Every summer, the Hamptons becomes a billionaires’ playground. In the collection of historic towns and villages on the Atlantic Ocean where beachfront mansions change hands for more than a $100m (£64m), the streets are lined with designer boutiques and the roads are clogged bumper-to-bumper with Ferraris, Range Rovers and Maseratis.
Life is not so much fun, however, for the army of local people and recent immigrants who work to keep the swelling numbers of the super-rich happy. And as Labor Day approaches – the unofficial end of the American summer – life is likely to get worse.
“This is not paradise for me,” said Natacha Castillo, 19, who came from the Dominican Republic to Southampton, which is regarded as the most luxurious area of the Hamptons, in search of a better life three years ago. She didn’t find it.
Castillo works in a luxury beauty salon washing the hair of the world’s richest and most famous women for $9-an-hour. Her clients, who Castillo says don’t bat an eyelid at paying $60 for a blow dry or $1,000 for a massage, often ignore her “and sometimes they treat us like we are servants”. But they do tip well. Castillo, who is studying cosmetology at college, can make $650 a week with tips, but “without tips I can do nothing”.
Castillo is part of the largely unseen, mostly Latino, workforce toiling all summer clearing plates in the restaurants, scrubbing the mansions and maintaining their privet hedges. “I don’t like this town,” Castillo said as she walked home in the twilight after a long day at the salon. “You spend all your summer working to have something to live on in the winter.”
Her family – a stay-at-home mother, carpenter step-father and younger brother and sister – struggle to get by just a few miles from some of the most expensive real estate in the world. “Those of us who live here, we are not rich, we have to work to make money, even more in the summer. If we want to be OK in the winter we have to work a lot in the summer, so we can hardly enjoy the summer.”
Castillo doesn’t have any friends who live “south of the highway” – the Manhattan-to-Montauk highway that divides the
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