Guatemala is the 4th largest exporter of sugar in the world.
The workers in sugarcane fields cut stalks with a machete during 12-hour workdays under the scorching sun. They are paid roughly US$2.50 per ton. Even working strenuously for 12 hours, most workers can only cut two tons a day.
“My children cut one ton per day between both of them. If I’m lucky, I cut two, or even three if I kill myself. Today, between the three of us, we made US$7.50.” The minimum salary in Guatemala for agricultural workers is roughly US$8.50 for an eight-hour workday.
Children 10 to 14 years old work in the fields. Even though Guatemala’s Labor Law, two International Labor Organization’s (ILO) conventions ratified by the Guatemalan State, and the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) prohibit child labor, Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child labor in the Western Hemisphere.
The 19th century style Afghani wooden box camera used by the photographer meant that the workers had to sit still for several minutes gazing into the camera, enabling a depth of engagement rarely achieved with today’s hectic technology.
Retalhuleu, Guatemala, 2011.