While interviewing him, this man worked on construction structures. These structures hold cement columns, and also seem to hold the survival of this family.
After giving me permission to take portraits of him working and of his son, he explained the hardships of living in such conditions. This place was (and still is) at the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo.
Nuevo Laredo is considered an international trade hub, where goods and people pass through from the US into Mexico and vice-versa. Because of its strategic position it has attracted the best riches can get and the worst poverty can summon. This the dark side of this city and the whole of the US-Mexico border. A couple of miles from this place the United States begin.
When I presented this at my university in the American side, they were baffled and even incredulous that such scenes could exist on the other side of the river where they live, work and sleep.
One would expect a father to be there, and if not he may be slammed about it. That’s what we are fed by the media and our societal mindset. Nobody applauds a father for being careless, abusive, or absent. And yet, when a father is readily present at their children needs I’ve noticed people tend to push them back. Wait a minute, if mom couldn’t make it to school meeting, dad can be there as well.
If mom’s not there, dad can be.
This falls into the whole issue of gender roles — which this two-faced modern society still abides. People expect mom to be there for their kids, and sure, that’s great. But what of dad? If mom works, has fallen ill, or is simply absent (oh yes, moms can leave as well), then dad can and may step in. Society sees this oddly. Can a teacher explain a father the deficiencies of his child at school? Yes they can… but for what I’ve seen it can be hard for them to build rapport with a father. Really hard.
“It’s the 21st century”, a liberal might cry. And he/she may be right, though the point is not merely that. Its simple math and ease of logistics — if mom’s not there, dad can be. That simple! No need to invoke bumper-sticker tag lines.
I wonder how this plays for gay couples — father and father for instance. Whatever the circumstances, I guess being an involved father can have its perks (of course) but also its hurdles.