Ten migrant workers from Mexico live together in a house on a Graves County farm. Their labor is poured into another man’s property, but their spirits have created a community of their own.
“These people are something else,” said farm owner Jerry Barber. “They are beautiful people, work like horses and are very family-oriented.” Wedged above the workers’ bunk beds and pressed in their wallets are pictures of wives and children far away. Inside the house, the television is tuned to Spanish-language programming, someone is almost always cooking and laughter echoes through the space.
Top left: Carlos Gomora, 29, from Tetecal, Mexico, has two children and a wife in Mexico.
Top right: While other migrant workers watch all latin television, eat breakfast, or play chess Samuel Mortinez Bello, 34, sits on his bed and ties his shoes before heading out the door to start his work day on the potato fields. Bello is an H2A immigrant from Miacatlan, Mexico. The ten migrant workers on Jerry Barber Farms wake up early to the voices of the Barber family calling them to work.
Bottom left: Lino Cortes, 40, whose wife died last year, has four children. For the past nine years he has worked on Barber’s tobacco farm nine months out of the year, hoping to save enough money to send his children to college.
Bottom right: Saul Martinez, 29, is the second longest working migrant worker on the Barber farm. He is one of the trusted men to help translate to other workers. The smell of fresh paint permeates in the air on the roof of a barn that stores tobacco waiting to be dark-fired. Two men, Cortes, right, and Angel Rodriguez Castillo, 34, balance themselves on the recycled tin surface to spray the roof as they continue the de-rusting process. On slow days only a select few of the migrants on Barber’s farm have the opportunity to work. After stringing together a used Gatorade bottle, fishing line, hook and grasshoppers caught on his way to the pond, Martinez went fishing. He used a hose to clean a bass he caught, while fellow worker Nestor Pelipe Monrroy watches. The fish was dinner for the next day. Among fishing, soccer and poker are also common activities when the men find downtime in their 12 hour work days. Guadalupe watches out the window while Latin soap operas play during the chaos of morning in the migrant house. Guadalupe was the newest worker on Barber farm. He was working on paying off loans for the travel expenses here before he will begin saving for his second year of college. Castillo and Guadalupe use their new chess board given to them by Chad Barber, to replace their smaller one before starting work in the potato fields. Barber occasionally plays with the men. “He my teacher,” said Gaudalupe about Rodriguez. Many of the men express that the distance from Kentucky to Mexico mirrors the emptiness in their hearts. Castillo is one of the men at the farm who missed his home. After six months of being away from his family, he lies on top of his twin mattress away from the other workers on his birthday to look at pictures of his son Maximo, 1. During a slow day several of the men pass the time with the soccer ball. Martinez, curls up on the ground outside of their home after being accidentally kicked in the groin. In an effort to cheer him up Gomora, jumps on top of him instigating the rest of the men to follow suit. Cortes and Mortinez pull potatoes off of the picker and sort them by class while Jerry Barber goes to check on the other workers, whose relationship with the workers is less personal than his son’s. Guadalupe refers to Jerry as distant. He respects their space and doesn’t come around much. Jerry explains that he does not feel it necessary to stay with the men in the fields. Guadalupe, the rookie of the farm, finished scraping rust off the barn and waits for the other men to be done so they can take a lunch break.