I woke up this morning thinking about the Mexican people and how hard they work. Every day, from sun up till well after sun down, they are out working hard to earn a living.

We, from the US, are quite spoiled with our eight-hour, five-day work weeks. Here, everyone works six days a week, and many more than eight hours, if that’s what it takes to earn a living.

It is true that Mexico does not have a lot of the conveniences that “we” are accustomed to, but their people work. Everyday you see people whose jobs it is to sweep the streets, not with fancy trucks, but with brooms. And not with big, wide, thick bristled brooms like most of us use to sweep our garages, but with brooms that look like something out of Harry Potter or those cinnamon stick brooms used for decor. They sweep the streets and the sidewalks, every day, all day. There are the people whose jobs it is to empty out the trash bins that line the streets, too. They have carts that they drag around so they can literally remove the old can and replace it with a new one.

Musicians outside restaurant in Querétaro Then there are the people who walk the streets selling handmade dolls, candy and sweets, gum, t-shirts, purses, etc., and so on. Oh, and the many musicians that entertain you first outside the plentiful outdoor restaurants and later ask for a small donation. There are the jugglers, and the people who wash the car windows, the vendors selling balloons and children’s toys in the plazas. The man selling roses to couples walking by or in the cafes.

These are the people who don’t have regular “jobs.” Yet they work. And they work. And they work.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve relied on Uber for our transportation. I typically ask the driver whether it is their only job. Sometimes it is, like in the case of the former police officer who wanted more time to spend with his daughter. He sacrificed income for quality of life. Then there was the young man who is an aviation engineer. When he is not on assignment in some other country, he drives for Uber. He finds it difficult to be away from his family for months at a time, but he does what he must. With two young daughters, he has to provide for them. And, yes, his wife works too.

I think, too, about our Airbnb host. She is a young woman, I’d say under 30, who works multiple jobs. She’s an event planner, imports and sells clothing, and runs an Airbnb. I bet she works seven days a week.

In Puerto Vallarta, there would frequently be someone on the bus singing for small change, or entertaining (a clown, perhaps), explaining that he had a sick wife and needed help. People used their talents in whatever way they could to earn money. Earn. They don’t expect you to just give it to them. They want to earn it.

Around the corner from our Airbnb, there is a small “artisanal” ice cream shop. We walk by it on our daily walks with the dogs. The shop is a bit smaller than my old walk-in closet. There this young couple have a small freezer with six handmade ice cream flavors. For weeks we walked by without much notice. Then, one day, they offered us samples. I rarely have cash on me, but the other day, I made a point of carrying some so I could stop and buy us a couple of cones. Lyn had chocolate and I had Lemon Pie! Two cones, $24 MX. That’s just over a $1 US. For something they crafted themselves, made in quantity and sold from a closet-sized shop on a quiet street. Can you imagine how much ice cream you have to sell in order to make a living?

This is fairly typical here. Every day we pass similar size places where they are making tacos and gorditas, selling agua fresca, ice cream and local sweets. Are there beggars? Sure there are. But few. They break your heart. Amputees, old women just sitting on the curb with a hand out, dirty children that come out of no where. But they are the minority.

In Boise, there were always beggars on the main intersections and in front of shopping centers. They held signs that said things like “homeless veteran, anything helps” written on cardboard. I often wondered if there was an underground industry for those signs, since they all looked the same. Often, we gave them a little something. Perhaps we should have given them a broom or a cart. Maybe that would have given them a purpose, and a paycheck.

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