UWindsor Visual Arts Masters Candidate Arturo Herrera shines a unique spotlight on migrant workers with his latest artistic venture, a collection of recipes and personal stories told by workers who migrate to Essex County each year to work on local farms.
The book, Intercambio de Recetas (Recipe Exchange), creates a picture of how some migrant workers, who generally hail from Mexico, South America and the Caribbean, feel about the time they spend in Canada each year, as well as how they connect with loved ones back home.
“I wanted to have a connection with the migrant workers and give them a voice,” says Herrera.
Herrera (BFA ‘12) says the men get creative and resourceful since many come here without knowing how to cook and without access to full kitchens or proper ingredients.
“When they come here they have little knowledge about cooking or about food - they are often used to it being the role of the women in their family doing the cooking back home,” says Herrera.
“In my art practice I try to address identity, sexuality and the roles one has to take in society to fit in.”
Herrera says that although he was able to communicate with Spanish-speaking workers in their native language he took additional steps to find common ground.
“I have a distinct look, but I wanted to fit in, so I removed my jewellery, glasses and more colourful clothing when I went to the community festivals and fairs,” says Herrera.
“I felt like I was naked from my own identity but I wanted to fit in and feel comfortable. This project was about them, it wasn’t about me.”
The project was funded with an Ontario Arts Council (OAC) grant and Neighbourhood Spaces Residency. Copies of the book will be available at the Leamington Public Library and each of the 45 participants will get a copy when they return to Canada for the 2015 season.
“I’m happy to have this published book, but I enjoy the journey and approach my projects as a way of making myself present.”