According to the National Institute of Agricultural Economics (INEA) there are 102,000 people employed as workers in the agricultural sector, not including those who are illegal. Photographer Alessandro Penso first took an interest in documenting African migrants in Italy after the Rosarno revolts in the winter of 2010. A riot broke out after 100 African crop workers protested the motiveless shooting of two African crop workers living in the small Italian town. In the ensuing days, a massive wave of what could be described as ethnic cleansing took place as all of the workers either fled, were forced out, or were deported if found to be there illegally. After they were gone, the Calabrian citrus industry saw a decline in sales. With no one around to pick the coveted fruit — the mandarin orange — the fruit began rotting on the vine. Across the nation people were outraged to learn that the citrus fruit was being harvested by what was essentially slave labor.
Penso had a sense that Rosarno was not an isolated case. What of the tomato? Who was harvesting that? He set out tracking various other fruit and vegetable harvests across the country to see which hands they led to in his essay “Migrant Workers Journey.” He discovered more African migrants working 12-hour days in sweltering heat, earning little more than 25 euros a day. Penso’s beautiful series shows the experience that migrants face, living together in tight, cramped spaces, often with no running water and little to no modern equipment.
All photos by Alessandro Penso/OnOff Picture
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