Don Carlos, shoe shiner, 58
Here, on the street, the slicks don’t let go of their mordida(1), not because of Coronavirus, not because of the pandemic, not for nothing. I mean, they don’t understand explanations. The only thing they understand is that they want their money. The no-good-doer comes and tells you “Look, goddamn shoe shiner, it’s not my problem if you don’t have clients, I want my money right now. And it’s not a question of whether you can or want. The deal here is that you give it to me. If you don’t, don’t even come near this street, or be wary of the consequences. How does that sound to you?”
Now, everything is harder with that Coronavirus thing.
Much, much harder.
In the past, on a regular day, here in Paseo de la Reforma(2), I’d polish around 30 shoes a day, adding what I made selling loose cigarettes, bubble gum, and any other thing I’d get 500(3) pesos a day. Now, in total, cigarettes and all, I barely squeeze 150 pesos. And that’s because I set-up early in the morning, by 8 AM I’m ready to open shop, and I leave until nighttime, also around 8 PM.
No matter, this just isn’t profitable. I spend more than 50 pesos on transportation alone, since I live far away, near Chalco; I need to take Combis(4), metro, and bus to get here. Then add my lunch, at least another 50 pesos. I already spent almost everything I made! And if atop all of that they come and ask that I throw 100 pesos into the platter, well you tell me where I’m gonna get it. How do I eat? How do I survive? How do I cover my household expenditures? This is madness, you listen. It’s abusive.
Truthfully, I don’t know where they come from. Some say they’re part of the Cuauhtémoc borough government, but they don’t show anything to prove it. No ID, no papers. Nothing. That’s why I’m telling you we just don’t know.
What we do know is that some come around on wednesday and charge 50 pesos to everyone, equally. Then some come around on Fridays and squeeze us another 50 pesos. We’re charged twice. 50 and 50.
Albeit, some of them know us from a long time, and claim to have a good heart, they give us a discount because of Coronavirus. They say “well, I know things are hard. Just give me half.”
I tell you, some of them are nice. But no matter how nice they are they will take something away from you. They don’t respect anything.
I have, at times, gotten into shouting matches with them, because this amount of robbery is just not fair. But, being absolutely truthful, I’m way too old to fight those no-good-doers.
I’m tired of this.
- Part of the Animal Politico “Historias de Cuarentena” series. Translated by me.
(1): Mordida is derogatory slang for bribe in Mexico, it alludes to someone literally biting off something you own.
(2): Paseo de la Reforma is one of the most important avenues in the Capital. It’s where most financial institutions are headquartered.
(3): 500 pesos is around 20 dollars, around 4x the minimum salary
(4): Combis are small busses or vans operating leased public transportation routes. Combis are known to price gouge and have significantly higher prices than the metro; justified because of their increased service area across the Mexican capital.