Latin America: An Institutional and Cultural Survey

Asynchronous Blog Post on Ground Zero

Asynchronous Blog Post


1. Read the essay “Ground Zero” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio.

2. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 12/02 before the class. 200-words minimum.


Think back to Cornejo Villavicencio’s text. Why do you think is important to center these discussions around the experiences of undocumented Latin Americans?  Reflect and share your interpretation of one of the topics from the essay that resonated with you.

.migration and its health cost

.mental health and migration

.gender-based violence

.denial of health services/ debt

.reproduction of plantation economies (Latinx overseer)

.invizibilized labor

.surviving through tip economies



Have you or your family experienced any of the experiences and/or struggles indicated above? How do they resemble and how do they differentiate from the accounts presented by Cornejo Villavicencio?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Ground Zero” do you want to bring into the discussion?

12 thoughts on “Asynchronous Blog Post on Ground Zero”

  1. Option 1: I think it is important that we center these discussions around invisibilized labor. Invisible labor is labor that is not paid work and is unregulated. For example, after 9/11 they had many Latin Americans work at ground zero where the twin towers fell. They had to deal with unsafe conditions and essentially no pay. The checks given were of no use to them as they bounced and they can’t even go report it as it would reveal that they are illegal immigrants. They had to deal with the dangerous work. They also had zero to no safety/protection that they would get injured from the work or sick from the dust. I think this is very important as this is considered slave work. It is basically inhumane. Undocumented work should be an important discussion when talking about Latin Americans because it is essential to their survival. Without it, they make no money and would survive where they are living in this case America but more importantly in New York where everything is very expensive to live there so the fact they were being exploited for manual labor is not human. The worst part is that the illegal immigrants know they can’t do anything about it and can only hope that it is not a lie and that it is true that they get paid and not scammed out of it.

    1. Hi Jadon,

      Your assessment of invizibilized labor is very interesting. Your comparison of it to slave work is a grave reality, as these immigrants are essentially forced to take whatever job they can to make a living, and the exploitation and abuse are somehow rationalized or outright ignored in fear of deportation and loss of wages. The center around undocumented Latinx immigrants is important, as they are often the ones immigration customs enforcement (ICE) might prioritize searching for. As you said, these immigrants’ undocumented status makes the invizibilized labor dangerous as they are not left with ‘no safety/protection that they would get injured at work.’ In her piece, Karla mentions how her immigrant father would “always take the chance” to make more money, as a “dollar is a dollar.” However, even with a need for money, people like Paloma explain the exploitation of the workers, stating how she and others would have never taken the job had there been a sign detailing the immense risks and health consequences, and how access to the subsequent funds came with many restrictions for the undocumented workers. The ‘invizibilized’ art of the labor is emphasized in Karla’s ending imagery with an undocumented worker and 9/11 victim whose priority is to place their fake ID in between their teeth for hopeful identification, depicting the somber dehumanization of the workers who hid their identities to survive.

  2. Option 1
    Mental Health and migration are important topics to center around the experiences of undocumented Latin Americans. People who migrated from Latin America to the United States show a similar pattern in their thought process towards mental health in Cornejo Villavicencio’s text. Multiple people in the text that migrated to the United States discuss the stigma around mental health. People in Latin America do not like to cry publicly or show “weakness”. They feel very uncomfortable talking about mental health since they tend to deal with their issues alone most of the time.

    The experiences of undocumented Latin Americans regarding mental health are important because their experiences show how severe mental health problems can be within the community. In the text “The Undocumented Americans”, a man shares his mental health history. The text shares Milton’s story, “I tried to take my life. A psychiatrist…talked him down from overdosing on pills. A psychiatrist… talked him down from throwing himself onto the train tracks” (37). This topic really resonated with me because of the parallels between the text and my family. My parents are from Latin America and seem to not truly understand why mental health is so important. They tend to brush off a lot of situations and deal with their issues by themselves. Mental health needs to be discussed more openly without judgment in Latin American communities. Without proper conversations, there are many people who are suffering in silence.

