When Brother Towns’ director Charles Thompson first traveled to Jupiter, Florida to meet with friends from Jacaltenango, Guatemala in 1998, the town had already become a destination for many Guatemalan immigrants from the state of Huehuetenango. In fact, the Jacaltecos first arrived in the area, principally in nearby Indiantown, Florida, during the 1980s as refugees fleeing from violence in their home country. Indiantown was a sanctuary because of the active Catholic community there. As Jupiter grew, with increasing needs for landscaping and construction workers, the Jacalteco Maya moved from Indiantown to Jupiter. Then additional people from Guatemala, hearing from friends and family about jobs, began arriving. Many refer to this latter wave of immigrants as economic refugees.
By 2004 the town of Jupiter, Florida was in the midst of important decision-making regarding its growing Latino population, many of whom are Guatemalan Maya from the Jacaltenango area. A number of Jupiter’s residents began voicing concerns about the day laborers (mostly new immigrants) waiting for work on the corner of Center Street, a main road through the center of town. Residents complained that the workers littered, made noise, and were sometimes a threat to traffic and pedestrian safety. Though not all these accusations were well-founded, and after all, the town had provided no alternative waiting places or trash containers, it was clear that the town needed to address the issue.
|Mike Richmond at El Sol|
After several years of community organizing and planning, the town opened Jupiter’s non-profit El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center in August of 2006. The Center is a place where workers can congregate inside, safe from weather and traffic. El Sol also provides some order to the hiring process, making it more equitable and ensuring a minimum wage rate for the day laborers. El Sol has also become an educational center for the workers, offering classes in English, assisting with immigration paperwork, and teaching day laborers about their rights as workers, among other things.
Learn more about El Sol here.
El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center is a highly successful local solution to a local problem. The Center hopes to serve as a model for other communities across the state and country that are struggling to find new ways of humanely addressing the needs of day laborers. Read the following pages to learn more about day labor and day labor centers across the country.
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