May Day is coming up. An op-ed piece was printed in the Oaxaca Noticias daily newspaper criticizing the employment practices of WalMart and VIPS.
I and many expats here usually tip 20% to help make up for their small salaries and for all the people who don’t tip at all. I talked with a woman expat from Europe who has lived here 30 years and now makes sausage and baked goods to sell. She was trained as a nurse. The working conditions are terrible she said….nurses are expected to contribute out of their salaries to the electricity and janitorial services of the hospital…among other expenses.
In the year that I have been in my apartment I have found out that Adelina, who works for the landlord 12 hours a day (cleaning, cooking) and is supposed to clean all our apartments once a month (free cleaning the landlord said when I moved in) and does all the washing by hand, gets about $7.00 a day. (However, instead of buying a washing machine for her, the landlord has bought a gas lawn mower so he can mow the postage stamp lawn in the courtyard.) Adelina lives in a rusty tin-hut at the end of an ally on the other side of the Periferico…no water…no cooking facilities…just a room barely big enough for a double bed for her and her daughter. She walks to work and back home at 9 at night in the dark…about 2 miles.
The landlord owns several business/office spaces in my block and another apartment house on another street…at least that I know of. They are well to do by anybody’s standards. Ana, who is bilingual, found out from her regular vendor at the market that our landlord, whose son has a chilli stall and lives downstairs, is very powerful in the market. The way our landlords have made their money, the vendor says, is by lending money to the sellers in the market at 25% interest…which may be their only option…I have no way of knowing.
For my part I have told sweet cheery Adelina she doesn’t have to clean my apartment. Before she returned home to Canada, Ana, who lived next door, used to give Adelina $20 a month for a tip for apartment cleaning. When I leave I will give Adelina money for her services (answering the gate and providing security) during the year so she can send her 5 year old daughter to school next year.
Foreigners, at least those not living on the local economy, get charged more for everything, which would be ok, except that it drives up the cost of living for the locals. It’s not that I want do-good credit for this…it’s to warn other travelers what to expect who come here to live short-term. I am retired and fortunately don’t have to live on the local economy. I have no idea what it is like for foreigners who live and work here.