Life in a labor camp

Laborers at Mexico's export farms live in crowded camps that often have poor sanitation and unreliable water supplies. The depiction below is based on visits to 30 camps and interviews with laborers.

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Company store

Portable toilets




Water tank

1. Laborers sometimes bathe and wash laundry in irrigation canals because the camp lacks plumbing and trucked-in water supplies run out.

2. Entrance is often guarded.

3. Food and other necessities are often available only at overpriced company stores.

4. Curfews, guards and barbed-wire fences discourage escape attempts.

5. Some camps have only portable toilets, which are too few in number or become too filthy to use. Workers sometimes relieve themselves in neighboring fields.

6. Dorms are divided into cramped rooms that sleep up to eight people (detail below).

Makeshift kitchen

7. Rooms have bare concrete floors and little or no furniture and no windows. Workers sleep atop scraps of cardboard or packing crates.

8. Crude partitions offer little privacy. Families mount pieces of cardboard atop the walls or hang tarps.

9. Many camp buildings are made of corrugated sheet metal, often bent and rusty with age.

Source: Graphics reporting by Richard Marosi and Don Barletti.

Javier Zarracina / @latimesgraphics