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PHOTOS: In the Shadows of Sandy

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

By Jika González

When the Atlantic Ocean swelled on the night of October 29th, the winds of Hurricane Sandy pummeled through the eastern seaboard, moving from Florida to Maine, leaving at least 72 dead, and unimaginable destruction in its wake. It has been five months since that night in which Javier Morán, José Parra, and Felipa Campos, three of countless undocumented immigrants, lost their home to the floods of the storm.

While the heartbreak and vicissitudes of undocumented immigrants are not unlike that of other hurricane victims, their legal status makes their efforts to rebuild, recuperate, and resettle considerably more complicated. Their legal status puts them in an extremely vulnerable position, and the devastation on affected areas has been so great that little attention has been given to them. Though this burden is not a new feeling for them, accustomed as they are to living in the shadows; rather, it is one more complication in a life defined and constricted by their immigration status.

The three individuals photographed for this body of work were residents of Staten Island’s Midland Beach, a working class neighborhood torn apart by the storm. The three are still living on uneasy ground; searching for housing, looking for work, or unsure about staying in the country. It is my hope that these images will give the viewer a sense of the solitude that these individuals carry with them. A sense of what life has been like after the storm, but perhaps more importantly, a sense of what it is like to live life in the shadows.

[Read the accompanying story: Reportage: In the Shadows of Sandy]

 

Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy. Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González


José Parra, 39, walks past the ruins of a house that burnt down on the night of Hurricane Sandy. José Parra, 39, walks past the ruins of a house that burnt down on the night of Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González


Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González
Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González


José Parra, 39, in his room at the Midland Motor Inn, a motel where he is a caretaker. He has lived in the motel since Hurricane Sandy destroyed his house only blocks away in Midland Beach, Staten Island.  Parra, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, has been in the United States since he was 17./ Jika González
José Parra, 39, in his room at the Midland Motor Inn, a motel where he is a caretaker. He has lived in the motel since Hurricane Sandy destroyed his house only blocks away in Midland Beach, Staten Island.  Parra, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, has been in the United States since he was 17. / Jika González


Javier Morán, rests on the floor of the room he shares with a colleague and friends at the Midland Motor Inn.  Morán has been in the United States illegally for over a decade. He originally came to the country with his wife and daughter but they have since gone back to Mexico. Morán speaks to his family regularly and sends them money, but he has not seen them since they left the U.S. eight years ago.Javier Morán, rests on the floor of the room he shares with a colleague and friends at the Midland Motor Inn.Morán has been in the United States illegally for over a decade. He originally came to the country with his wife and daughter but they have since gone back to Mexico. Morán speaks to his family regularly and sends them money, but he has not seen them since they left the U.S. eight years ago. / Jika González


06-	The Midland Motor Inn in Midland Beach, Staten Island.
The Midland Motor Inn in Midland Beach, Staten Island. / Jika González


José Parra (left) and Javier Morán sit in their room at the Midland Motor Inn. The two men were given a room free of charge in the motel for the first two months after the storm. They started paying rent as of January, and give their employer $50 a week each, which pays for one room with one bathroom and one queen size bed that they share.
José Parra (left) and Javier Morán sit in their room at the Midland Motor Inn. The two men were given a room free of charge in the motel for the first two months after the storm. They started paying rent as of January, and give their employer $50 a week each, which pays for one room with one bathroom and one queen size bed that they share. / Jika González


Though Javier Morán sends half of his earning back to his family in Mexico, a lot of what he keeps is spent on beer. Parra often helps Morán with money for food and rent.Though Javier Morán sends half of his earning back to his family in Mexico, a lot of what he keeps is spent on beer. Parra often helps Morán with money for food and rent. / Jika González


The Midland Motor Inn in Midland Beach, Staten Island, four months after Hurricane Sandy.
The Midland Motor Inn in Midland Beach, Staten Island, four months after Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González


José Parra trying to open the window of what was once his home in Midland Beach. The house has been gutted but the structure is still unfit to live in.  Parra and Morán have yet to receive their security deposit back from the landlord.
José Parra trying to open the window of what was once his home in Midland Beach. The house has been gutted but the structure is still unfit to live in.  Parra and Morán have yet to receive their security deposit back from the landlord. / Jika González


Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy.
Midland Beach, four months after Hurricane Sandy. / Jika González


Felipa Campos, 51, sits in her assigned room at the shelter run by Project Hospitality in Staten Island. Campos, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, has been homeless since the storm destroyed her home in Midland Beach, Staten Island.Felipa Campos, 51, sits in her assigned room at the shelter run by Project Hospitality in Staten Island. Campos, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, has been homeless since the storm destroyed her home in Midland Beach, Staten Island. / Jika González


Felipa Campos looks though photos of her family’s home in Mexico. The land and construction were paid for with the money that Campos has sent from the U.S. over the past ten years. Her son, daughter and sister do not know about the destruction of her home, nor do they know that she is currently homeless.Felipa Campos looks though photos of her family’s home in Mexico. The land and construction were paid for with the money that Campos has sent from the U.S. over the past ten years. Her son, daughter and sister do not know about the destruction of her home, nor do they know that she is currently homeless. / Jika González


Felipa Campos walks through the Staten Island Ferry station, part of her two-hour commute.Felipa Campos walks through the Staten Island Ferry station, part of her two-hour commute. / Jika González


Campos examines her hands, marked by years of working as a housekeeper, seamstress and cook.Campos examines her hands, marked by years of working as a housekeeper, seamstress and cook. / Jika González


Felipa Campos cleans an apartment in Brooklyn. She makes $75 for a day’s work, once every two weeks.  This has been her only income since January.Felipa Campos cleans an apartment in Brooklyn. She makes $75 for a day’s work, once every two weeks.  This has been her only income since January. / Jika González


The ruins of a house that burnt down on the night of the storm in Midland Beach, Staten Island.
The ruins of a house that burnt down on the night of the storm in Midland Beach, Staten Island. / Jika González


Javier Morán in his room at the Midland Motor Inn. Ever since the hurricane, Morán has been in a constant debate whether to continue working in the U.S. or go back home to his family. As of yet, he has no fixed plans.
Javier Morán in his room at the Midland Motor Inn. Ever since the hurricane, Morán has been in a constant debate whether to continue working in the U.S. or go back home to his family. As of yet, he has no fixed plans. / Jika González


José Parra sits in an event space at the Midland Motor Inn, which he is in charge of showing to possible clients. Parra—who has been on his own since he was 17—is also considering leaving the country to go back to Mexico.
José Parra sits in an event space at the Midland Motor Inn, which he is in charge of showing to possible clients. Parra—who has been on his own since he was 17—is also considering leaving the country to go back to Mexico. / Jika González


Felipa Campos on the Staten Island Ferry after a day’s work. For now Campos continues to send what little money she has home, she is hopeful that fulltime employment will come.Felipa Campos on the Staten Island Ferry after a day’s work. For now Campos continues to send what little money she has home, she is hopeful that full time employment will come./ Jika González


 

Follow Jika on Twitter @JikaGlez
 

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Jika González is a freelance journalist, photographer and multimedia producer from Mexico City. She is currently pursuing her master's degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.