Consuelo, Migrant Mother, Farm Worker

Photo story about a migrant farm worker in Pierson, Fla., for an Advanced Photojournalism class at the University of Florida during spring 2011.

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The Fern Fields

I visited a fern farm where migrant farm workers, mostly from Mexico, come to pick ferns that will serve as decoration for flower arrangements.

The atmosphere is calm and it’s a beautiful landscape. These farms usually are very damp and wet. The people picking ferns or other plants get their clothes soaked for most of the day.

During winter and spring it can be freezing, especially because these plants must grow under deep shadow, either wise they get burnt by the sun.

In the summer, the humidity can make it very difficult to breathe.

The dampness can produce skin infections and fungus on people’s feet, which itch a lot and can lead to infections.

One of the workers there, who wished to keep his identity anonymous, said that it didn’t matter if he put plastic bags underneath or on top of his clothes — he would always end up soaking wet. This depends on the type of fern they are picking, since some fern need more water than others.

Consuelo’s Home Away from Home

Consuelo, a migrant farm worker from Guerrero, Mexico, lives in a small house in Pierson, Fla., with her husband and some of her eight children. They all come together for dinner along with the grandkids. Preparations for dinner lasted since 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

We had tortillas, barbecued steak and chicken, red and black beans, spicy chilly and avocados. A lot of the ingredients were planted in their backyard, like the chiles.

They also plant pumpkin and get their eggs from a chicken coup one of Consuelo’s sons-in-law built. I helped out making tortillas and washing dishes.

The children ate in small tables they set up in the living room while they watched cartoons. They got very rambunctious. After several threats, the TV had to be to turned off.