Season of Sacrifice
Martin and Ramon Alvarez Avalos, brothers from a small village near Guanajuato, Mexico, travel to Virginia with 18 other men on H-2B federal guest worker program. For eight months a year the men leave their families and work for Mays Bros. Inc., a construction company based in Forest, Virginia. The make $8.20 an hour, which is equal to one days pay in Mexico.
Most of the workers time is spent laying pipe, pouring concrete and doing other physically demanding labor across Central Virginia. They live sparse lifestyles in order to send much or their pay back to their families in Mexico.
Their presence in the community caused controversy as David St. John, owner of Mays Bros. Inc. asked for a permit to build the workers town homes. County officials rejected the request, saying that homes wouldn’t fit with the surrounding area. In public meetings residents said they didn’t like the homes being so close to the local high school.
The work is hard and they constantly think of their families and lives in Mexico. “Our sadness can choke us at times but we need to suffer in our lives. We have the need to be better, to make our families a little better,” says Ramon.
Despite their sacrifice the workers will come back year after year. Ramon continues, “If we are here we want to be in Mexico. If we are there, well, we need to work to continue living. Our lives are very very difficult.”