Celebrating May Day: Images Of Workers Around The World

Today is May Day, when the world celebrates the struggles and sacrifices of the common worker. Like this cheese seller in Tupiza, Bolivia, photographed by Gadling’s resident cheese expert Laurel Miller. After some hard hours making her product, this woman comes to the market hoping to sell it all before the day is through. She uses a plastic bag on a stick to keep the flies away.

A range of unions and workers’ parties declared May Day a workers’ holiday in 1898. The date commemorated a three-day general strike in the U.S. that started on May 1, 1886, during which workers demanded an eight-hour day. Police fired into a protest by employees at the McCormick-International Harvester Company and killed three. On May 4, workers staged a protest against the killings at Haymarket Square, Chicago. A bomb went off and the police charged into the demonstrators. At least a dozen people died that day, including seven officers. Eight activists were sentenced to hang for the bombing, although there was widespread criticism about the lack of evidence.

American workers eventually got an eight-hour day, but it took several more major demonstrations and lots more people getting hurt. Many countries still don’t offer the benefits we now take for granted. Traveling around the world we come across people in lots of different lines of work. Some jobs are good, some are bad, and some are downright grueling. I’ll never forget a man I saw on a construction site in Damascus, Syria, back in 1994.

A crew was digging a deep trench into the sidewalk near our hotel, and every day my travel companions and I would pass by. Most of the men were down in the trench digging, but one guy had the job of sitting on an upturned bucket at street level manning a pump to take away water from the trench. He pulled on a rope attached to a pulley overhead, which yanked a crude pump at the bottom of the excavation. He’d set up a rhythm and sat there pulling all day. We saw him, every morning, noon, and evening, for days on end. We dubbed him, “The Man With the Most Boring Job in the World.”

I regret I never talked to him. While I’ve had my share of soul-destroying jobs, I bet he could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to work for a living. So Happy May Day, Man With the Most Boring Job in the World, and Happy May Day to all the other workers photographed in this gallery of shots by Gadling bloggers and members of the Gadling Flickr pool!


Andy Warhol Exhibit Opens In China, But His Chairman Mao Portraits Are Forbidden

The Power Station of Art in Shanghai has opened a new exhibition by Andy Warhol, but the famous pop artist’s portraits of Chairman Mao have been left out of the picture.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Andy Warhol Museum, which created the traveling exhibition, was told by the Chinese government that images of Mao would not be needed. Warhol painted many pictures of the Chinese revolutionary leader, such as this one hanging in Berlin shown here courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As everyone knows, China has been reinventing itself as a capitalist superpower while still maintaining its Communist leadership. Images of Chairman Mao have been steadily disappearing from public display because the new China doesn’t jive with his idea of a peasant revolutionary Communist state. Bringing up memories of his Cultural Revolution, which saw countless works of art destroyed, also doesn’t sit well with Shanghai’s new image as a center for the arts.

The traveling exhibition, titled “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal,” has already been to Singapore and Hong Kong and will run in Shanghai until July 28, at which point it will continue on to Beijing and Tokyo.

Art of the Hawaiian lei for Lei Day

Brenda’s post about May Day celebrations around the world explains a bit about the significance of the different colors of leis and why today is Lei Day in Hawaii. She’s in the midst of enjoying the celebrations. One major event is a contest where the best lei makers create wonderous flower garlands.

This video shows leis being made and close up shots of the result. These are not the typical leis you find at the Honolulu airport to put around someone’s neck as a gesture of welcome. As lovely as those are, these leis are works of art. Along with lei-making shots are vintage photographs of other Lei Days. The song “Pua ‘A’ala” is a fitting touch.

May Day: Festivities around the world

May 1 is May day, and here in Hawaii it’s called Lei Day. Most of the islands’ schools are off today, and surfers will likely be in the water (as the first legitimate south swell of the summer season is here). You will find me and most of the Oahu’s daytime party goers celebrating Lei Day in Kapiolani Park, on the eastern end of Waikiki. There, between 9-5, will be a lei making contest, good old fashioned hula and musical performances, as well as plenty of food and locally made gifts.

Lei Day is all about giving and receiving aloha — and wearing leis that are one of eight colors, each representing one of Hawaii’s eight major islands. At Barack Obama’s (and my) alma mater, Punahou School, there is a grand Holoku pageant that features a royal court and lots of Hawaiian music and Polynesian dancing.

In other parts of the world, May Day means something rather different:

  • In England and other parts of Europe, a Queen of the May is crowned, and there is dancing around a maypole to celebrate the first day of summer.
  • My students tell me that only in Zurich (but not in other cities in Switzerland), there right-wing groups riot in the streets.
  • In other countries such as Greece and Australia, today is International Workers’ Day, kind of like the U.S.’s Labor Day (in early September)
  • Finally, in (post-)Communist countries like China and Russia, there are formal parades in the streets to celebrate the people’s earnest work.

However you celebrate today, I hope you receive a little “aloha.” Welcome to summer!

May Day in Cerne Abbas village in Dorset

Tomorrow is May Day when spring is to be celebrated by dancing around a pole, wearing a flower wreath, arranging a bouquet, celebrating workers or honoring the Virgin Mary. It depends on where you’re from and when you grew up.

When my mother was a girl growing up in Appalachian Kentucky, she dressed in a white dress to dance around a May pole during a school-wide celebration. Early settlers of her town were steeped in the culture of Ireland, Scotland and England, so a May Day spin off in Celtic traditions was a natural fit. Here’s a YouTube video from last year’s May Day celebration in Cerne Abbas village in Dorset, England where folk dancing and the May Pole are still traditions.