I was born in Mexico City in 1974. After college at the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico, I moved to New York to become a photographer in 1995. I'd grown up in a middle-class household; my dad owned a construction business. But after my savings ran out in New York, I had to do service work to get by: I worked as a waitress and a nanny, and realized how difficult it was to be an immigrant. Initially I had a student visa. Before I got my green card, I also had to go back and forth across the border every six months. It was a very humbling experience.
Meanwhile, I worked as an English teacher and a union organizer, helping Mexican immigrants with various issues, like landlord-tenant disputes. Through this work, I got to know many Latino workers in New York. I wanted to share their experiences, but not the story we usually hear, if we hear of them at all. In a sense, Latino workers in New York are hidden -- hidden in kitchens, hidden inside houses. Most of the U.S. national news about immigration is very sad: bitter political disputes in Arizona, or images of desperate immigrants trying to cross the border. So much pain numbs you.
It is easy to overlook the practical contribution of immigrants to American society, as well as the enormous financial contribution they make in sending remittances home. A lot of Latino communities survive on that money; some say the sum of remittances even surpasses the income we get from selling oil, in the case on Mexico.
I saw a Spiderman costume in a store in November 2001, and that's when everything came together in my head. Comic-book superheroes have an alter ego, and so do immigrants in the United States. They may be insignificant or even invisible to much of society, but they are heroes in their homelands.
Many of the people I photographed for this series, between 2004 and 2009, were my students or people I worked with as a union organizer. We had a friendly relationship; they trusted me enough to give me their real names and how much money they send home. It was very important to me to include that information. My work is a tribute to them.Superman (pictured above)
NOE REYES from the State of Puebla works as a delivery boy in Brooklyn New York. He sends home $500 a week.
NOE REYES originario del Estado de Puebla trabaja como repartidor de comida rápida en Brooklyn N York. Manda 500 dólares a la semana