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Be gone, foul dirt! Vaya con Dios!

Don't ever let anyone tell you your height will stop you from being a successful windshield cleaner. This gentleman is well-versed in the art of minivan-perching.

Don't ever let anyone tell you your height will stop you from being a successful windshield cleaner. This gentleman is well-versed in the art of minivan-perching.

For a city with such a reputation for being dirty, filthy, polluted and the like, Mexico City really loathes dirt. I have never experienced a city where there is such constant cleaning going on. You see this exhibited in various ways in cities across Mexico…

  • the guys hanging out in every parking lot/popular street parking area offering to wash your car for 20-30 pesos….
  • the dudes wandering the median at any busy intersection with a long traffic light, ready to alight upon your car with a soda bottle of sudsy water & a piece of rubber to wipe clean that filthy windshield in hopes of earning a few-peso tip…
  • the bottles of hand sanitizer at the entrance of many shops/restaurants…
  • the infinite number of women employed as maids by middle/upper class households, who travel long distances to scrub down every surface of these homes on a weekly or daily basis…
  • every busy sidewalk lined with shoe polishing stands, where a gent can have a brief sit, a chat, and come away 15 pesos lighter but able to see his reflection in his shoes…
It almost feels like this chap is dancing down the street, yet still hard at work sweeping up a storm

It almost feels like this chap is dancing down the street, yet still hard at work sweeping up a storm

But of all the cleaning I see (and try to avoid engaging in), my favorite is the sweeping. The constant sweeping. The brooms crafted by hand from dozens of tree twigs lashed to a larger branch… There are also the squeegies whisking away dirt off not only windows, but any tile floor/sidewalk resembling something that could possibly be squeegied… But it’s really the brooms–cleaning streets, cleaning sidewalks, cleaning dirt. It is impressive.

One of our apartment building-mates told us that she is often woken up at 5AM by a man vigorously sweeping the street with one of those twig numbers outside her apartment window. Everything is silent at that hour in DF, except for the steady cadence of “whisk, whisk, whisk”…

I suppose this shouldn’t be that novel in a city without street cleaning machines. Someone has to keep those roads clear of debris so we can see the sheep-sized potholes. But I am nonetheless fascinated at almost every restaurant, shop, and home’s daily battle against leaves, rocks, and dust. Literally every day when I’m out and about, I walk by no fewer than a dozen people sweeping the ground. Moving leaves into piles, shifting pebbles to a more opportune locale…

The best of the best is the people sweeping dirt off of dirt. As in: there is a spot of land that used to have grass but the grass is gone, so now it’s just dirt… But apparently excess dirt has gathered there, and it must be removed. Or at least given a new home. It’s been all I could do to not stop & inquire how they will know when they are finished with that section.

To be clear, all this sweeping does serve a purpose, since the air here does leave a visible black, dusty coating on things over time. (our point of reference: the interior ledge of the constantly-open window in our guest bedroom: filthy)  So please know that I am not criticizing the many, the proud, the sweepers of Mexico. But you have to wonder if this guy in the “Highway Outside the Gas Station Sweeper” position…

Forgive the crap photo taken from our car window, but I had to capture this thankless task...

Forgive the crap photo taken from our car window, but I had to capture this thankless task...

…ever gets a little frustrated when he’s FINALLY finished collecting all the dirt off of the roadway, and then one of these trucks drives by:

Would hate to be on the side of the road of this 3-tiered pig truck, especially if any of those guys have had a hearty meal recently... (again, apologies for moving-car-photo)

Would hate to be on the side of the road of this 3-tiered pig truck, especially if any of those guys have had a hearty meal recently... (again, apologies for moving-car-photo)

In fact, the culture of clean is so prevalent here that even the alebrijes get into the act:

We will not tolerate any foul dragonflies polluting the streets of DF. They will be dealt with harshly...

We will not tolerate any foul dragonflies polluting the streets of DF. They will be dealt with harshly...

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1 Comment on “Be gone, foul dirt! Vaya con Dios!”

  1. #1 iliasmerkouri
    on Dec 25th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

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