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Pepe, from El Salvador

08.05.08 | Comment?

Pepe Godínez, 63, is a Salvadoran who left his country 27 years ago because of the Civil War. He lives in California but:

- …is in the D.C. area right now working in construction.
- …was recently in Washington State, where he got off a fishing boat that had taken him to Alaska. He rode buses for four days to get here.
- …some years also goes to Florida to work picking up oranges in the fields.

I was getting ready to take pictures of the much-controversial wall at 9500 Liberty St. in Manassas, Va. (more on that soon), when Pepe came up the sloped sidewalk leaning on a cane. I was actually facing away from the wall, trying to take a nice shot of two Civil War era cannons displayed in the park across the street. So he called my attention (”shh, shh”) and gestured for me to take pictures of the wall (dubbed El Muro de Calle Libertad by pro-immigrant activists) instead.

When I said I spoke Spanish, he told me he supported the message in the wall, which says laws enacted locally -which lets local police inquire about the immigration status of every person they arrest- are racist. “It is us who sustain this country’s economy,” Pepe said. Echoing the wall’s manifesto, he added immigrants like him are Native Americans too and should be respected as such.

Then he described his yearly work routine. “I’m an adventurer,” he shrugged, then shook my hand and walked away.

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» La Ruta del Voto Latino: Ecuador at the DNC / Ecuador en la convención demócrata