Most housecleaners in Durham, NC are Latin American women, mainly from Mexico and Central America. They scrub, vacuum, and mop to earn a living thousands of miles from where they were born and raised. Many of these women have been here for more than a decade, pioneering migrants to the area. They pay taxes, send their children to local schools, belong to neighborhood churches, and now call Durham home. Yet they face many challenges. The job is physically demanding, with long hours and no benefits. Housecleaners also face language barriers, and, despite all they do, they have often lived in the shadows for fear of deportation even while missing children and parents who have had to remain behind in Latin America.
The Housecleaner Project brings together Durham housecleaners with Duke faculty and students in order to document the lives of these women and their contribution to our community. It seeks to promote greater recognition of the work and rights of Durham housecleaners.
Here is a gallery of housecleaner life stories as told by fourteen different housecleaners to their Duke student partners. Housecleaner speakers are available to speak in classes and at public events about their work and lives. An exhibit about these women is on display at Perkins Library at Duke University from December 2014 to February, 2015. You can view a virtual version by clicking here.
The Housecleaner Project is generously supported by Duke University’s Humanities Writ Large Program. All the panels in our exhibit are available to download in high resolution for free if you would like to use them for any educational or community activity. For more information about the project, please contact Orin Starn.