Los Hombres de Arena by Salvador Rojas

Fotos y Letras por Salvador Rojas

This past March I spent two weeks traveling throughout the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guerrero with documentary filmmaker Renzo Devia. In the Pueblo of La Ciruela, Oaxaca we met with Father Glyn Jemmott who has been serving the Afro-Mexican community for over twenty-five years.

Introducing myself as a photographer Father Jemmott suggested I visit the �Areneros� (Sandmen) to document their story. The Areneros are local day laborers who fill up trucks with sand. He told us how they wait under a tree waiting for work and about the brotherhood they share. Renzo and I walked down to a small dirt road where the Areneros congregate under a large tree for shade. There were about 16 men, of all ages, waiting for the next �Chamba�. As we were waiting there, a large dump-style truck rolled slowly through the dusty road. In teams of four, the men grabbed their shovels and climbed the sides of the truck as the truck rolled to a slow stop. Once we were all aboard, including Renzo and I, the truck started the trek down a lonely road to a dry riverbed.

It was a twenty minute drive up the sandy road when we arrived at the location. The Areneros jumped off the truck prepared to work. The sand, when dry, has a lot of dust that�s bad for the lungs. Before they started shoveling the sand into the truck bed, they wet the sand down. This not only reduces the polvo in the air but it also makes the sand heavier.

To describe the working conditions is difficult to express. It�s super hot in the high nineties. The air is humid. And the harsh sunlight is blinding since it reflects off the sand. It takes four men a solid hour to fill up the truck bed with sand, working non-stop without a break. I was only taking photos and the heat was making me nauseas and light-headed. I couldn�t even imagine doing strenuous work in these conditions.

The Areneros have their own system of rotating the work 7 days a week. If they have a good day of work they each may fill up 3 to 4 trucks a day. I asked them how much they make per truckload they charge 200 pesos per load. That comes out to 50 pesos for each worker. That�s the U.S. equivalent of about three dollars and change for each haul per person.

After they finished loading up the truck we headed back to the tree where other Areneros waited for their turn to earn money for their families.

We stood there under the tree talking to them about their work. They�re aware that they don�t have many options living in a small town with limited education. To them it�s an honest way to make a living. I respected that and the way they treated each other, like family.

Before Renzo and I headed back into town, we asked them what all this sand is used for. The sand is used for construction. Most of it finds its way north to the resort town of Acapulco where it�s used for the construction of multimillion dollar hotels that line the Pacific Coast waiting for North American college students and European tourist.

La Vida de Todos es Sagrada
Salvador Rojas | SAVIOR REDS

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