A Mexican Working Class Hero


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.


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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4 Responses to A Mexican Working Class Hero

  1. Kathi says:

    Oh Gee…..tell him there’s a piggy running around on Ribera del Lago just down the street from me. We could catch it for him.

  2. In the photos was a picture that included a small Cement/Concrete Mixer. You can tell how successful (and intelligent) Ramon is. Most independents like him mix their concrete in tiny batches, oft times in the street. The quality of that concrete isn’t of the highest standards for a number of reasons.

    An important lesson I learned here relates to the comment about the “lazy” Mexican snoozing in the afternoon. When the weather turns warmer here, usually March > June, workmen often start before dawn and work until the temperature is into the 90’s. They’ll then take a break mid-day, have comida (the big meal of the day), then rest/siesta and often then return back to work after the sun goes down.

    I’ve met several “lazy Mexicans” here, but a far smaller percentage than the “lazy Norte Americanos” I’ve known north of the border. Sorry, I calls’em as I see’em. Mike

  3. gayle says:

    Hi Barbara, from Portland Oregon. I just commented on your post to Pat Walker’s blog about the approximate $10k per year it costs you at Chapala. Then I thought to click on your name and … voila! Yes, you have a blogsite. My good luck!

    So, can you please share a bit about the quality of your days/evenings in Jocotopec? Your ‘pool guy’ – so you have a pool where you are staying? I was in Jocotopec last October & I liked it, but I only hung out at the plaza for a bit and then walked to the pier. I stayed in San Antonio, and like that location too. I’m ready to retire, my hands hurt from all this cold rain here in Portland … trying to decide WHEN to make the big decision! Hope you find some time to write me!

    • Barbara says:

      gayle, i have just sent you an email with a lot of detailed information! let me know if you don’t get it.

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