As I walked down the street from Ralph’s with one hand carrying a milk gallon and the other carrying a bag with tostadas, I couldn’t help but to notice streets vendors working out in the sun. I saw the fruit man who looks like he can be my father’s age cutting up fruit. I always get happy when I see the cart almost empty, but then I remember that the grind doesn’t stop there.
I began to think about how I could only see my raza or Latino/a people working labor- intensive jobs everyday at school and in Westwood. I entered work at 8am and opened the doors of the Student Activities Center to see the maintenance worker who calls me princesa (princess) sweeping the floor. Then when I stocked the food closet another maintenance worker comes in and jokes in Spanish with me about what’s for breakfast and he says “conchas? (Mexican sweet bread)”, I say “I wish” then we both tell each other to have a great day.
The story of Don Fidencio the paletero (ice cream man) from Chicago made me feel bittersweet. One day as he was pushing his popsicle cart, Joel Cervantes Macias saw him working and decided that he would help him by starting a campaign to raise funds for him and his wife. The reason why I felt happy was because an act of kindness and compassion helped him and his wife retire. I felt sad to know that at his age he was still working a job that required him to push a popsicle cart out in the hot sun.
This story is heartwarming but I had questions. If Don Fidencio was not 89 but still in his good 50’s would he still have gotten the help? I do not think he would have. There are a lot of workers who are mature in age and are still working labor-intensive jobs such as the seventy-year-old car wash worker my sister interviewed. Don Fidencio will be able to retire but what about the rest of the street vendors who will continue working until they reach a certain age? What will they do when it becomes too difficult to work? Would they still be able to retire like Don Fidencio? I do not think they will be able to retire. Being undocumented, and working in low-paid jobs will also result in working in more than one job.
It puts into perspective the future of workers with labor intensive jobs such as street vendors, maintenance workers, painters, farmers, gardeners…etc.…when will they be able to retire? Will they be able to retire? Will they have a better living condition at the age of Don Fidencio or will they be working more than two jobs at his age?
I think of my parents, who will one day get to an age where they will no longer have the strength to work their low-paid jobs. I look away from the street vendors and realize that they will not be able to retire like Don Fidencio has at the age of 89.