This is my gardener and pool guy, Antonio. I’ve mentioned him before, but I think now it’s time to write about him. Antonio is a great guy, and a hard working one, as so many men here in Mexico are. If you live north of the border, you may have a mental picture of the “lazy Mexican,” the one snoozing away under a sombrero in the heat of the day. But for the most part, it just ain’t so.
Antonio is 32 years old and is responsible for supporting his wife and one year old son, Pedro, as well as his mother since his dad died a few years ago. And to do so, he works fulltime in construction, as my gardener/pool guy twice a week for about six hours, and as a handyman for a lot of gringos in Jocotepec and nearby areas on an as needed basis. Every week he works full six days, as most Mexicans do, and often he winds up working on Sundays as well. And when he’s not working for somebody else on Sunday, he spends his time in his large garden where he grows food for the family….and for me, as well. Whenever he has extras from the garden, he brings them over to share with me. Last week it was huge radishes and some of the sweetest beets I’ve ever had in my life.
Antonio and his uncle, Ramon, are currently in the process of rebuilding a house here in Joco. Because they don’t have the luxury of hiring big equipment and just leveling the place and starting over, they are doing the bulk of the work by hand, saving what they can use and tearing down what they can’t.
Here’s a picture of Antonio, Ramon, and I taken a few weeks ago at the construction site. When’s the last time you were this happy in your work?
Here are a couple of pictures of the largest piece of equipment they were using that day….while in the process of rebuilding a two story house:
And here’s the only other piece of electrical equipment they were using:
It’s hard, dirty work, and yet Antonio and Ramon do it gladly. They know how fortunate they are to have work at all. As the old saying goes, when the United States sneezes, Mexico gets a cold. And these days, the United States is not just sneezing, it’s got the full blown flu. Mexican men and women who have been working in the US for years … legally or illegally … and sending home their earnings to their families here are no longer doing so.
Those minimum wage jobs that most Americans didn’t want … gardeners, maids, hotel housekeepers, dishwashers, and laborers, for example … are, apparently, now being filled by people who used to have “good” jobs which no longer exist. What this means is that even “legal” Mexicans are being shoved aside and having to return to their families here. So with a glut of workers, any Mexican who can find work in Mexico paying enough to support his/her family likely considers him or herself lucky.
And Antonio does. He’s in the midst of preparing for his son’s first birthday and baptism. Scrambling for the money to pay for the fiesta that Mexican culture pretty much requires. Nothing particularly fancy. Just a large cake, tortillas and pozole enough for all the invitees. But since you have to invite your family, and Mexican extended families are large, it can still add up.
So when he left my house this afternoon, he was headed to San Juan Cosala, the pueblo to the east of us, to try to find a whole pig for sale. He’s been looking here in Joco without success, since times are hard and most people are hanging on to one of their sources of food.
I asked him if he was going to visit a butcher in San Juan Cosala, but he said no, he was just going to go down to the plaza in SJC and ask around. Surely, he said, someone there would know of somebody who had a pig for sale. And, he added, he was lucky because he actually had the cash to pay for it.