Latin Americans’ life in the UK celebrated in siblings’ portraits for Manchester photography exhibition

Two Manchester-born Mexican siblings are to hold a photography exhibition to help highlight largely invisible and neglected Latin community in the UK.

Uncovering the Invisible: A Portrait of Latin Americans in the UK, which will be hosted at Manchester’s Instituto Cervantes, is a series of 22 photographs taken by siblings Roxana and Pablo Allison who were born in Manchester but raised in Mexico. 

The exhibition has been partly funded by the Horizon Hub at The University of Nottingham and has received support from Queen Mary University, Southwark Council, The Latin American Recognition Campaign (LARC), The Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (CLAUK) and The Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS).

One person from each of the 22 Latin nations were selected to that make up the region and took a portrait of them in a setting chosen by each individual that had a strong meaning or connection to them or their identity.

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The exhibition will be experimenting with new emerging smart-tag technology to enhance the audience’s experience that little bit more.

Also, anyone with a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled phone will be able to listen to the voices and stories of the people in the photographs by simply tapping their phone on the NFC tag attached to each photo. 

The main focus of the exhibition is to display the diversity, experience and life stories of the people that make up the culturally rich, yet largely invisible Latin community.

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Pablo told MM: “Every single life story of the people we photographed is equally relevant and interesting, each one with its own peculiarities. We learned from everyone and shared similar experiences as Latin Americans.

“After getting to know each person we learned that the reasons for leaving their countries of origin were very different as some decided to migrate in seek for better job opportunities or for personal reasons whilst others had to flee for political reasons.”

The project was born out of the report No Longer Invisible: The Latin American Community in London by Cathy McIlwaine of Queen Mary University, London, which examined the situation and population of the predominantly overlooked Latin American population in London.

To date, more than 180,000 Latin Americans currently live in the UK, of that approximately 5,835 reside in the North West with 2,260 currently in Manchester.

Yet despite contributing both economically and culturally to the shaping of British society, they are remarkably neglected under UK law and are not considered an ethnic minority.

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Professor McIlwaine’s report revealed that 40% of Latin Americans living in the UK have experienced work place abuse and exploitation, and 11% are being illegally paid less than the National Minimum Wage. 

Although many of them are highly skilled and educated, some are forced to take jobs in sectors such as cleaning and hospitality, which often lack regulations and are characterized by poor working conditions, zero hour contracts, and unsocial working hours.

Many of the Latin American organizations like The Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (CLAUK) and The Latin American Recognition Campaign (LARC) believe that the reason for this maltreatment and neglect is due to the fact that they are not recognized as an ethnic minority.

They argue that because of this their needs remain largely invisible, and so both organizations have been continually campaign for more recognition under UK law.

Roxana and Pablo Allison told MM that they hope their project will shed light on the problems that Latin Americans in the UK face, and bring more awareness of the on-going campaign for ethnic minority status.

Roxana said: “It was and still is very important to support the campaign for official recognition so we decided that the best way to do that was through photography in order to present the faces that make up this community in the UK and reach a wider audience.”

“The portraits’ main goal is to support and help towards the official recognition of this community and to expose and acknowledge their presence in the UK in order to reach equal opportunities, access to services and representation in parliament with the aim to improve their quality of life in the country they now call home.”

Uncovering the Invisible runs for two months, opens on March 20 at 6.30 and will be displayed in the main hall of the Cervantes institute. 

The photographers Roxana and Pablo, Professor Cathy McIlwaine, and Professor Catherine Davies from the University of Nottingham will be attending, and a discussion will be led by Latin American culture lecturer Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami from the University of Manchester.  

Image courtesy of Roxana and Pablo Allison

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