A Labor Day Homage to New Orleans’ Rebuilders

The evening before Marco and Laura were forecast to roar through the Gulf of Mexico towards New Orleans in a one-two hurricane punch, Santos Alvarado had peered the length of his street for suspicious vehicles before leaving his house to be interviewed for this article.

“I am undocumented,” Alvarado says, “and you always have to watch over your shoulder.”

If not for the red tide algae bloom that brought an abrupt end to fishing in the waters on the southern coast of Honduras in 1998, Alvarado might still be at home there with his first family today. Compounding matters, just at the time he lost his livelihood, his 6 year old son got the nib of a pencil eraser stuck inside his nasal cavity. The doctors from the Cuban medical brigade who examined him in Honduras said extracting it would require surgery, and soon, if the boy’s sense of smell was to be saved from the infection causing his nostril to hemorrhage and putrefy.

Alvarado’s wages for cutting coffee couldn’t cover the 10,000 limperas he needed to pay for the operation (about $400). He would earn that money over time in Houston, then found more work in Dallas. Eventually he traveled and worked with two brothers and a brother-in-law, until, in January 2006, they reached the post-Katrina landscape of New Orleans.

“I had heard about the devastation, but when I saw the destruction and the conditions, I wanted to cry as if I had lived here. Everything was in ruins,” he says. “There were no people, no lights, and there was a foul smell throughout the city.”

Read the article at Capital & Main