One of my biggest jobs on our trips to El Salvador is to observe, store those observations in my memory bank, reflect, and ponder how to share them with others. On this particular trip as we traveled around El Salvador, one particular observation struck me more than usual. Gosh, these people work hard physically both in terms of sustaining themselves on a daily basis to live, and in earning a living!
We watched them devising a makeshift cart to carry firewood down from the top of volcanoes and then lugging firewood on their backs to carry it home wherever and however far that may be.
We watched older men pushing small carts loaded with heavy bags of cement. Other younger men carry them on their backs to the work site.
Watching men work under the intense sun using only hand tools makes my muscles wince in pain. In the U.S., power tools would be doing these same jobs. We watched men engaged in road work using only basic shovels and picks while wearing flimsy sneakers. Salvadorans seem to never wear sunglasses and I’d be surprised if they apply sunscreen. My dermatologist would have a fit watching them!
The handmade furniture for sale along the highway requires much skill, practice, and finesse. We are peeking behind the dresser and saw a very basic workshop with very basic hand tools.
Women tend to be responsible for managing the household and raising the children but are not exempt from hard physical work. Hauling water daily on top of their heads is a given in many rural areas. They also haul laundry and goods to sell the same way and somehow manage to stop and chat along the way without seeming to mind the weight they are carrying.
Because so many people work to maintain a subsistence level of survival or work in the informal sector of employment, retirement is not an option. Men and women of all ages work hard at what they do on a daily basis in order to survive.
These observations bring me to the “bee in my bonnet.” When some people make unkind, disrespectful remarks about the folks crossing our border/the wall labeling them as terrorists, rapists, murderers, and drug dealers who have nothing to contribute to our country, I cringe. (By the way, statistics repeatedly contradict all such accusations.)
Those who HAVE crossed our southern border carry the same work ethic with them as when they lived in El Salvador. These immigrants now are forced to hide from ICE lest they be deported. They often work in entry level jobs below their ability level in order to stay under the radar from officials trying to force them to leave.
They are our field workers harvesting crops on their hands and knees or picking fruit from our orchards.
They are the garment workers paid by the piece.
They are the housekeepers in the hotels.
They work in the fishing industry.
They are cooks and dishwashers in the kitchens of our restaurants.
They are the factory workers.
They are the nannies.
They are the domestics in houses.
They are the house painters.
They are the meat packers
They are the dairy workers.
They are the carpet installers and roofers.
In short, they are doing the less than glamorous jobs in our country that need to be done, but that no one else wants to do. When ICE conducts raids at the workplaces of these “illegals,” their businesses can no longer function.
The point is we truly do need these hard workers. They are valuable contributing members of our economy. Other countries recognize this; for instance, Canada has been receptive to immigrants entering their country. They see how beneficial immigrants are in contributing to their economy while enhancing their culture. The immigrants have assimilated well into Canada.
Wouldn’t we as a country also benefit by welcoming them?
What do I know? I merely observe, store those observations in my memory bank, reflect, and ponder how to share them with others. Maybe those who make unkind accusations actually needs to cross the OTHER side of the wall to do their own observing.