2009 Projects: A Distant Home / Un Hogar Lejano

The 2009 SAF Folklife Documentary Project / Proyecto documental de cultura popular de SAF de 2009

A Distant Home / Un hogar Lejano

Each spring and summer, fields across the US South bloom with abundance and fill with laborers to tend it– What do these workers think about as they hurry along the furrows and under blazing sun, or when they rest after the long workday? Most farmworkers left families and community behind to come and work in these distant fields; these people and places must often occupy their thoughts as the season wears on. If they are to be far from home for so much of the year, what do migrant workers think about their homes? How do they make a home here in the South, how does it compare to their distant communities of origin?

This summer, SAF Interns and farmworkers collaborated to document personal stories and the meaning of home for those workers, both here in the south and in their community of origin. Below is a collection of what they uncovered together: the beginnings of a larger and often untold story of an entire human community that remakes its home even as it migrates from place to place.

Un hogar Lejano / A Distant Home
Cada primavera y verano, los campos en el sur de los Estados Unidos florecen en abundancia y se llenan con trabajadores que los cuidarán. ¿Qué piensan los trabajadores al apresurarse por los surcos bajo el sol abrasador, o al descansar después de una larga jornada de trabajo? La mayoría de los campesinos dejaron sus familias y comunidades para venir y trabajar en estos campos lejanos; seguramente deben reflexionar mucho sobre esa gente y esos lugares durante el transcurso de la temporada. Si van a estar lejos de casa por gran parte del año, ¿qué piensan los trabajadores migrantes/itinerantes de sus hogares? ¿Qué hacen para sentirse a gusto en el sur? ¿Cómo se compara este lugar con sus comunidades de origen lejanas?

Este verano, los estudiantes de SAF y los trabajadores agrícolas colaboraron para documentar historias personales y lo que significa el “hogar” para esos trabajadores, tanto aquí en el sur como en sus comunidades de procedencia. A continuación presentamos una colección de lo que han descubierto juntos: el principio de una gran historia casi nunca contada de una comunidad humana entera que rehace su hogar aún cuando emigra de un lugar a otro.


Alberto

intro_saluda_photo_04By Ignacio Morales, Andres Ramos, and D.L. Anderson

Escuche la historia de Alberto / Listen To Alberto’s Story

English Translation of Alberto’s Story

From his alligator boots, belt buckle and Tejana hat, it’s clear that  Alberto loves the countryside and livestock. He identifies with the land and life as a cowboy. As a child in Veracruz, Mexico, Alberto was happiest while caring for the animals.

Well, since I was 8 years old, I started working in the fields. Yeah, I remember that I would go after some of the cows to take them to the field and that I would let them roam around and that I would look for them in the bushes that they would hide in. And I would look for them and by the time I went back to my house, they were already there and that’s the memory I have of the cows, very pretty.

One day, Alberto traveled to Tijuana in search of work so that he could bring greater stability to his family. While at work he met a very beautiful woman there. She became the mother of his two children. In little time, Alberto lost his job and went to the United States to try out his luck. He walked 18 hours to cross the desert to the other side of the border.

Well my mind that stayed there in the truck, it was like 10 people in the back of the truck that was taking us, laying down and in those curves, hearing how the tire was squeaking that wouldn’t turn and never to see my family again. And it’s very good luck, if you’re able to cross and for a lot of people, bad luck for each one of them on their way, never to see their family again. That’s what’s most sad about it that you see, that you see and that you take in personally in life.

Once in the United States Alberto settled in South Carolina, living in a farmworker camp and toiling in the fields; picking cucumbers, peaches, pumpkin and watermelon. Today Alberto is unemployed due to serious injuries he incurred in the fields. A long legal battle for reparations from damages caused has made his old home in Mexico seem all the more distant.

Well, it’s very sad how one feels here, being alone, without any family. When you’re eating and you’re eating at the dinner table without any of your family, you always think about your family and miss them. Because here we’re put to a corner, we’re like intruding, places here… that’s how we see ourselves, with the other farmworker’s moms. And well it’s never the same as it is in Mexico. I’m very alone right now without any family. It’s not the same being here without them. We’re here to have a better life than in Mexico. And you risk a lot crossing the border. Everything that you suffer just to have a better life, to suffer, here for some time and then well, in the future go back, with God’s will. And I plan on starting a business, a taco stand to survive there because well, the money we make here, you go some place and it’s just spend, spend, spend. And in the end you’re in the same situation without money that you were in before and it’s not the same now going back and not have any money, that’s what they call me for.