  3. Option 1: Mental Health & Migration

    Mental health is one topic that is important to discuss around the experiences of undocumented Latin Americans. Villavicencio states, “…when I ask, gently, what meds they’re on or what their panic attacks are like, they tell me but seem a little embarrassed” (36). In the Latin community, there is a stigma regarding mental health illnesses. As Villavicencio explains, some see it as a sign of weakness, hence why the undocumented members of the therapy group are hesitant to speak about the medication they take. Other Latin people do not believe in therapy and commonly say that “therapy isn’t for us.” But the truth is that often therapy isn’t an option as undocumented Latin Americans or children of immigrants do not have the money for therapy. As a result, thousands of Latin Americans do not receive proper health and suffer in silence.

    This issue resonated with me because I have witnessed how damaging it is in my family. When my aunt talked about her anxiety and how it has taken a toll on her life, everyone’s perspective about her suddenly changed. I heard family members referring to her as “loca” and “exagerada.” This unsupportive system is the very reason why many choose to endure in silence. The Latin community must start to destigmatize mental health. There need to be more public resources regarding mental health and affordable access to mental help. If we don’t fix this, it may cost people their lives.

    1. I completely agree with your points on how mental health should be destigmatized because I also have family members who got abused by the system back then and were doing invizibilized labor. To me when I was young I couldn’t tell how depressed they really were inside because they never talked to anyone about it and always put on a fake smile and worked hard so one day there kid can become something in this world. It wasn’t until these last couple of years my family members opened up and talk about there past and how they have PTSD for some stuff like Halloween because back then they got beat up randomly when they went to try and pay rent. Overall they try to submerge there feelings because they believe that it shows weakness and in latin community you don’t show anyone your weakness. This goes to show how Mental health should be destigmatized for the Latin community because there are still some people that could be suffering from PTSD from past events that don’t want to open up and have to endure the pain themselves which is unhealthy to do.

  4. Option 1

    The essay “The Undocumented Americans” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio reflects an important, long-lasting social issue which is, poor representation and treatment of undocumented people in the US, specifically Latino Americans. In the second chapter of the article, Cornejo Villavicencio is discussing the tragic event that happened on September 11, 2001, and the contribution made by different Latino people. One of them was Milton Vallejo. Milton was an undocumented Latinax, who was hired by a subcontractor of a company called Good Shine Cleaning to cleanup the neighborhood after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The conditions he had to work at were absolutely ridiculous, “Milton was assigned to clean basements, where he waded waist-deep through dirty water and chemicals. He tied plastic grocery bags around his ankles. The dust was the hardest to clean because it blinded him and stuck to his wet clothing. He wasn’t given goggles. The subcontractors gave him air
    masks, but they were flimsy and broke easily.” We can integrate it with the poor conditions the man was working in during the cleanup, as it later had an effect on both his mental and physical state. Moreover, Vallejo was only receiving $60 for a 12-hour working day. Yet after his and many others Latinax massive contributions to the community and reconstruction they were viewed as slaves, as they weren’t allowed to talk or work when the white contractor came in to check on them.

  5. Option 1
    The issue I wanted to focus on from this was mental health and migration. I think that the Latinx community has a unique relationship when it comes to mental health especially accepting the fact that it’s not something to be embarrassed about. I think both this essay and Cornejo Villavicencio’s text brought up how the Latinx community and more specifically undocumented immigrants have this stigma associated with mental health whether that be admitting that it is a real thing or that if they have mental health issues its not something that should have to be hidden. This text made sure to highlight how much many of these undocumented Latin Americans were affected by 9/11 because they were first responders and had to deal with poor working conditions mostly due to them being undocumented.
    This personally resonated with me as I’m Latinx myself and think it’s always important to highlight the stigma of mental health in the community and it’s something that really shouldn’t be a thing anymore at least not so prevalent. I also thought it was really sad to see how much these Latin Americans went through from the working conditions, being heckled by some of the public and then after all that many of them contracting illnesses and diseases both physical and mental.

  6. Option 1: mental health and migration

    I think mental health and migration are important to discussions around the experiences of undocumented Latin Americans because mental health is a common but neglected problem. There are a lot of Latin Americans who don’t want to talk about mental health because they feel ashamed about it. They worry about showing their weak side to the world. There are even many Latin Americans who think that mental illness is a stigma. As a result, many immigrant Latin Americans do not choose to get treatment, or they do not have the financial means to get treatment. So many Latin Americans face and endure mental illness alone.

