“Papa build the orphanage by hand…Then, as a service to the community, he built a church next door. He and his sons labored for almost a year, using cement, stucco, and wood. It was the first Protestant church on that part of the coast. Once the church was done, Papa realized he orphanage needed modernizing, so he hauled out his ladders and hammers again and began an ambitious construction project behind the original orphanage. This one would be entirely of brick and cement block, with modern bathrooms and dorm rooms throughout. American work crews eagerly joined in, bringing him supplies and fresh-faced youth groups who scrambled up and down Papa’s ladders, slopping cement and banging nails.
On those days, Papa stood watching, his ever-present white helmet bobbing slightly. He gripped either a huge white cup of coffee or a banana.
At the end of the day, he thanked everybody. As soon as they were on the highway back north, he climbed his ladder and undid the work they had done wrong. Often, Papa spent two days fixing angles and rehammering frames. ‘It’s alright,’ he said. ‘The young people need to work. It’s good for them to have work.'”
-Luis Alberto Urrea, in Across the Wire: Life And Hard Times on the Mexican Border.