Susana is from Colombia and her husband Mati from Israel. They are a nomadic family of sorts, having moved back and forth between the two countries, and now to Germany. Susana's father was born here, but his family fled to South America in the late 1930s when he was a small child. Mati's grandmother emigrated to Israel in the early twentieth century, while the rest of his family stayed in Eastern Europe, and perished in the Holocaust. But neither of them is so happy here, and they talk about moving again, though where to go, where can one make a living, eludes them. Their son is now seven-and-a-half years old, and after two years in Berlin, Susana is loath to uproot him again.
|Noelia's plan was to return to Peru and her parents' home after her one-year au pair job ended. Instead, she will marry her German boyfriend in August. Noelia paid her airfare to Europe, where she receives room and board and 220 euros a month. Every two or three months, she sends 200 home. She is on duty at eight each weekday morning, and stops at four - when she goes to her German lessons - with occasional weekend duty, like tomorrow when her charge Bepo will celebrate his ninth birthday and the house must be spotless. The house already is spotless, but she dusts and straightens nonetheless. The mother of the family she works for is from Buenos Aires, so language has not been an issue. Once married, Noelia plans to study systems engineering part time, work part time, and start a family. She is wary, though, about adapting to what she perceives as the German way, "Here, work is everything, happiness nothing."|
|Twenty-two years ago Eunice left Colombia for Catalonia. But she couldn't find work in Spain, and was unable to pursue a degree in sociology, not only because of lack of funds, but also because she did not speak nor did she want to learn, Catalán. The relationship that had taken her there was over, so she followed friends to Italy to harvest grapes. There she met the man who was to become her husband, a German disenchanted with Germany, with whom she moved to Berlin four years later looking for work. They dreamed of opening up a little restaurant in Colombia, but that was never economically feasible. Eunice still thinks about leaving Germany, perhaps to return to Spain, she says. Ten years ago, her son Sasha was born. Eunice took advantage of her maternity leave to obtain recognition of her degree in social work from Colombia. She has recently started a new job at Xochicuicatl, helping Latinas move through the bureaucracy of the immigration system.|
|Maritza's hometown is Palmiro, Colombia. On the outskirts of Berlin, she lives in the upstairs of a house with her husband. But he is only home on the weekends, as he works at his family's business in Potsdam. She says that because of her alienation in this country, God and spirituality have gained importance for her. The day I visited she had just received a formal letter from the German government recognizing her studies in pedagogy from Colombia, where she was a special education teacher. Not only does she find her work inspiring, Maritza feels an almost desperate need to earn money to send home to Colombia. She says if she could just find a job, send 150 euros a month to her family and have a baby, she would be happy. But irrespective of these unfulfilled desires, German culture appeals to her. When she is interviewed for a visa extension, she always makes it clear that she is here because she wants to live here. The quality of life cannot be matched in Colombia, concludes Maritza, in Colombia there is war.|
|Anderson "Anders" (and as a kid, Andy) is from Medellín, Colombia. He was named for an Argentine writer who neither of us knows anything about. He's 24 years old and arrived in Europe four years ago. Most of that time has been spent in Barcelona, except for two weeks in Vienna and now Berlin. He's been here a month and can stay for three. So he's rented a little apartment for 180 euros a month. He has it to himself, though the bedroom-where the people he rented from would stay if they were around-is locked. So in Anders' room is the stove and the sink, and his desk and the bed. The main feature is an old-fashioned double window that opens onto greenness. Granted, the train goes by every five minutes, but still you'd think you were in the countryside. The afternoon that I visit it rains and so the green is even more vibrant. At one point Anders climbs over his table which is an altar and sits on the sill, describing how he lures birds close with breadcrumbs, a far better option than having them in cages, he comments.|
|For the last eighteen years Alma has devoted herself to caring for children in her home. For the last four years she has also been the director of El Patio, a volunteer position that occupies her evenings. She has lived in Germany for 24 years; long ago she gave up her Honduran citizenship to avoid hassles when traveling with her ex-husband, a German. Now she lives with her two sons in their early twenties. She studied pedagogy in her native Honduras, as well as in Spain, and in Germany she continues to take courses on childcare and, for her job at El Patio, on social work and integration. The day I visited she was taking care of two babies. Usually there are four, which is the maximum she accepts at a time. Each child is different, she explains, and must be treated accordingly so that their own character is free to develop. These are formative years when they need to learn a lot, she states, and to receive a lot of love.|
|Alberto has been here fourteen months. Six weeks ago he started working at the senior citizens' home, a job that the government arranged for him as part of an employment program, at which he earns 1.50 euros an hour and has a contract that runs only through December. His principal duty seems to be keeping up the spirits of the seniors for six hours a day. He takes them on walks around the block, assists in the organized activities, and helps them at mealtime. Alberto is enthusiastic and proud of his job, although in Peru he studied orthodontia. He left behind three daughters and an entire life, "my South America, my family, my home, the food I'm used to," to come to Germany. One reason for making the journey is his grandfather, a soldier from southern Germany who immigrated to Peru after World War I. His grandfather's name was Alberto, as was his father's and now his own. Alberto thinks this helped him obtain a permanent visa, which he did before leaving Peru. Alberto says he is living out a promise by coming here, as well as fulfilling the timeless desire to explore and learn.|
|'Danza Oriental' is a weekly class offered at Xochicuicatl by Jacqueline, a professional dancer from Argentina. It includes women from Germany, Peru, Spain and elsewhere.|
|Xochicuicatl makes legal advice available to immigrants free of charge.|
|Independence day party|
|On July 24, the German-Peruvian Society hosted the "Gran Fiesta Peruana 2005" in celebration of Peru's Independence Day. The party featured booths with traditional Peruvian food and drinks, live music and dancing and soccer and volleyball games.|
Nell Farrell is a freelance photographer and writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently completing a master's degree in Latin American Studies. Nell lived in Berlin and worked on this project during the summer of 2005.
In the Southwest US there is much discussion about immigration: illegal immigration, immigration from Mexico, the local effects of immigration. So upon finding myself in Germany for two months, I wanted to show that there is a community of Latinos here too, that migration is an experience that encompasses the globe and not just our corner of it. Of course a great difference exists in how people move; those I met in Europe did not cross a desert on foot to get here, but rather bought a plane ticket, and are now finding different ways to stay and work legally. Consequently, however, they find themselves yet further from home, in a society where they are unlikely to live in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods or encounter Spanish speakers at government offices.
"Latinos in Berlin" consists of interviews with seven individuals. By chance the majority of these are Colombian; I also spoke with and photographed two Peruvians and one Honduran woman. I met them for the most part at El Patio, a community center where Latinos and some Germans gather for weekly meals, as well as language classes, legal advice and numerous other services. Xochicuicatl is a similar organization catering specifically to women. The series also includes images taken at the Peruvian Independence Day party.
Perhaps the most surprising and most wonderful aspect of this project was the openness with which I was received by the people I hoped to work with. It is to the credit of El Patio, I believe, and perhaps of something about Germany itself, that people felt safe participating in such an endeavor. Still, it must be acknowledged that the group depicted here was self-selected and does not represent the whole picture.