work over the summer. When the police came by a little later, they told him to sit up.
Here’s one from the vault. I took these photos and audio in the late summer and early fall of 2007, in what turned out to be my last days at my first newspaper gig. They are my first attempt both at a more long term project and at working with audio. When I left the paper, I felt that the work was incomplete, the audio terrible, and generally that it was not worth putting together. But time has a way of changing your feelings.
In all, I spent 11 afternoons with these mostly laborers in the rural New Jersey town where the paper was located. They would gather at the field each day after work and play for as long as the light would allow. The level of competition was really high, and occasionally a player or two from the local high school or middle school soccer team would join the fray, knowing it was the best game in town. As they played, they sometimes would yell the home country of a player, in place of his name, so that cries of “Ecuador” or “Argentino” would periodically be heard. I remember thinking what a contrast it was to the football or softball practices taking place in the nearby fields in this rural farmland of northwest New Jersey. Despite how they had arrived in America, or what their immigration status was, they were here, they were living. They were playing their game, and adding it to those other ones.
Here is Amador. He is Cuban and though he has papers, I’m including him in the Undocumented project because really the title was always meant as a double entendre; and because the difference between him and someone without papers, seems so small as to be almost incidental. He’s lived the same life in shadows, worked the same factory-restaurant-cleaning jobs, been mistaken countless times on the street for someone without papers. He’s protested and marched both beside the paperless and on their behalf.
Born in Bautista’s Cuba four years before its end, Amador was raised in the infancy of The Revolution. In the ’80s, he went to Angola as a medic with Cuban troops fighting on the side of communist forces during that country’s endless civil war. Back in Cuba in the early 90s, he decided to come to America. His sister was dying of cancer in Florida. The small boat he and a handful of others took was picked up a few miles into the journey and Amador spent a year in Guantanamo, waiting, until he was finally released into the country. His sister died soon after their reunion and Amador left for Boston and then New York.
Today the Dream Act, which would provide a way to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. by their migrant parents, is stalled in the U.S. Senate. If passed, which seems unlikely, it would make it so that those children, who have lived most of their lives in America, could become citizens after attending college for 2 years. For now, they, unlike, Jessica, are not entitled to a passport and the rights it represents.
Meet Don Alberto. Well that’s not really his name, but it’s not too far off. He is 56 years old, about 5’2″ and has 7 kids, ranging in ages from 36 to 16. All of them are in Mexico, except for one son who is also in the States. He is from Zacapoaxtla, a town of about 8,000 people, in the Mexican state of Puebla. His wife died many years ago, but he never remarried, deciding, instead, to dedicate himself to his children. He as been in the United States for 4 years, and like most undocumented workers, has not returned home in all that time.
Pictures of another Guatemalan family at home. He has lived in the United States for 9 years, and she for 5. They are from the same village in Guatemala and speak K’iche’, a Mayan language, in addition to Spanish. He was an accountant and a bus driver in Guatemala City. Their daughter was born in the United States. The man in the first photo is another immigrant who rents a room in the same apartment.
Another post from the project on recent immigrants in the U.S. Gloria and Esteban are both from Guatemala, but met here, where they had their daughter, Jessica (the baby boy is a friend’s). Esteban has been in the US for two years and works as a day laborer. Gloria for five and cleans houses and office buildings.
This photograph is from an ongoing project about new immigrants in the United States. These men — and boys — gather at this trailer 6 days a week from 7 until noon to wait for work, mostly in construction or as movers. This past winter was the worst any could remember — there was almost no work.