A Second Home | Un segundo hogar

lead_01By Catherine Raymer

Teresa has lived in the United States for six years now, currently in the Low Country of South Carolina. She is from a small town in the hills of Mexico, eight hours from Mexico City. There she has a small farm on which her mother and her six children live growing coffee, corn, beans and lettuce to sell in the local market. Here in the United States she has a family with another migrant worker, Gregorio, and together they have a four-year-old son, Jose Luis, who was born with Down syndrome.  When asked about her home in Mexico, the first thing Teresa recalls is the famous church in her town which houses la Virgen de Juquila.  Visitors travel from distant places to make a wish in the famous church that houses la Virgen. Work there is different; everyone owns and works on their own piece of land, not on someone else’s.  While she writes and sends pictures to her family in Mexico, Teresa hasn’t seen them in six years.

Teresa ha vivido en los Estados Unidos por seis años, actualmente en la zona costera de Carolina del Sur conocida como Low Country. Es de un pueblo pequeño en una región montañosa de México que queda a ocho horas de la Ciudad de México. Allí tiene una granja pequeña donde su madre y sus seis hijos cultivan café, maíz, frijoles y lechuga, los cuales venden en el mercado. Aquí en los Estados Unidos vive con Gregorio, quien también es campesino, y su hijo de cuatro años, José Luis, quien nació con síndrome de Down. Al preguntarle sobre su hogar en México, lo primero que recuerda Teresa es la famosa iglesia de la Virgen de Juquila . Visitantes llegan de lugares lejanos para pedir milagros en la iglesia famosa donde se encuentra la Virgen. El trabajo es diferente allá; todos trabajan su propia tierra, no la de otra persona. Teresa le escribe y le manda fotos a su familia, pero no los ha visto desde hace seis años.




Manos sin identidad | Many Hands, No Faces


by Laura Valencia

A short video documentary of migrant laborers in the fields of North Carolina.
Un corto vídeo documental de trabajadores agrícolas en los campos de Carolina del Norte.


Castulo

By Diana Amaya and Angelica Martinez

Castulo has always been very motivated in life. Today, his life is defined by his family and his children. As a boy he liked school but was unable to continue studying because of the lack of secondary schools near his home. He accepted that he would have to work wage-earning jobs and after hearing about prosperity in the United States, he decided to come work in America. Castulo quickly realized, though, that the U.S. agricultural industry takes advantage of its workers through low wages and poor working conditions. Despite this he still works in agriculture to provide for his family. His family is what seems to be most important to Castulo, defining his leisure time and helping him feel more at home in the United States.

Castulo siempre ha sido una persona muy motivada. Hoy día, su vida se define por su familia y sus hijos. De niño le gustaba la escuela pero no pudo continuar sus estudios porque no había escuelas secundarias cerca de su casa. Reconoció que tendría que trabajar por un sueldo bajo, pero después de escuchar de la prosperidad en los Estados Unidos, decidió venir. Sin embargo, Castulo pronto se dio cuenta que la industria agrícola en los Estados Unidos se aprovecha de los trabajadores con sueldos bajos y malas condiciones de trabajo. A pesar de esto, continúa trabajando en la agricultura para mantener a su familia. Su familia es lo más importante para Castulo, definiendo lo que hace en su tiempo libre y ayudándolo a sentirse más en casa en los Estados Unidos.



Karen

By Koehler Briceño

Karen is a nineteen-year old mother of two living in Western North Carolina. Her life has been a struggle to find her home both in Guatemala and here in the United States. Karen’s parents divorced when she was young and then her mother left her behind to find work in the United States. When Karen was thirteen she met a boy who asked to marry her and together they left for the United States. Two years later, Karen, now pregnant, left her abusive husband to live with her mother in Indianapolis. Karen was unhappy living with her mother and later came to live with her older sister in Western NC. Karen worked at a local poultry plant for two months but then was fired after “spontaneously” organizing a strike against low wages and poor working conditions. To Karen, the apartment she has now is as close to home as anything she has ever had.

Karen, de diecinueve años de edad, vive en la zona oeste de Carolina del Norte con sus dos hijos. Para ella ha sido difícil formar un hogar en Guatemala y también aquí en los Estados Unidos. Los padres de Karen se divorciaron cuando era niña y después su madre se fue a los Estados Unidos para encontrar trabajo. Cuando Karen tenía 13 años, conoció a un niño que le propuso matrimonio y juntos se fueron a los Estados Unidos. Dos años después, Karen, embarazada, dejó a su esposo abusivo y se fue a vivir con su madre en Indianápolis. Karen no estaba contenta viviendo con su madre y se fue a vivir con su hermana mayor en el oeste de Carolina del Norte. Karen trabajó en una planta procesadora de aves por dos meses, pero la despidieron después de que espontáneamente organizó una huelga para protestar contra sueldos bajos y malas condiciones de trabajo. Para Karen, el apartamento donde vive ahora es lo más parecido a un hogar que ha tenido en su vida.


