Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buscando Jobs En Mexico- Part Two

Every Friday after work, I reward myself to a beer, as per family tradition. My favorite, Bohemia, is always two for one at Oxxo, or as it is now known, 'La oferta de La Coja' (in English, La Coja Friday Special). When I sit down in the middle of Plaza de la Paz with my Bohemias on my Friday afternoons, I ponder suggesting this practice to St. Peter someday.

Yesterday however, turn out a bit differently. As I was looking for a place to sit, I came upon a man who is blind sitting in my usual spot. Navigating any place, no less the alleys, buses and dead ends of Guanajuato, is no easy task. When I see a person with little to no sight making his or her way around the city often leaves me staring in amazement. With a little liquid confidence in me, I offered him my other Bohemia. The man took my hands into his and thought for a moment. "Young lady you have arthritis dont you...." He might be a witch or perhaps a conman, but either way I had to find out who this man was.

Miguel Ramirez sits outside Plaza de la Paz everyday from 1 to 6 pm. A double sided, dual language laminated sign adorns his neck with the following message. "I am blind and cannot work. I am glad to give you any type of candy I have for your help. Thank you and God Bless You, Miguel". Mr Miguel is very upfront about his disability. He is proud, and rightfully so, of his abilities to get what he needs on his own.

He began working in the mines of Guanajuato and those on the border from an early age. He acquired his disability eleven years ago when a rock fell on right side of his head. Upon asking for his government disability pension, he was offered pain pills and nothing more. Lacking support from the government, he went looking for work--any kind of work, but found nothing. According to Mr. Miguel, the current governmental culture in Guanajuato is such that if one has a disability, the possibility of employment is nil.

Mr Miguel however is quick to point out that although the current government does not dedicate many resources to people with disabilities, empowerment in Guanajuato does indeed exist. His childhood friend, the former governor Carlos Romero Hicks, found him a fairly accessible house. Several local surgeons have helped to form a local blind coalition, Nueva Luz. Nueva Luz has no monetary funds but it rich in human resources. At the local Casa de la Cultura, experienced blind people teach other blind citizens how to navigate life. The coalition looks to empower its people with classes on cooking, taking the buses, braille, and ones civil rights.

What endears me most to Mr. Miguel is his ability to relate. He gave me directions to new more accessible routes to my house and to shopping. He asked me how I climb the bus, manage to stay on and eventually step off. Perhaps the comment that will stay with me forever though is " Juntos si podemos senorita. " (If we stick together, we can do it young lady). Mr. Miguel, I couldn't have said it better.

Post Script- Bohemia really is the best beer in Mexico.

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