New Face Of Amer­i­can Car­ni­val

Riverbank News - - MARKETPLACE 209 -

KLA­MATH FALLS, Ore. — As quickly as it came, it left. Within just four hours, the car­ni­val rides, games and ticket booths at the Kla­math County Fair were folded up and packed away as the crew pre­pared to make their next jump to Reno.

The ma­gi­cians be­hind the move are the staff and crew of Wold Amuse­ment, and many are mi­grant work­ers from the Ver­acruz re­gion in Mex­ico here un­der H-2B visas. The H-2B pro­gram al­lows U.S. em­ploy­ers or U.S. agents who meet spe­cific reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments to bring for­eign na­tion­als to the United States to fill tem­po­rary nona­gri­cul­tural jobs.

Those who are em­ployed by Ja­son Wold, who owns the car­ni­val games and rides, come from places along the West Coast seek­ing ad­ven­ture, a place to be­long or bet­ter­ment for them­selves.

“We’re part of the Amer­i­can land­scape,” said Wold.

THE NEW FACE OF CARNIES

Al­fonso Uer­net was sta­tioned at the su­per slide di­rect­ing ex­cited chil­dren with his ac­tions rather than his words to take and re­turn the blan­ket-like cloth which helped their de­scent on the ride. His job was to re­lieve work­ers for breaks, each 30 min­utes at a time, and ro­tate through­out the car­ni­val area.

As is the case with most of the H-2B work­ers, Uer­net speaks lit­tle English and he along with ev­ery­one who is a part of the car­ni­val leave their homes for months at a time. What is the driv­ing force be­hind this work? The an­swer for many is their fam­i­lies.

Uer­net has two chil­dren, ages 13 and 7, and a wife in Mex­ico all whom he talks with daily on the phone. He ex­plained that the work is the most prac­ti­cal in terms of the econ­omy and money. Eco­nom­i­cally, the United States econ­omy is larger than Mex­ico.

Work­ers are on a pre­vail­ing wage in Mex­ico which is av­er­aged through­out the year. Pre­vail­ing wage is a gov­ern­ment set stan­dard based on the hourly wage paid in the largest city in each county. This is av­er­aged for the whole year, so work­ers make at or above the na­tional statu­tory min­i­mum wage.

“De aqui, sus­tento con mi fa­milia es­tan en Mex­ico,” he said. “Muy im­por­tante mi fa­milia.” Which means “From here I can sus­tain my fam­ily in Mex­ico ... My fam­ily is very im­por­tant.”

Be­fore com­ing on board at the car­ni­val, Uer­net ac­tu­ally knew two peo­ple, but has be­come close with ev­ery­one in the past months. The crew trav­els and sleeps in trail­ers — if they do not have their own, there are bunkhouse trail­ers which are shared.

“He­cho no son ami­gos son com­paneros,” he said. “The crew is more than friends.”

For To­mas Arel­lanos, this is his first sea­son work­ing with the car­ni­val. “Este lo que pasa que,” said Arel­lanos, “This is what hap­pens.” As he told his story, he ex­plained that he was told where he would go and was given a ticket to get here. He hopes to be hired on again for the com­ing sea­son, in fact he prays to be, but ex­plained that it is ul­ti­mately up to God.

Jose Luiz is in sec­ond sea­son with the Wold Car­ni­val, but he had pre­vi­ously trav­eled in an­other for three. He ex­plained that, at first work­ing with the car­ni­val can be dif­fi­cult, but it be­comes eas­ier with time, espe­cially hav­ing al­ready been trained in the op­er­a­tion.

Most of the ride op­er­at­ing staff are from the Ver­acruz re­gion in Mex­ico work­ing the car­ni­val on H-2B visas for Tem­po­rary Non-Agri­cul­tural work­ers. Those on the visa work for 10-month sea­sons at a time. From Fe­bru­ary to Novem­ber they travel to cities, set­ting up, run­ning and then tak­ing down the rides be­fore re­turn­ing to their home­town in Novem­ber.

Al­fonso Uer­net runs a car­ni­val ride.

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