Marlon, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, came to the US in search of a better life. “Ten years ago, they killed one of my sisters in Guatemala. That was the hardest thing in my life. You have an option: You stay there, and you know in two or three years maybe you don’t survive — or leave your family, and risk your life to cross the border. But then you confront another struggle.”
Marlon gives a haircut during a house call in Los Angeles. “That job (cutting hair) is really good, but you can’t support your family. You can have a little bit here and send a little bit to your family in another country, but it’s not enough. That’s why I have two jobs.”
Marlon cuts hair as night falls in the south Los Angeles neighborhood of Central Alameda, where many Central American immigrants live. “Most barbers charge $20, but I’m only charging $10,’ he said.
Marlon during a house call from a longtime customer of the barbershop where he used to work before losing his job when the shop closed during the first wave of covid-19 in Los Angeles.
Marlon on an early morning run. Marlon ran his first marathon last year. “One of my points is to show (anti-immigrant people) that even though there’s a lot of bad things, I still give my best. I want to try to change my life. I didn’t go to school. Because my father passed away when I was 10 months old, I didn’t know my father. I saw my mom struggle to support us, and I promised myself that I have to live, to do something. I want to show other people we can do good things, even though we struggle with a lot here.”
Marlon sells masks on a street corner. “I feel healthy. I go to the street, God covers me,” he said. “I feel healthy physically, but mentally, not so much, because a lot of things changed in my life: paying my rent, sending my family money, worrying about bills, my son, everything. It’s not easy working on the streets.”
Marlon sells masks on a nearly empty LA Metro train in April.
Marlon was laid off from his job at a barbershop in 2020 after Los Angeles went into lockdown. With rent and bills to pay and family in Guatemala counting on his remittances, he began making house calls to cut hair and selling masks on a busy street corner.
Marlon is an Indigenous K’ich’e man who fled violence in Guatemala, traveling atop the dangerous freight train from Mexico known as “La Bestia” (“The Beast”).
Marlon lifts a rock in a canyon near the Los Feliz neighborhood where he runs 10 miles from downtown.
“I only want to work,” he says. “I want to give my best. I’m not stealing. I’m not doing things to hurt people.”
Marlon training in Bronson Canyon.
Marlon is seen in the window of the small apartment he shares with his brother before sunrise one early morning in April.