A Home Away From Home | Una segunda casa

By Magali Guerrero

After a ‘hard divorce’ between his parents, Cesar was raised in Mexico by his grandmother and his aunt. At the age of six, Cesar’s mother brought him to the United States to live with her and his stepfather. He remembers the move as difficult for him, but his determination to learn English slowly helped him feel more comfortable in this country. Cesar’s life took a significant downturn at the death of his girlfriend who he had hoped would become his wife one day. He does not want to live in Mexico; he feels home is where one is most comfortable, which for him is near where he and his girlfriend shared memories in a small town in Georgia. “I am blessed with the opportunity to be able to stay in the U.S., the place that is my home.”

Después de un “divorcio difícil” entre sus padres, César fue criado en México por su abuela y su tía. A los seis años de edad, su madre lo trajo a los Estados Unidos para vivir con ella y su padrastro. Recuerda que el traslado fue difícil para él, pero su firme propósito de aprender inglés lo ayudó a sentirse más cómodo en este país. La vida de César empeoró enormemente cuando murió su novia, con quien se quería casar algún día. Él no quiere vivir en México; dice que donde se siente más cómodo, como en casa, es donde tiene recuerdos de su novia, en un pueblo en Georgia. “Tengo la suerte de poder quedarme en los Estados Unidos, mi hogar”.


The Life of Luis | La vida de Luis

lead_sanchez_fieldBy Maria Mandujano and Jazmin Posas

When we first met Luis, he ran up to us and pulled out a small booklet from his back pocket. It was wrinkled and stained on the outside, but inside we found pictures of a SAF theatre performance from last year as well as family photos and a work log that was completely filled out for every single day he had worked. Luis came to the United States three years ago, but he longs to return to his home in Toluca, Mexico where his parents, his five sisters, and his brother live. Luis, the oldest of his siblings, came to the United States because of the opportunities his cousin described to him, but during his journey here, he questioned whether it was actually all worth it. Luis financially supports the education of two of his sisters and wants to return home next year if he is able. Luis misses his parents and his father’s business selling flowers. When he thinks of home, he thinks of flowers and the work that goes into planting, growing and selling them.

Cuando conocimos a Luis por primera vez, corrió a vernos y sacó un folleto pequeño de su bolsillo. Estaba arrugado y la portada tenía manchas, pero adentro vimos fotos de la presentación de una obra de teatro de SAF del año pasado, fotos de su familia y un diario lleno de información de cada jornada de trabajo. Luis vino a los Estados Unidos hace 3 años, pero quiere volver a su hogar en Toluca, México, donde viven sus padres, sus 5 hermanas y su hermano. Luis es el hermano mayor. Él vino a los Estados Unidos después de escuchar a su primo hablar de las oportunidades que se podían encontrar aquí. Pero durante el transcurso del viaje, se preguntó si valdría la pena. Luis paga los gastos de educación de dos de sus hermanas y quiere regresar a casa el próximo año si es posible. Luis extraña a sus padres y al negocio de venta de flores de su padre. Cuando piensa en su hogar, recuerda las flores y el trabajo de plantarlas, cultivarlas y venderlas.


Noel

lead_01

By Rachel Mossey and Calyste Corington

Noel is from a small village in Michoacan, Mexico. “I am here because I am under contract to cut tobacco. I must come here to work. It is sort of a last resort so that I can take care of my family.”  Noel doesn’t talk much about the work he does, except to say that the schedule is very strict, different from what he is used to in Mexico. He feels that so much is different from his home. “Here I’m not able to speak Purepécha. I can hardly even speak much Spanish.” Noel misses the festivals and fiestas from his home, all of the celebrations that teach the younger generations what their culture is all about. “I’m grateful for all the North has helped me with. It has its ups and downs. I know that it’s not perfect, but sometimes I feel sorry for the people here. They don’t have love, they don’t know how to have a spiritual life.” Even though he is not physically in Mexico, his family feels his presence with them. “The beadwork I do is a way for me to live at home away from my home. I sit under the tree stringing each bead onto the threads that my aunt made with her own hands; looking up into the same sky she might also be looking at, and creating a masterpiece that will be carried down from generation to generation.”

