$10 per hour is the going rate for day laborers in Santa Fe’s De Vargas Park.
5.5% is the increase, between January 2010 and January 2011, in the number of unemployed workers in Santa Fe, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"It’s the same, always. There’s no work—not today, not yesterday, not the day before yesterday. We need help."—Juan, a day laborer from El Salvador
Look no further than De Vargas Park for the true face of the recession. Even as pundits report a recovering US economy, the day laborers waiting daily at the park for work have only seen the economic climate worsen.
Meño, a tall, bright-eyed man from the Mexican state of Durango, says while he found enough work in day labor's informal economy last year, and plenty the year before that, 2011 has yielded next to nothing.
Meño says he's always charged the same amount—$10 an hour. Most of his days used to be dedicated to odd jobs in landscaping and construction. Now, they're filled with waiting.
Rising unemployment is not confined to the world of day labor. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data released March 18, the number of unemployed people in Santa Fe—as well of the percentage of Santa Fe's workforce that was unemployed—stayed relatively steady between January and December 2010, but then spiked in January 2011.
Other statistics are more hopeful. In 2010, for instance, Hispanic men had the lowest average duration of unemployment among the four ethnicities (white, black or African American, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino) the BLS measures.
But when SFR asked a group of nine workers on a Friday if any of them had found work that week, they shook their heads somberly.
It's the same grave look they give when asked their opinions of Gov. Susana Martinez.
"She's kind of a racist," Meño ventures. "Not just against us—against all the immigrants. There's a Russian over there," he adds, gesturing to a man standing on the sidewalk.
A man in a blue baseball cap, who gives only his nickname La Pelusa, offers an alternative theory.
“Maybe something bad happened to her,” he says, shrugging. “Maybe they spanked her a lot.”