Photographer Nicole Rodriguez traveled to Marion, Alabama to document life in the developing town. Check out this excerpt from her article and her accompanying photo essay.

After driving a little over an hour, a Perry County sign popped up on my right side as the car wound up a hill and rolled into downtown Marion, Alabama. This wasn’t my first visit; I began making trips three summers ago as part of Black Belt Action, an annual honors program which dedicates time and effort to the town a week before the fall semester.
Marion lies in the middle of the Black Belt, a region known for its rich, fertile soil. Because of this, many small towns in this area were once home to plantations, making the Black Belt the most densely populated area of the South during the 19th century.

Nowadays, the collects a variety of people; some were born and raised in Perry County, while others came for business, school or agriculture. This mosaic of people are what makes Marion the hodgepodge it has come to be. Regardless of why these people came, they stayed for the community. Four residents allowed me to peek into their lives to put together the pieces that is Marion.

Read the rest of Nicole’s article and see additional photos in the online issue of Mosaic, to be published in January 2016.