SofíaMuñozBoullosa came across the Rosalindo Grocery Store while walking through the streets of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. She took a photo. But when the Mexico City native turned to walk away she heard a man shout after her.
The man was Pedro Cruz, the owner of the store, he wore a blue apron and asked the 26-year-old photojournalist to take a photo of him. When the two realized they were both from Mexico, they began to chat.
“We talked for a couple of hours about Mexico, Puebla, his native state, Mexican food, racism, migration, Trump and the true meaning of missing Mexico,” Muñoz Boullosa told The Huffington Post via e-mail. “When I returned home an idea occurred to me: to look for more ‘Pedros’ to demonstrate the variety, complexity and the human stories linked to migration.”
Muñoz Boullosa began by searching through social media for people named Pedro who lived in New York. She only found two using that method, so she began walking neighborhoods with large Mexican communities and simply stopping and asking at shops and stores if there was anyone named Pedro around.
The idea about a photo series centered on Mexican immigrants had been brewing in Muñoz Boullosa head since she first arrived to the United States in 2015, the year Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president.
“When I came to New York, the subject of Trump and migration was all over the media,” she recalled. “He had just expressed his beliefs that Mexicans bring drugs into the United States and are rapists. From the first day I was here I knew that I wanted to work on a project which challenged these declarations and these sentiments and provide an alternative image of Mexicans who come to the United States looking for a better life.”
But despite wanting to “stand up for Mexican people in the United States during this moment where we have been targeted as something we’re not,” Muñoz Boullosa understood the importance of keeping her project positive.
“Unlike [Trump], I wanted to challenge his statements from a rhetoric that does not come from hatred, but from understanding,” she said. “I view my project as a possibility of changing people’s minds towards immigration from that place of being sensitive and empathetic with the human condition, not the political turmoil around it.”
“I learned that migration is a natural process: butterflies migrate, humans also do. The causes are different, but in the end finding a better place to live is natural."”
While her photo series documents the stories of Mexican men named Pedro, Muñoz Boullosa says she feels these stories could belong to “Dimitris, Youssefs, Chengs, Mohameds, Paolos, or it could be the story of any of us.”
And despite being an immigrant herself, the photographer says putting her “Pedro” series together taught her about how the immigrant experience is a normal part of the human experience.
“I learned that immigration is made up by individuals, it is not a homogeneous theme,” she said. “Every single person that has migrated has a different story, and everyone should have the right to tell it. It should not be used as a political weapon because it is a human right that belongs to all of us. I learned that migration is a natural process: butterflies migrate, humans also do. The causes are different, but in the end finding a better place to live is natural.”
Take a look at the Pedros she met below and what they told her about Mexico, being an immigrant in the United States and Donald Trump.
Pedro Ramírez, 34, works at Casa Mezcal in New York City. He works to send money home to his mother in Mexico and dreams of being a boxing trainer. He told Muñoz Boullosa:
"When I hear the things Trump says it makes me laugh. I find it funny although I admit it's wrong. The scary thing is that there are many people who have the same mindset as him. Of course I'm scared. He is sick [with] power. I know that people who have the same thoughts as he does have always existed, but until now there was nobody who would stand up for their ideals.
We Mexicans are workers, not drug traffickers. We do not come to have children here, we come to help our families and follow our dreams. Most of us come to make things right."
Pedro Ceñal Murga
Pedro Ceñal Murga, 28, is a graduate student at Columbia University studying for a masters in Theory of Investigation in Architecture. He came to New York City to work on his thesis. Ceñal Murga told the photographer:
"Mexicans are an extremely heterogeneous population in the U.S.. There are Mexicans that work in the fields, and Mexicans that run entire companies. I think it is difficult to generalize the kind of intentions that Mexicans have in this country... I think that Mexicans, like many other people in the U.S., are indispensable. There are cities like Los Angeles that have an enormous population of Mexicans, even more than some cities in Mexico. Having this in mind, our workforce, our ideas, are also an important part of the economy. Mexicans are an important piece in U.S. society."
Muñoz Boullosa met Pedro Cruz when she walked past his bodega, Rosalindo Grocery Store, in Brooklyn. He became legal in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan's immigration amnesty. Cruz told the photographer:
"I came to New York City like everybody else, like every Mexican that is looking for a new future, a new life. I came here when I was 16, through the border. I started to work and years passed by. I have two kids, they are professionals now. My son is a policeman and my daughter is a social worker.
Mexicans are not what Donald Trump says. We are workers. As long as it is work, we do whatever it takes."
Pedro Guillermo Curiel
Pedro Guillermo Curiel stands inside the SoHo Mini Market in New York City. He told Muñoz Boullosa:
"I am Guillermo… well, Pedro Guillermo. I have two names. I have worked in the deli for 11 years. I take the sandwich orders. My favorite thing happening in New York City are the soccer matches. I used to play in Flushing, but not anymore. Now I don’t have time, I always finish working until very late at night."
Pedro Rodrigo González
Pedro Rodrigo González, 24, is a ballet dancer, personal stylist, and a fashion blogger. He told the photographer:
"In 10 years I hope to be happy doing many projects that I have in my head. I hope to hold the name of Mexico higher, both in fashion and dancing. I want to help people who are trying to be dancers or designers and impulse them to achieve what they want. I don’t feel ashamed of who I am. I don’t have any secrets."
Pedro Reyes, 24, works at the Los Tulipanes bakery in Mexico City. His 27-year-old sister, Eloisa, lives in Philadelphia and he's considered joining her. He told Muñoz Boullosa:
"I think what Trump says makes no sense. Nothing good can [come from] everything he is proposing. The image he is portraying of Mexicans is wrong. We are not how he talks about us. He is not a man who can be in command of such a powerful nation... My sister Eoisa is in the United States. She says that she prays all the time for Trump not to reach the presidency. Sometimes we talk on the phone and think about what will happen to all the people that will be deported if he wins. It is not something we should take lightly."
Pedro Ruiz works at the Sea & Sea Fish Market in Harlem, New York City. He told Muñoz Boullosa a bit about himself:
"I am from Puebla, Mexico. My work here is do the vegetables and keep the fish market clean. I have been in NYC 10 years now. I went back to Mexico in 2008, for 6 months. I think I like everything about NYC."