Within the thick of the Everglades close to the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee, Belle Glade as soon as had a frontier character shaped by a handful of people that contended with the noticed grass and mosquitoes and caught catfish and spoke their very own patois. The settlement sprang to prominence within the Nineteen Twenties, after engineers had dug canals to empty the huge wetlands and a railroad arrived. Farmers and companies planted acres and acres of inexperienced beans, sugarcane, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, celery and extra. Area bosses employed Haitians and Jamaicans to chop cane, and Black southerners, Puerto Ricans and others got here to select greens.
Although large cash flowed behind the scenes, poverty was the rule for staff and residing circumstances could possibly be brutal. Within the late Nineteen Thirties, Marion Submit Wolcott photographed these issues—“kids residing in a ‘lean to’ of rusty galvanized tin and burlap,” one caption says. The CBS Information documentary “Harvest of Disgrace,” broadcast in 1960, publicized the exploitation of the seasonal discipline staff. At present Belle Glade is residence to twenty,000 folks, about 60 % of them Black and 32 % Latino, and 41 % of residents dwell in poverty.
Sofia Valiente, who grew up on Florida’s east coast, lived in Belle Glade for a number of years starting in 2015. She needed to indicate folks at work and at residence, young and old in all their humanity on this struggling neighborhood. Her ebook, Foreverglades, juxtaposes her images with rustic tales by Lawrence Will, a businessman and self-described “cracker historian” who moved to the realm in 1913. Valiente additionally created a touring images exhibition, constructing a reproduction steamboat to make use of as a gallery.
Considered one of her muses for the mission was Zora Neale Hurston, an Alabama native, who lived in Belle Glade within the Nineteen Thirties whereas writing her landmark novel of African American life, Their Eyes Had been Watching God, which pays some tribute to the “bean pickers who work all day for cash and battle all evening for love.”