Friday, August 13, 2010

La Elotera: Part II

"Los esta vendiendo a cinco la vieja chucha..."

These words of frustration, overheard earlier this week, were uttered by one of the Muni's refuse collectors after he had sounded out the elotera on the cost of her wares.

A similar scene occurred the next day when a truck-driver, having spent several minutes trying to park his vehicle so that it wouldn't cause a major obstruction and then having approached the elotera rubbing his hands together enthusiastically, found her steadfast in her unwillingness to offer discounts. She won't haggle; it's take it or leave it.

And why not, when potential customers willing to fork out cinco billetes are approaching from the four cardinal directions?

One of these is the chap we cheekily refer to as the 'Man from Delmonte', who pootles around Panorama on his bicycle wearing a beige waistcoat and a Panama hat, with a large automatic pistol protruding from the rim of his brown leather riding boot.

Meanwhile, parsimonious punters can get themselves four tortillas for Q1 from Doña Mari and a chile relleno from Doña Tere for Q3.50 and still be better off by 50 centavos.

As 'Anonymous' pointed out, I have chosen to illustrate only (part) of our elotera's gross income, because I can only speculate as to the extent of her production costs. She comes and goes by tuctuc every day from an outlying aldea, so we might have to assume that she's paying up to Q40 a day for transportation.

However, by not being 'middle class' she's probably sparing herself the outgoings associated with taxation and personal debt, but who knows, she may have a drink problem that needs funding. She's certainly saving a few centavos by employing her daughter as a waitress (see image above) and no doubt the management of the domestic milpa involves similar arrangements.

The spot is nevertheless lucrative enough that she and her sister had a frank and public exchange of elotazos over it a while back.

Yesterday we witnessed the first proper motor accident occasioned by this thriving local business. No doubt the first of many to come.

In the comment she left on my original post, Cristina bemoaned the fact that members of the informal economy are able to "set up shop wherever they wish, leaving their trash behind."

Now, whilst the elotera in question does pick up her trash these days, she makes sure she only gathers her own trash. So she'll pick up a discarded tusa even if she has to gently shift the empty Tortrix packet that has settled on top of it.

This is fairly standard Chapin operating procedure. I've mentioned before the amazement and amusement I feel when watching my neighbours watering the road outside their homes. The care and attention they give to making sure that not one single drop strays over the imaginary line separting their own 'road space' and their next-door neighbours' is impressive. Of course none of the dust and other assorted basura could ever blow over into their territory the moment they go back inside!)

You might think that this kind of reflexive selfishness is typical of a third world mentality, but I'm not so sure. That there might be something more atavistic at work here occurs to me every time I watch Spanish TV. For whenever the weather forecast comes on the reporter is standing front of a map of the Iberian peninsula on which detailed information regarding conditions is displayed...except down the little strip on the left-hand side: Portugal. (You'd think that the people living on the border might actually be interested if it's raining on the other side.)

Again you might come and tell me that this is common elsewhere. Maybe the forecast in Louisiana takes no heed of what's happening next door in Texas, but in Spain it seems to run a little deeper, I assure you. I have driven extensively on the continent of Europe and only in Spain have I been speeding along some excellent newly-surfaced highway only to end up suddenly in what can only be described as a gravel trap.

Shifting into reverse, one then notes the sign informing drivers that they have just passed from one regional jurisdiction into another and of course whoever funded the improvements to this road was never going to waste a dollop of tarmac on the bunch next door's patch.


Anonymous said...

You have a great ear for chapin-speak. I enjoy your snippets of conversation and use of chapinismos very much.

Cristina said...

Pues la verdad, que chucha la vieja de los elotes! You can´t get any more chapin than with this phrase.
I´ve heard the Philippines has the exact same problems as any Latin American country. Ahem... They too were a Spanish colony. And as for the neighbors thinking that they only have to keep their own little space clean: this week we had the albañiles working next door pour a bucket of urine right in front of our door. They figured the stench wouldn´t reach the house they´re working on, which of course didn´t happen because we ended up cleaning, and giving the neighbors a piece of our mind, too.