    The topic of mental health and migration resonates with me because I have a relative who is also suffering from mental illness, which causes pain and despair for herself and her family. Mental illness should not be discriminated against. Mental illness is similar to a cold, one is sick in the body, the other is sick in the heart. A healthy body and a healthy mental are both important and essential. Both mental and physical health should be respected and valued. Only by removing the stigma against mental health can help more people get treatment.

  7. Option 1: Mental Health & Migration
    “Mental health and migration” is an important topic for the experience of undocumented Latin Americans.From Cornejo Villavicencio’s text, it is proposed that the Latino community does not like to face the topic of mental health. They believe that mental health disease is a shame, which is a sign of weakness for them, but some of them will have different mental health problem. Mental health diseases will only get worse if they are not treated. The Latino community should begin to accept the notion that people will get mental illnesses. When more and more people realize this problem, those who really need help In order to really get good treatment.This topic resonated with me as a teenager , because adults would think that children are just ignorant, and they will heal automatically when they grow up, but without a good treatment in between, how can children get rid of the pain of childhood, and these troubles will only change. It’s getting more and more terrifying, and it will have a bad impact later, so mental illness is also a disease, and these sick people need to be treated.When everyone understands that this issue is very important, those who do not receive psychotherapy will be much less

  8. Option 1: Mental health & Migration
    The reason I feel it is important to have these discussions is so we can find ways to stop labor like this. The undocumneted immigrants working in ground zero weren’t made aware of the conditions they were working in and had to suffer health conditions because of it. Not only that but they couldn’t even get properly compensated as their checks would bounce or they weren’t able to prove that they worked in ground zero. A lot of the immigrants affected were Latin who migrated to America for a better life but ended up suffering here. Again exploited and mistreated when working in ground zero many also gained mental health affects. PTSD etc. Many in the Latin community don’t talk about their mental health as it is a sign of weakness. However this mindset needs to change as mental health, when untreated, could lead to death as some might try to take their own life. “A psychologist who worked with some of the 9/11 survivors talked him down from overdosing on pills…Milton also sees a psychiatrist who once talked him down from throwing himself into the train tracks.” For those who worked in ground zero I’m glad there are therapy sessions they can go to and I hope more immigrants in the Latin community (not only them but other people of color, and the older generation) open up about their mental issues and seek help even if they didn’t go through a life or death situation to be affected.

  9. Mental Health is a serious topic that needs to be talked about in our society. Many people think that it is a sign of weakness, but it is quite the opposite. Many who were present during 9-11 were not documents therefore they would be exposed when they try and collect the money that they had earned. Their checks bounced and if they complained, they would be in serious trouble. This topic really did resonate with me because some of my friends parents would think that their mental health problems would automatically be fixed if they just gave it time. These problems are not a joke and should be treated seriously.

  10. Option 1:
    Invizibilized labor, one of the prominent forces behind the cleanups of Ground Zero, all of which consisted of undocumented immigrants of the LatinX community. Many workers correlating with this suffered discrimination, exploitations, intense and grueling work environment, and many health related issues. Being only offered as much as $60 dollars a day, these immigrants needed as much as they could get and signed up for the work not knowing that their source of pay was unreliable and therefore was opened to unaware exploitation as many checks had bounced and many could not complain as they had feared it would reveal the status of their immigration. Ground Zero had taken more than 9 months of dedicated cleanup and in that duration, more than 2,000 health related deaths were recorded with association to the Ground Zero environment. These health issues included multiple respiratory diseases, cancer, and physical malformations. Despite the inhumane conditions in the environment of Ground Zero, many workers were provided with inappropriate equipment, making them more prone to the health issues listed above. Even despite these factors being quite lethal to many, public health services neglected these environments even as far as to relate these deaths to natural causes. Rafael, a firefighter deployed from Mexico, was sent to the site in assistance to help clean it up. He had spent many months in the environment of Ground Zero and as a result, developed many respiratory complications that eventually lead to his death in 2011. His death was deemed a natural cause. The concept of invizibilized labor can be argued as a form of modern slavery as it had exploited people into giving them an unreliable incentive in an environment that needed major equipment but was not provided and targeted a specific group of people who could not complain.

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