New York food delivery workers, ignored in life, are honored in death

New York food delivery workers, ignored in life, are honored in death


After the brass band packed up their instruments, Sergio Solano and two other food distribution workers rode a white bicycle to an overpass within view of the United Nations headquarters.

A fellow worker, or partner, as they call each other, a “partner”. He died less than two weeks later in another bicycle accident on the streets of Manhattan in September. For many of them, delivering food has proven to be a deadly business. By riding bikes all the time they get hit by cars, are constantly at risk of accidents and become victims of crime.

The spray-painted bicycle paid homage to Mexican immigrant Felix Patricio Teofilo, who, like him, made his living by pedaling to deliver food. They tied him to a metal railing near the intersection of 47th Street and First Avenue, where he met his end.

With that solemn march through the drizzling rain, Mr. Solano, 39, was postponing an evening of mourning that he had come to see as a mission: to illuminate after death the lives left in shadow. I went.

“We never thought we would hold a vigil,” Mr. Solano said. “This was never our intention.”

Exactly three years ago, Mr. Solano and his relatives, who are also delivery workers, “startedEl diario de los deliveryboys en la Gran ManzanaWhich translates to “The Journal of the Deliveryboys in the Big Apple”, is a Facebook page that aims to be both practical and informative.

The page will serve as an online support network, a place to alert people about bicycle thefts, traffic accidents and discriminatory encounters reported by Spanish-speaking immigrants who are in an urban frenzy to satisfy New Yorkers’ takeout cravings. Let’s face.

It will also give details of the ups and downs in the work.

Soon after the page was up and running, it became clear to Mr. Solano that the project would tell a bigger story: Compañeros routinely die on the job.

According to Mr Solano’s latest count, more than 40 people have died since the page went live in late 2020.

In Mr. Patricio’s case, a solo accident resulted in his head hitting a curb without a helmet.

Food delivery workers were briefly celebrated in New York as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down life indoors and their services became vital.

Delivery apps offered viable income to people who were fired from their jobs or had their work hours reduced, and to people whose immigration status complicated obtaining government assistance.

As the pandemic spread, the dangers of demanding work became clear. Workers formed unions and pushed for better wages and protections, an effort that continued until 2023. Under pressure, the city set a higher minimum wage for app-based delivery workers, starting at about $18 an hour in October.

Still, for many workers the risks go beyond pay. On the Deliveryboys page, a series of photographs feature the names and faces of the dead.

Most of them are immigrants from Mexico or Guatemala who are part of the estimated cavalry of 65,000 food delivery workers in New York City.

This job has become one of the most deadly.

A Report by Citi published in November 2022 It said the death rate among food delivery workers who did not use a car was 36 deaths per 100,000 workers from January 2021 to June 2022. This rate was higher than the death rate for workers in construction (seven deaths per 100,000), which was historically the deadliest industry.

Funerals, vigils, death anniversaries and funerals have been organised, raised funds and digitally commemorated in the community by the self-titled magazine.

Many people have died in traffic accidents while on the job. Some deaths are not work related. Others, such as Francisco Villalva, have been murdered.

In March 2021, Mr. Villalva was shot by an assailant following him on his bicycle in a park near 108th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Mr. Villalva, of Xalpatlahuac, Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, was 29 years old.

Two days later, Page live video streamed From the scene of the murder, a call was made for others to support the family. The relatives seen in the video were speaking in both Spanish and Nahuatl, an indigenous language spoken in parts of Mexico. (To date, the video has been viewed more than 132,000 times.) He also called for justice.

“Unfortunately, another colleague lost his life doing this work,” Cesar Solano, Mr. Solano’s nephew and Page administrator, said in Spanish, linking the news with the cadence of a television reporter.

The number of followers of the DeliveryBoys page has increased from hundreds to thousands, which has helped the platform garner some power.

“We protested for almost a month,” said Sergio Solano. “We kept vigil after vigil. People would come to donate food or offer to provide live music. Every day when we did something, a lot of people would come.”

Mr. Villalva’s death sent shockwaves through the community. Companions Paused their delivery apps to attend the event. A Catholic priest was brought in to lead the prayers. Family and friends made arrangements for food. Others took up musical instruments.

A group wrote Mr. Villalva his own corridorA Mexican folk ballad, which tells of the disconcerting end of his journey to New York.

The killer, identified as Douglas Young, was captured and eventually convicted of murder. In April, Mr. Young, a 41-year-old man from Queens Sentenced to 41 years life imprisonment In state prison.

Since Mr. Villalva’s death, Page has helped ensure that each fallen comrade is given a memorial – a practice that has become almost ritualistic, commemorating the farewell to police officers killed in the line of duty. Is.

Loved ones bear the brunt of the event, but the page, which has 51,000 followers, brings people out, Sergio Solano said.

Under Mr. Patricio’s watch, Cesar Solano, 22, The band’s Mutilated Pavement was livestreamed. Display. The police officers who lodged the noise complaint gave him 10 minutes to pay his respects.

Under a makeshift umbrella, sipping dozens of skinless pork tamales at Atole de Pina ,Pineapple Flavored Corn Drink, And steaming pozole from weak foam bowls, following each aching note: a folkloric take on Chopin’s “Marche Funebre” and traditional Mexican funeral songs like “Te Vas Angel Mio” (“You’re Leaving My Angel”). Explanation.

Mr. Patricio’s sister, Jovita Patricio, buried her face in a friend’s chest. Tears streamed down her red cheeks. Behind her, candlelight touched a photograph of her brother, surrounded by flowers. He was her only relative in New York.

The video stream of the band’s performance received thousands of views. One of the musicians, Edgar Cano, had once worked in a restaurant with Mr. Patricio, and they were both from the same area of ​​Guerrero.

“We never know. Today or tomorrow, another friend could pass away,” Mr. Cano said in Spanish, his sombrero casting shadows over his eyes.

Some people find the page’s detailed posts offensive.

But Sergio Solano said the page’s focus and tribute honors fallen delivery workers with a “proper final goodbye” and gives loved ones a chance to mourn from a distance. “If they loved and respected him at home, we show that he is loved and respected here too,” he said in Spanish.

In some cases, the page features live video of a comrade’s body arriving in the pueblo. For example, the return of Mr. Villalva, Was shown in livestream.

Last summer, when 28-year-old Eduardo Valencia died in an accident while working, his story also became the focus of the Deliveryboys page.

Mr. Valencia came to the city from Guerrero as a teenager, said his mother, Guadalupe Nepomuceno. His dream, he said, was to save enough to live a comfortable life in his hometown.

“He wanted to build his own home, return to Mexico and never return to New York,” Ms. Nepomuceno said in Spanish.

But Mr. Valencia’s homecoming will take place inside a coffin.

Ms. Nepomuceno, who lives in New York City, could not attend her son’s burial and gave her final farewell from a small digital screen more than 2,000 miles away.

Sergio Solano said these efforts serve as recognition for those who are often ignored.

“They don’t exist in the eyes of society,” he said. “They begin to exist when you start giving them visibility.”

As city life returns to its pre-pandemic rhythm, food delivery workers have faded into the background, Mr. Solano said.

Placing a “ghost bicycle” in place of a fellow cyclist, known as a memorial to cyclists Death is a way of telling about the contributions of deliveryboys and the ultimate price some pay.

With Mr. Patricio’s monument secured, Mr. Solano and two companions Wore a helmet, boarded a bicycle and headed towards the intersection. He looked both ways for passing cars.

It was 7:30 on Monday evening. Time to get to work.



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