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Dignity defined

Crusito de Rosario isn't famous. Haitian by birth, he has lived in the Dominican Republic and worked in the sugar-cane fields for 55 of his 60 years. It's a difficult job – physically demanding, sweaty work; usually 12-hour days of endlessly repeated motions under a hot sun with no shade for relief. A good cutter can harvest one ton of sugar cane per day, yet earn less than $3. It is a lifestyle passed from father to son, because they can't imagine doing anything else.

I arrived in Crusito's world with a Spanish priest who fights for better conditions for these workers, who are his parishioners. Father Christopher had cleared out some bedraggled wooden barracks and built better accommodations. But Crusito, for some reason, chose to continue living in the old barracks, alone in one tiny room. He was outside when we met, tilling the soil. He limped over to greet us and took me into his home.

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I have met hundreds of people over the course of my career who have not had an easy path in life. But I may never have met one who had more dignity. Crusito, who had nothing, made me his guest. He never looked ashamed. He never pitied himself. He spoke to me directly, as you can see in the photograph, through his eyes.


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