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Photo Essay: Life of Immokalee Farmworkers During Pandemic

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Immokalee is a community with a vulnerable population of migrant farmworkers who are on the front lines of Southwest Florida’s food supply chain. Photographer Lisette Morales has been documenting the farmworkers as they continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances they face during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Just like everyone else, they want to stay healthy and continue to go to work every day, because they don’t have the privilege of staying home,” said Morales.  "Other concerns were access to protective equipment or medical care."

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Farmworkers line up to board a bus in front of Azteca Market, which will take them to the fields on the first day of Gov. DeSantis's Stay-at-Home order in Florida. Alineación de trabajadores agrícolas para abordar un autobús frente al Mercado Azteca que los llevará a los campos el primer día de la orden de DeSantis Stay-at-Home en Florida.

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Credit Lisette Morales
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A closeup of a Coronavirus/COVID-19 poster in Spanish created by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Un primer plano de un póster de Coronavirus / COVID-19 en español creado por la Coalición de Trabajadores de Immokalee.

"Most of the farmworkers and other individuals that I’ve met there expressed some interesting views and mixed feelings, just like everyone else, about the pandemic," said Morales. "On one side they are very optimistic, saying that God will protect them against the virus, but on the other hand they are fearful that when the pandemic hits Immokalee it will affect primarily their elderly population." 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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On the first day of Gov. DeSantis's Stay-at-Home orders, farmworkers wait to be picked up from a market by buses in Immokalee, Florida. El primero de los pedidos del Gobernador DeSantis Stay-at-Home los trabajadores agrícolas esperan ser recogidos de un mercado en autobuses en Immokalee, Florida.

"It was very difficult to see people without masks or gloves and standing so close to each other during a pandemic," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Farmworkers load buses to take them to the fields during the Coronavirus pandemic in Immokalee, Florida. Los trabajadores agrícolas cargan autobuses para llevarlos a los campos durante la pandemia de Coronavirus en Immokalee, Florida.

"I didn’t want to add any stress to anyone with the presence of my camera, but luckily, I was welcomed because this is a community that I’ve been documenting for a few years for a long-form photo project titled “The Road to Immokalee,” humanizing the life of farmworker women," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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In the early hours of the morning, farmworkers wait to board buses to take them to the fields in Immokalee, Florida. En las primeras horas de la mañana, los trabajadores agrícolas esperan para abordar los autobuses para llevarlos a los campos en Immokalee, Florida.

"Most people, even those who are bilingual, shared that they mostly watch the Spanish language networks to stay informed with national and international news," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Couple reading informative posters on Coronavirus/COVID-19 outside the Zacatecas Taqueria on Main Street in Immokalee, Florida. Pareja leyendo carteles informativos sobre Coronavirus / COVID-19 en las afueras de Zacatecas Taqueria en Main Street en Immokalee, Florida.

"Locally, they [farmworkers] are tuning to the Spanish language Radio Conciencia of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers."

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Cruz Salucio keeps his audience informed about the Coronavirus/COVID19 pandemic during his radio show at Radio Conciencia of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Immokalee, Florida. Cruz Salucio mantiene a su audiencia informada sobre la pandemia de Coronavirus / COVID19 durante su programa de radio en Radio Conciencia de la Coalición de Trabajadores de Immokalee en Immokalee, Florida.

"I’ve witnessed the Collier County Sheriff's Office giving out hand sanitizers and gloves to all farmworkers boarding buses going into the fields, and driving around town with a megaphone with information about the pandemic in Spanish, Creole and English," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Farmworkers receiving hand sanitizer at a market in Immokalee, Florida during the Coronavirus pandemic. Trabajadores agrícolas que reciben desinfectante para manos en un mercado en Immokalee, Florida, durante la pandemia de coronavirus.

"I’m aware that the women of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are sewing fabric face masks," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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Farmworkers wait in the early hours of the morning during the Coronavirus pandemic to be picked up to work in the fields in Immokalee, Florida. Los trabajadores agrícolas esperan en las primeras horas de la mañana durante la pandemia de Coronavirus para ser recogidos para trabajar en los campos en Immokalee, Florida.

"One of the farmers [Lipman Family Farms] placed mobile hand washing stations around town, gave their employees full face fabric masks and gloves, and added buses to permit social distancing," said Morales. 

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Credit Lisette Morales
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A farmworker washes his hands at a mobile hand washing unit installed by the Lipman Family Farms in Immokalee, Florida. Un trabajador agrícola se lava las manos en un lavado de manos móvil instalado por Lipman Family Farms en Immokalee, Florida.

Morales will continues to photograph and document Immokalee farmworkers' lives during the pandemic. She is is also exploring how local officials are offering aid to the community.