Noel es de un pueblito en Michoacán, México. “Estoy aquí porque estoy bajo contrato para cortar tabaco. Debo venir a trabajar. Es el último recurso para poder mantener a mi familia”. Noel no habla mucho sobre el trabajo que realiza, excepto para explicar que el horario es muy estricto y diferente a lo que estaba acostumbrado en México. Siente que muchas cosas son diferentes aquí que en su casa. “Aquí no puedo hablar Purépecha. Casi no sé hablar español”. Noel extraña los festivales y fiestas de su pueblo, todas las celebraciones que les enseñan a las nuevas generaciones sobre su propia cultura. “Estoy agradecido por todo lo que me ha ayudado el Norte. Tiene sus altibajos. Sé que no es perfecto, pero a veces me da pena la gente aquí. No tienen amor, no saben cómo tener una vida espiritual”. Aunque no está presente en México, su familia siente su presencia. “El trabajo artesanal que hago con cuentas es una manera de sentirme en casa aunque estoy lejos. Me siento debajo del árbol ensartando cada cuenta en el hilo que mi tía hizo con sus propias manos; viendo el mismo cielo que ella podría estar viendo, y creando una obra de arte que se pasará de una generación a otra”.



El Pinero de los Pinos

Don Aureliano displays a pinero de papel

By Jessica Haywood and Marisela Martinez

Aureliano is a craftsman and guitar maker from Los Pinos, Paracho, Michoacán who farms Christmas trees in the mountains of North Carolina. He travels the sixteen hundred miles each year to work on the farm to support his family. Aureliano loves the culture of Michoacán – the traditional dance, El Baile de los Viejitos, and the festival La Feria de la Guitarra. Even though Aureliano cannot be with his family while he is in North Carolina, they are constantly on his mind. A mention of his third daughter sparks Aureliano into a conversation of how proud he is that she graduated school with a nursing certificate. He wants to do all he can to support the education of his children so they may have the opportunities that he didn’t have.  Aureliano had to miss an important celebration in Mexico this year – the baptism of his eight year old granddaughter. Although he could not be there in person, he found a way to be present in spirit, by designing, hand cutting, and sending papel picado flags to be hung in the house at the celebration. These flags, traditionally part of any big celebration in Mexico, had special meaning because they were requested specifically by his granddaughter and sent to Mexico with a little piece of Aureliano’s heart included.

Aureliano es artesano y fabricante de guitarras de Los Pinos, Paracho, Michoacán. Cosecha árboles de Navidad en las montañas de Carolina del Norte. Viaja 1,600 millas cada año para trabajar en esta granja y mantener a su familia. Aureliano ama la cultura de Michoacán, el tradicional Baile de los Viejitos y La Feria de la Guitarra. Aunque Aureliano no puede estar con su familia, siempre los tiene presentes en su mente. Al mencionar a su tercera hija, Aureliano expresa lo orgulloso está de que se graduó de enfermera. Quiere hacer todo lo posible para apoyar a sus hijos con sus estudios para que tengan oportunidades que él nunca tuvo. Aureliano no pudo asistir a una celebración importante en México este año, el bautismo de su nieta de ocho años. Aunque no pudo asistir, encontró una manera de estar presente en espíritu. Diseñó, cortó y envió banderas de papel picado para decorar la casa para la celebración. Estas banderas, una tradición en las celebraciones importantes en México, tuvieron un significado especial, porque su nieta se las pidió. Aureliano envió con ellas un pedacito de su corazón.


Henry

itzep_henry_intro

By Rachel Wright

Henry is a twenty-one year old farm worker who has lived in the United States for two years. He is also one of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever met. Originally from Guatemala City, Guatemala, Henry’s family life was difficult – moving between the houses of his parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Henry didn’t get along with his mother; he was a rebel and never wanted to do what his mom told him to do.  Things got so bad that he decided to move to the United States. Here in NC, Henry works as a farmworker and lives in a two-bedroom, one-bath trailer with seven other men and a family of three. The family has a young daughter who they call “princesita.” “She is the baby of the house and we take good care of her.”  When I ask Henry if he has a home here he says, “No, because a home is a place where one is with their family… with their parents. This isn’t a home because we aren’t staying here all of our lives and we stay in many different places. In my country I have a home because that’s where my family is. That’s where everyone is. Everything is there in Guate.”

