The buzzing of leaf blowers, weed whackers and lawnmowers are part of Southern California’s sonic landscape. And the people usually holding those machines are Latino immigrant men, who call themselves jardineros, Spanish for gardeners. It’s their labor that gives curb appeal to so many homes, keeping lawns neatly trimmed, hedges pruned and weeds at bay.
The story of the jardineros alsoreveals the long relationship between immigration and the development of Southern California’s gardening culture. Many gardeners are Mexican immigrants. But before they came into the business, residential gardening in the region was dominated by Japanese-Americans who took advantage of an American love affair with the Japanese gardening aesthetic.
For new immigrants, starting a small gardening business has been a way to plant the seeds of their American Dream.
We talk to jardineros and get the story of labor history and economics with Pirrette Hondagnu-Sotelo, a USC sociologist who’s written a book about immigration and the residential gardening industry. Listen: