She was the love of his life, the mother of his children, the young woman he met on a visit to his Mexican hometown two decades ago and brought to Belle Glade to start a new life. Three years ago, she gave him a baby daughter, their fourth child, and a few days later she died of complications from the birth.
Since her death, Jose Escobedo and his children have been trapped in a vice of poverty, squalor and inattention. An agricultural worker, he spends long days in the fields outside Belle Glade, harvesting spinach six days a week, leaving before dawn and returning home after dusk.
It was his wife, Juana, who maintained the home and the family while he worked the fields. In her absence, his trailer, in a mobile home park on the outskirts of Belle Glade, has fallen into severe disrepair. Each day after school, his three sons return to an empty home, while a relative looks after his young daughter.
With little free time and less money, Escobedo, 50, has watched his home fall apart. Water leaks in through holes in the roof, filling the trailer with a pungent smell of mold. The toilet leaks, light fixtures dangle from wires, the window A/C units blow warm. Gaps in the laminate flooring expose buckling plywood.
The four children, who range in age from 3 to 16, suffer from learning disabilities and respiratory ailments. One child suffers asthma, another persistent nose bleeds. One has seizures, for reasons yet to be diagnosed. Escobedo, meanwhile, has his own health problems – high blood pressure that often leaves him unable to work.
The children were deeply traumatized by the death of their mother, who they remember as warm and protective, quick to stick up for them when they were bullied at school. Since her death, two of the children suffer sporadic crying fits and now receive counseling.
The trailer is so infested with mold that a caseworker for the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County believes it is beyond repair. For a healthy new life for his four children, Escobedo needs a new trailer with new kitchen appliances. His children need new beds and other furniture.
His children would like a functioning computer to replace the old, almost unusable one they have now. And they would love a helping hand to assist with preparing meals and keeping the home clean.
Escobedo is working to improve his family’s lot. He became a U.S. citizen this year and is studying English. He is working on getting a license to become a commercial driver, which would allow him to earn more than his seasonal job offers
After his wife died from childbirth, Jose Escobedo is struggling to raise four children alone while working long hours in a low-wage agricultural job. His family’s dilapidated trailer home outside Belle Glade is filled with mold and falling apart around them, while his children struggle with respiratory problems, learning disabilities and psychological problems stemming from their mother’s death. The Escobedo family needs a new trailer, new beds for the children, kitchen appliances and a new computer for the children.
Photography by Greg Lovett / Staff
Nominated by Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County