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Meet Bartolomé
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-02-01 18:03:40 | Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Keywords: Interview
Another portrait of someone doing a regular job that virtually (or totally) doesn't exist in Canada/USA anymore. I present you Bartolomé, a 71-year old man, having 34 years of experience in making shoes shine like new. I met him on the central place of the city of Oaxaca. He's far from being alone there... on that little place, there are almost 40 others with their chair and booth just like him. Not counting the roaming ones walking around with their little bench and box of accessories, proposing their services to the people sitting on benches or at the terrasse of a restaurant. I'd say most of those walking shoe shiners are young boys.

The job is called “aseador de calzado” which would translate roughly as “shoe janitor”. He loves his job for many reasons. First of all, he gets to work outside all the time (always in the same spot of the same park), enjoying the very good weather Oaxaca provides all year-around. His working hours are long... from 8 AM to 8 PM, 7 days a week. Then, he loves to meet people and make them look nice with nice and clean shoes. Of course, his work provides him with a good living which is important of course.

Mexicans love their leather shoes and you'll see men and women of all ages wearing them. That's why the client base is so large and why were are so many doing that job. Just like the clients, most of the workers are men. Bartolomé told me about 2 or 3 women doing it in Oaxaca... assuming there are probably at least 300 of shoe shiners in Oxaca... that's about 1% of this workforce that is made out of women.

In between clients, he reads the journal.


Bartolomé has his regular customers who come to seek his services on a regular basis. Depending on the client, that could be a few times a week or a few times a month. Some of them leave them an extra pair of shoes to clean while they do errands and come back to pick them up later. On a good day, he serves more than 20 clients, with a base rate of 15 pesos (more depending of the services provided). Some of his colleagues earn extra revenues by having advertising on their booth, selling newspapers or candies to their clients.

In Canada and USA, we barely see these workers anymore, except in train stations. Here in Mexico, they are all over the place. Thank you Bartolomé for your time and sharing your experience.


Walking kids shoe shiners

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