While squeegee guys were outlawed in New York over a decade ago, in Mexico you still can’t stop at a red light without multiple zombies shambling over to you from the sidewalk, clutching filthy rags in their hands. Their goal is to smear said rags across your windshield and then get a couple of pesos for having done so. Is it any wonder that they are looked down upon by everyone from the Jaguar-driving businessmen to the jalopy-driving junkie thieves? Everyone hates these fucking windshield washers. Except us. We think they are just the cutest little pariahs we ever did see. Or at least we did until we hung out with a couple of them.
In order to learn a little more about their daily life, we spent some time with two windshield washers in Garibaldi, Paseo de la Reforma. Please meet Araceli, hugging her bottle of Coke filled with water and soap, and Enrique, constantly inhaling a mystery substance from between his hands.
Vice: Araceli, how long have you been cleaning windshields?
Araceli: Since I was 14—so I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I get more money than I would working in a... how do you call it? A factory.
So this is a better job.
Araceli: Yeah, especially since I don’t have any papers.
Where do you sleep?
Araceli: I pay for a hotel.
Enrique: Me too, me too. My name is Enrique Nicolas Marin.
Hi Enrique. How do people generally treat you when you want to clean their windshields?
Enrique: It depends. There are a lot of rude people...
At this point, a third windshield cleaner tried to snatch my tape recorder. He couldn’t get it quick enough, and I ran to the other side of the street. He followed.
Third windshield cleaner: You motherfucker! I’m gonna kill you! I’m gonna break you, you son of a bitch!
He continued running behind me, but not quite fast enough (he looked kind of weak and undernourished). Still, I wanted to avoid any confrontation. At this point, a minivan without license plates stopped near me and two guys, who I later learned were federal cops, started shouting. One of them caught up with my pursuer.
“Get back to the sewers, you piece of shit!” he said as he lifted him off the ground with a really well-placed kick in his windshield-cleaning ass.
And, like a dog, he slunk back toward his pack.
“Are you OK? Did he steal something from you?” asked one of the cops.
“No. I’m fine.”
Thus ended my time with the windshield cleaners of Mexico.
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