Henry es un campesino de 21 años que ha vivido en los Estados Unidos por dos años. Es una de las personas más amables y compasivas que he conocido. Nacido en la Ciudad de Guatemala, su vida fue difícil. Se mudó varias veces de la casa de sus padres a las de sus tías, tíos y abuelos. Henry no se llevaba bien con su madre, él era rebelde y nunca quería hacer lo que le decía su mamá. Las cosas empeoraron tanto que decidió irse a los Estados Unidos. Aquí en Carolina del Norte, Henry es trabajador agrícola. Vive en una casa móvil de dos habitaciones y un baño con siete hombres y una familia de tres personas. La familia tiene una hija pequeña a quien le dicen “princesita”. “Es la bebé de la casa y la cuidamos mucho”. Cuando le pregunto a Henry si tiene un hogar aquí, él dice, “No, porque un hogar es un lugar donde uno está con su familia… con sus padres. Este no es mi hogar porque no vamos a estar aquí toda la vida y vivimos en muchos lugares. En mi país tengo mi hogar porque ahí es donde está mi familia. Ahí están todos. Todo está ahí, en Guate”.

Read the full narrative of Henry Iztep by Rachel Wright


Carolina

Doorways_lead

By Anna Walton & Rachel Wheat

Carolina is thirty-one years old and comes from Veracruz, Mexico. She is a strong-willed woman, and is not afraid to speak the truth. Carolina has five siblings, but because her family was poor she grew up with her grandparents,  away from her mother, father, brothers, and sisters. She often wondered why she was the only one who couldn’t grow up with her family, but now as a mother away from her own children, she understands why her parents made that decision. Back in Veracruz, Carolina has three children who she hopes to return to in a year, God willing. Here in Virginia, Carolina lives with her husband and four year-old son, Jovani,

A typical day for Carolina involves waking up at four in the morning to cook lunch for her husband and herself. Later in the day, when her husband and son return home, she watches over her son as he plays in the camp because she does not trust that the other parents have the same values that she does. Money is tight for Carolina’s family because Carolina is pregnant, cannot work, and must see a doctor at least once a week. She feels that even though where she lives now is beautiful, it is not home to her because her whole family is not there with her. Everyone is friendly in the camp, Carolina  describes, but she only has one real friend –  an old man who she enjoys talking to, but who still cannot replace the value of a brother or sister.

Carolina tiene 31 años de edad y vino de Veracruz, México. Tiene mucho carácter y no teme decir la verdad. Carolina tiene cinco hermanos, pero porque la familia es pobre, la criaron sus abuelos, lejos de su madre, padre, hermanos y hermanas. Frecuentemente se preguntaba por qué fue la única que no vivió con su familia. Pero ahora que es madre y vive lejos de sus propios hijos, entiende por qué sus padres tomaron esa decisión. Carolina tiene tres hijos en Veracruz y quiere regresar a vivir con ellos dentro de un año, si Dios quiere. Aquí en Virginia, Carolina vive con su esposo y su hijo de cuatro años, Jovani.

En un día típico, Carolina se despierta a las cuatro de la mañana para preparar su almuerzo y el de su esposo. Más tarde, cuando su esposo y su hijo regresan a casa, vigila a su hijo mientras juega en el campamento porque no sabe si los demás padres tienen los mismos valores que ella. La familia está atravesando una mala situación financiera porque Carolina está embarazada, no puede trabajar y debe ir al doctor por lo menos una vez a la semana. Siente que aunque vive en un lugar lindo, no es su hogar porque su familia entera no está con ella. Carolina explica que todos los que viven en el campamento son amigables, pero sólo tiene un amigo verdadero, un señor de edad con quien le gusta platicar. Pero él no puede ocupar el lugar de un hermano o hermana.


Más Que Nada | More Than Anything


by D.L. Anderson, April Leanne Simon, Dayana Diaz and Jennifer Gonzalez.

A view of life for a migrant family living in limbo to work the tobacco fields of North Carolina so they can raise six children up right in the very place where they were born. Told through the words of the matriarch, Isabel, and daughter, Yesenia, this short photo documentary explores the ties that bind a family to a place even at the risk of being torn apart.

Una visión de la vida de una familia de trabajadores itinerantes viviendo a la espera de trabajo en los campos de tabaco en Carolina del Norte, para poder criar a sus seis hijos debidamente en el lugar donde nacieron. Relatada por la matriarca, Isabel, y su hija, Yesenia, este corto documental fotográfico explora los lazos que ligan a la familia a un lugar, a pesar de correr el riesgo de ser separados.