Monday, May 31, 2010

The Magnificent Migrants

You may not have realized this, but
SUPERMAN IS AN "ILLEGAL ALIEN"
living anonymously among us.

NOE REYES from the state of Puebla works as a delivery boy in Brooklyn New York. He sends home $500 a week.
Photo by DULCE PINZÓN

I stumbled across an amazing series of photographs today on the Foreign Policy website. The accompanying story, by the photographer Dulce Pinzón, forwards the theme of immigrant workers as heroes.

Her photo essay is brief and inspiring. Dressed as various superheroes, her subjects-in-masquerade, accompanied with a brief tag-line for each, tell a story of survival and heroic contribution to family, a story hidden from scrutiny by their anonymous public personae. Pinzon, however, brings a hint of the real truth of their lives into view using the simple metaphor of the superhero in costume so that we can appreciate the brothers and sisters, not unlike ourselves, struggling for a living here among us.

Dulce Pinzón writes this introduction to her photo journal:

I was born in Mexico City in 1974. After college at the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico, I moved to New York to become a photographer in 1995. I'd grown up in a middle-class household; my dad owned a construction business. But after my savings ran out in New York, I had to do service work to get by: I worked as a waitress and a nanny, and realized how difficult it was to be an immigrant. Initially I had a student visa. Before I got my green card, I also had to go back and forth across the border every six months. It was a very humbling experience.

Meanwhile, I worked as an English teacher and a union organizer, helping Mexican immigrants with various issues, like landlord-tenant disputes. Through this work, I got to know many Latino workers in New York. I wanted to share their experiences, but not the story we usually hear, if we hear of them at all. In a sense, Latino workers in New York are hidden -- hidden in kitchens, hidden inside houses. Most of the U.S. national news about immigration is very sad: bitter political disputes in Arizona, or images of desperate immigrants trying to cross the border. So much pain numbs you.

I saw a Spiderman costume in a store in November 2001, and that's when everything came together in my head. Comic-book superheroes have an alter ego, and so do immigrants in the United States. They may be insignificant or even invisible to much of society, but they are heroes in their homelands.

Many of the people I photographed for this series, between 2004 and 2009, were my students or people I worked with as a union organizer. We had a friendly relationship; they trusted me enough to give me their real names and how much money they send home. It was very important to me to include that information. My work is a tribute to them.

The photo essay, containing nine photographs, can be viewed here. Beware the subtle humor contained in them.

"Dulce Pinzón is a photographer working in Mexico and New York." -- FP editors

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