Opinion | The Deep Fears, and Motivations, of Slaughterhouse Workers

When I was a child in Argentina, my dad would come home with his clothes completely stained with blood. Every day, I looked at the strange red shapes on his white suit and imagined that he brought that blood from fighting monsters or adversaries.

Thirty years later, I asked my father to show me his former workplace: the slaughterhouse. I wanted to discover the place that was once forbidden to me, to meet the men who work there today and seem similar to how I imagined my father when I was younger.

At the end of each workday, we invited the workers to sit down with us and talk in a portable tent we built away from the noise of the slaughterhouse. Word spread among them about our short documentary, and I overheard them encouraging one another to participate: “It’s very simple. You enter the tent and a guy asks you ‘How are you doing,’ and then you tell him about your life.” I couldn’t have explained it better than that.

Working with knives was discussed here and there, but I was surprised how children and parents — or the absence of them — were brought up in all my conversations with the workers. For a moment, the executioner’s objective was left outside. Together inside the tent, we were investigating how we bond among men, as men. Is it blood lineage, a war wound or the opportunity for brotherhood?