Temporary work visas allow thousands of Mexicans to travel to the United States each year to work in carnivals. Carlos Barria of Reuters traveled to fairs in Virginia to photograph such workers. The visas allow foreigners to come to the United States for months or years at a time and then return to their home countries. This practice is not uncommon, and businesses owned by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump — who has railed against illegal Mexican immigrants — are among those that have hired such workers.
This type of visa lends itself to the nature of carnival work — seasonal and inexpensive, necessary for sustaining a struggling industry that has become ingrained in Americana. However, this can leave workers vulnerable to abuse, and government oversight is low.
In a special report by Reuters, one such worker, Hugo Ruiz, said he enjoyed the carnival stint he did last year, but “he said the carnival he worked at the summer before required him and others to work for as many as 20 hours a day. He said he never complained about the previous employer for fear they would label him a troublemaker and keep him from returning to the United States for more work.”
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to get involved in problems, better to just endure it. Just shut your mouth and don’t say anything,’” he said.
Ruiz was still thankful for the work. On the bus ride from Tlapacoyan to Covington, he kept a journal in which he wrote of his eagerness to “begin the American Dream.”