Peter Lemieux: Project proposal
Life of the Latino Migrant Worker on Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco
Latino migrant workers wait for employment each day on Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco's Mission District. Here, hundreds of males from disparate parts of Central and South America have assembled for a shared reason, to realize their American dream. The American dream they aspire to has little in common with the aspirations of the internet revolutionaries with whom they now share the neighborhood. While the dot.com-crazed visualize stock options and massive wealth creation, the Latino migrants dream of earning enough money to survive, supporting their families back home, and, if they are lucky, returning home as quickly as possible.
In this pursuit, they live on the streets, in shelters or in cramped studio apartments and itinerant hotels. Some travel solo, others with family and friends. They eat "ranchero-style" breakfast in churches or "Cup O'Noodles" on the street. Often, they sit idly on the curb and glance expectantly down the street, hoping some beat-up pick-up with work tools in the back will give them the signal. Some abuse drugs, alcohol or women to pass the time, while others choose less self-destructive activities like feeding the pigeons, listening to the radio or reading the New Testament. But no matter the differences in how these migrant workers go about their lives, the dot.com frenzy - represented on bus and billboard advertisement, in the hip new cafes sprouting up and by trendy 20-something techies darting to and from their offices just blocks away - provides a stark contrast to their reality.
While the plight of rural migrant workers toiling in often extremely harsh conditions has received media attention, much less focus has been paid to the struggle of the urban migrant worker. All across America, these groups of migrants - like the one on Cesar Chavez St. - roof, paint, landscape, construct and reconstruct urban America each day, and do so with no workers' rights, sporadic employment and little gratitude. This project aims to spotlight the difficult existence of one such community and bring into focus the important role urban migrant workers play in sustaining the U.S. economy and its "can't live without" lifestyle.