Cristina Martinez

In the United States, the fear of deportation silences more than one million undocumented workers a year; and yet, in Philadelphia, this Mexican chef is leveraging the success of her South Philly Barbacue restaurant (among the best openings of 2016, according to Bon Appètit) to give voice to the controversial struggle of those who work without papers in Donald Trump’s America. She has led the initiative #Right2Work to promote a public dialogue about the conditions for undocumented workers in the restaurant industry and to generate meeting spaces for exchanging information and support for those who need it most. The Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, awarded her the Nationalities Service Award for her fight for immigrant rights and for her contribution to making the city a celebrated gastronomic destination. Inspired partly by her work, the local council has now passed a resolution that recognizes work as a human right, regardless of a person’s immigration status.

When I started making appearances on the radio and TV I realized that my voice could become the
voice of my community. Immigrants are hidden away; they are exploited; this is the system that I try to make people see. I did not care about what could happen to me; I was determined to tell the truth.”