Pablo Alvarado, 46, normally affable and soft-spoken, bristles when he’s called the Cesar Chavez of day laborers. Despite his accomplishments as director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, he doesn’t see himself as a hero. "I do this work because I love it," he says. His manner is relaxed but his ebony eyes, deeply set into broad, copper-hued features, reveal fierce determination. As a child in the farming village of El Níspero in El Salvador, Alvarado witnessed the horror of his country’s 12-year civil war, which would leave 75,000 dead. On his daily walk to school, along the roadside, he saw the bodies of those who’d been murdered. Eventually the death squads claimed his teachers; Alvarado witnessed their execution. "Everyone knew someone who was killed," he recalls. Still, amid the brutality and terror, he experienced compassion, and resolved to guide his life by "acts of love."
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