Un Recuerdo de los pobres…

29 Jul

In Mexico City, the vast number of the urban poor here work informal jobs on the black market, running taco stands and selling pirate DVDs, washing car windows and cleaning houses. They do what they can to eek out a living and although they are everywhere, on every street corner, I have come to see them as almost a part of the cityscape, another face in the throng. Like the homeless in New York who blend into the garbage bags and become almost invisible, the workers in the street have become less human beings to me and more just another part of this pulsing, vibrant urban swirl.

Yet today I finally came face-to-face with the ignorance of this point of view. As I was stopped at an intersection, a young man approached me and asked me to take his picture. He was a part of a large crew of gritty, hardened window-washers who swarmed the cars during red lights and tired to earn a few pesos. I had my conspicuous camera round my neck, working on a project for my photo class, and so I willingly snapped a shot of him and then a few of his smiling friends.

As the light turned green and I started to walk across the avenue, he yelled after me to put the picture in a big frame, and keep it as a memory of los pobres, of the poor and impoverished people who live here in Mexico City. I don’t exactly need a giant picture on my wall to remind me of the abject poverty the vast majority of the chilangos live in, yet his comment was sobering and was a well-needed wake up call.

I have been here a little over a month, and yet I have barely left my comfort zone. I have already become a chica del barrio, and hardly ever leave the city center and my lovely little colonia, La Roma. Yet the middle class, tree-lined neighborhood I live in is very different from the harsh reality of the rest of the DF, and it’s a reality I’ve been both avoiding and ignoring.  While it is all to easy to walk past the grimy hands that reach up from the sidewalk to ask for a moneda, or shake my head when the old man tries to sell me candy on the metro, after today I will no longer be able to do so with such an empty conscious.

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