Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Mexico City Christmas Story

We had tickets to hear Tony Bennett in concert at the Teatro Metropolitan last Monday and our friends Stan and Bill came down from San Miguel de Allende to join us.
The most recent success of the 86-year old singer, an album of duets with the likes of Lady Gaga, ranks in the top 20, so we were curious to hear him live and wondered about the audience--I'd never heard his name mentioned in Mexico.
After warming up at home with a few tequilas, we planned to grab a cab to our favorite Chinese restaurant in the centro--just around the corner from the theater.
But I forgot about the traffic.
Everybody's on the move in Mexico City during December, so the caos vial is even worse than usual. At 7PM the traffic at Insurgentes and San Luis Potosí was melding toward gridlock. Lots of people were waiting for cabs, which all passed by full or off-duty.
Despair was imminent when Nick called out to me, "Do you know this guy?"
He was pointing to a large sliver grey SUV. In the driver's seat a doughy faced, middle aged man was gesturing energetically for us to come to him. I'd never seen him before in my life.
"Where are you going? Get in, I'll take you!" he called out in Spanish.
Nick and I looked at each other bewildered.
"Are you a car service?"Nick asked.
"No, I'm just on my way home from work and I have some time to kill. Get in."
Stan and Bill drew near. Taking one more scan of the taxi-less street, we did a quick calculation--four against one--and got into the car. It was a very comfortable vehicle.
Our samaritan clearly knew the city well and made a few crafty detours to avoid traffic. We talked about his family (his son in La Jolla sells vacuum cleaners), about Chinese food, about Tony Bennett ("Of course I know him!").
He insisted on taking us directly to the door of the restaurant.
"Can we offer you something for your services?"
"Nada más un saludo," he replied.
The four of us got out of the car feeling remarkably happy.
We shook his hand and thanked him for the first present of Christmas.
The Chinese food was excellent, and Tony Bennett knocked our stockings off.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


If you live in Mexico and have employees, it's time to start thinking about paying the aguinaldo, the annual Christmas bonus that is required by Mexican law. The aguinaldo must equal 15 days of salary, and must be paid on or before the 20th of December. It must be paid in cash--gifts,Christmas baskets, and other presents do not fulfill the requirement. To calculate the amount for a part-time employee, divide the number of days worked during the year past by 365. Multiply that figure by 15 x the daily salary to determine the amount of the aguinaldo.

My friend Veronica's father is severly ill, but the doctors have said there is nothing more they can do. So she took him home from the hospital and hired someone from an agency (not a professional nurse) to care for him. His chores include bathing, grooming, feeding, changing diapers, and moving him every 15 minutes to avoid bed sores. He works from 8am to 8pm. The fee for all this is 350 pesos a day, but while talking to the worker, Veronica discovered that he only gets 100 pesos a day--the agency gets the rest. 

The minimum wage for Mexico City is under 63 pesos a day. Happy Holidays