I interviewed Ana in January, 2016, in Medford, Massachusetts. Earl Dotter took photos.
Martinez is one of twelve children raised in a family of coffee and corn planters in El Salvador. As a young adult, she slipped over the American border in 1988 for one reason: to escape poverty. For the first month in America, she slept in a laundromat in Los Angeles. She worked as a clothes trimmer for eight years. She returned to El Salvador to bring her two young girls, walking for forty days, some of them in the desert. She paid off the coyote over seven years.
Today she is an American citizen, working in the Whole Foods Bakehouse in Medford, Massachusetts. One of her daughter works at the same facility. She owns a three family house in Chelsea, Massachusetts and a home in El Salvador. “To come here and succeed, you have to work”, she told us.
Martinez’s story uncovers some causes and consequences of immigration since passage of an historic immigration reform law in 1965. One way that her story is typical is that she is Hispanic (or, as some prefer, Latino). Without the surge in Hispanic immigration since 1965, there would be about 20 million persons in America who self-identify as Hispanic today. In fact,57 million self-identify that way. Roughly half of foreign-born Hispanics in America today are here without authorization.
She lives in a residential portal for low wage immigrants, Chelsea. In 2010, 38% of its population was foreign-born. Many low wage immigrant workers live in concentrations of similar immigrants.