By MIGUEL SANTIESTEBAN
CANTON, Ga. – Every morning, Dolman Martinez goes to the Chevron gas station on Marietta Road in Canton, Georgia. Martinez is usually one of the first people to get picked up to work for residents in the city who need a day laborer, but last Monday, he seemed to not have any luck. Martinez put his head down and started walking back home. “Beep beep!” Suddenly, a man in a pick-up truck pulled up and asked Martinez to work for him. “Hijole, no me lo esperaba,” Martinez said before getting into the passenger seat. What Martinez did not know was that he was going to remember this Monday for a very long time.
Martinez, just like many other Hispanics in the city, is a day laborer who has to hunt and/or wait for a job every day at the Chevron gas station, which is also known as “La Parada.” He said local Hispanics named this place “La Parada” to define a meeting point for all the people who were out of work. The meaning of “La Parada” is “The Stop,” which perfectly fits the system of how things work with day laborers at this gas station. Canton Residents, especially Americans, go to “La Parada” in their vehicles and pick Hispanics up to do jobs at their homes such as landscaping, construction, and house cleaning. The problem is that if you do not get picked, you do not earn any money that day.
“The secret at La Parada is to be clever,” Martinez said. “You got to move fast because everybody is looking to get picked, everybody needs to work.”
The 23-year-old day laborer arrived in the United States in 2013 to look for more work opportunities. After long weeks in the desert, Martinez was able to cross the border, leaving his whole family behind in Guatemala. Martinez has lived in Canton since then. He said he likes the city a lot because there are jobs to do, and unlike his hometown, it is a really safe place. However, Martinez does not have a stable job, so he must go to “La Parada” every day of the week.
According to Data USA, 25.2% of the population in Canton is Hispanic. The platform reported that there are 6,135 Hispanic residents in the city and that 2,569 of them are living below the poverty line. Martinez is part of the almost 50% of Hispanics in Canton who are living in poor conditions and/or are out of a job.
Each local resident who drives by “La Parada” usually picks two to three Hispanics up to work for them, Martinez said. His daily purpose is to work no matter how hard the job or the conditions might be. Martinez said he must work because he has to send money to his parents in Guatemala so that they can buy food and medicine. Unfortunately, there are days when Martinez does not find a job.
“When I don’t get picked, I only thank God because I have life and I can breathe fresh air,” Martinez said. “If I don’t get money today, I will wake up earlier tomorrow and work harder to achieve it.”
Amanda Moore is a local resident who sometimes picks day laborers up from “La Parada.” Moore said every time she gets to this place, she can see how desperate these Hispanics are to get a job for the day. She said she usually hires people to mow her lawn or to do painting at her house. Moore said she knows how to speak Spanish, so that helps her connect better with the people she picks up.
“You get to talk to these Hispanics while you drive them to your house or while they do work,” Moore said. “Their stories are so inspiring.”
Martinez’s journey was one the stories that inspired Moore. She said she picked him up last Monday as he was walking away from “La Parada.” Moore said Dolman was different because wanted to do more than just yard work. She said “Dolman” was eager to learn and to improve his quality of life. Martinez worked with Moore for only three hours that Monday and she paid him $250; the biggest salary he had ever earned.
“I wasn’t expecting to earn that much money in one day,” Martinez said. “This day motivated a lot, it made me believe that everything is possible in life and that every day is a new victory.”