Portraits of Undocumented Immigrants
Ghosts in America is an ongoing multimedia project that shines a light on the ordinary working people in the United States who live among us as undocumented immigrants. They are mothers and fathers, students, small business owners, teachers and activists -- each one working toward a better life for themselves and their families.
But officially, they exist in the shadows. And indeed, with the new presidential administration and their increasingly aggressive immigration policies, this issue has gained great importance and urgency.
This project tells the stories of life amid the struggles of their uncertain immigration status, in two parts. First, for the last three years I have been traveling to different US cities to make portraits of these “ghosts.” My portraits use a cultural tradition common throughout Latin America -- and increasingly, in American pop culture -- to bring awareness to an important social issue that we in the United States have so far failed to reconcile. Their faces are painted with symbols of the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition, which represent death and rebirth. Each subject is transformed into an icon in their own world and is photographed in their home or work environment, where they nurture their dreams and goals.
Ghosts In America is an ongoing project that I started shooting around September of 2014. They are people from different countries in Central, South America and the Caribbean, like Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Barbados, Haiti and Dominican Republic.
During the time I have been making these portraits, I have encounter with all kinds of stories and situations that immigrants face each day or have faced in the past. Stories like Carlos, who had to overstayed his visa after having gone through 8 brain tumor surgeries and unable to go back his country in the Dominican Republic, or Teresa, who left her home in Puebla, Mexico with her 3 children to cross the border 25 years ago escaping poverty and build a better life for her family. Carmen, who was hustled and shaken down by corrupt authority officials for years, are some of the cases that have keeps me going and interested in capturing their images and tell their stories to those who believe these situations does not affect them. These are the people who build your homes, cut the grass, serve your breakfast, change your sheets, sell you flowers.
But also, there are cases of success after the struggle, like Giancarlos who was a leader in the successful fight to gain in-state tuition rates at New Jersey's public colleges and universities for students like himself. Kelsey, from Honduras, who this year became the first female undocumented lawyer in the state of Florida. Gender identity is also connected to this human rights issue, as it also was an honor for me to make portraits of LGBTQ activists and organizers like Saul, who faces the tribulations of being undocumented while also fighting against hate crimes, or Ariana, a peruvian transgender woman who educates, mentors and advocates for the rights of the transgender community adding more dificulty to their uncertain immigration status.
In this current political climate, the image that immigrants are being perceived is unfair. This project's goal is to counter the divisive rhetoric that has gain popularity in the current political presidential race. Subsequently, it looks to keep pushing towards a comprehensive immigration reform that can help with an outdated and broken immigration system and bring relief to 5 out of the 11 millions undocumented immigrants eligible for deffered action residencies.
The main intention of this publication will be to raise awareness, curiosity and engagement to take action about this human rights issue.
Education is the key for understanding where do we come from, what are we and where are we going as a society.