Seattle: Mexicans

Most home improvement stores in Seattle have a feature not found in my east coast city of Rochester. When you pull into a Loews you’ll likely find a small group of Mexican men standing off to the side. They’re looking for day work. If you come out of the store with lumber they’ll come running over, offer to help you load your vehicle, and ask if they can come to your house and help with the project. Generally, this system works. The Mexicans do okay work and don’t charge too much or try to rob you.

This particular day we pull into Loews and there are eight Mexicans standing under some trees at the edge of the parking lot scanning the American asphalt for opportunity. Inside Loews we wrestle several 80-pound bags of ready-mix concrete into a shopping cart with three-and-a-half wheels. We manage to tear a small hole in each bag and the cart is so loaded that the bad wheel won’t even wobble; it just shuts down.

This is turning out to be a Four-H day: Hot, Humid, Hungover, and, by the time I get to the cashier, I can feel my old Hernia operation. I wonder how little I can offer one of those Mexicans to hoist these bags into the trunk of our car. I’m willing to go five bucks.

Outside again, my eyes adjust to the bright sun and I search the shadows under the trees for the Mexicans. There are none to be seen. In their place are two young Caucasian men with the physiques of college lifeguards. Their tanned and toned arms are folded seriously across their chests, their sleeves rolled up tight. They wear Nike running shoes and have semi-automatic pistols and handcuffs strapped to their waists. They sport sunglasses and blue baseball caps with white lettering, two words of which I can just make out: “Immigration Control.”

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One Comment on “Seattle: Mexicans”

  1. Diane Says:

    This is not just a Seattle phenomenon. There were particular corners n San Francisco where one could easily hire day laborers such as described; I now live in Vancouver, BC and understand the same is true here, but have never seen it myself.
    A friend in San Francisco, whio hired such men regularly, spoke sufficent Spanish and reported:
    1. The men were from Central America, e.g. El Salvador, Guatemala as well as Mexico.
    2. They were efficent, hard workers who followed directions when the directions were ones they could understand.
    3. Many men shared living quarters in order to maximize the amount of money they could send to their families in their home countries.
    4. None of them would have come to USA to work if they had been able to make enough money in their homes countries to give their familiies a decent life.

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