ADRIÁN HERRERA, 30, construction worker

(Alfredo Duarte Pereira)
Friday, September 28, 2007

"Here, everything is new -- the traditions, the language, the people. That can be fascinating and challenging. One good thing, though, is that here I still have my mole poblano and my Spanish."

In Puebla, Mexico, Adrián Herrera worked most of his life in the agricultural industry. He was used to life on the farm: the fresh fruits, the chickens in the back yard, the homemade tortillas. But Herrera left his family and country behind a year ago to move to Riverdale, where he quickly found a job in construction.

Every morning, he wears a helmet, a green-and-orange vest and his boots, and he stands on the street holding a stop sign and directing traffic near a construction site in Arlington. Then for hours, he takes a shovel and removes dirt from the floor of the almost finished luxurious apartment building.

"There's a lot to learn," he says in Spanish. "It's tedious work sometimes, but work is why I came here. It's the only way to move forward." The work is hard, he says, but he gets to talk with most of his co-workers in Spanish. When he gets home at night, he can always taste a bit of home by eating mole poblano, a special Mexican dish.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company