Monday 6 February 2023

Screaming for a Living: More than 5,000 try to earn a living in the streets of San Jose

Street vendors deal with people who often don't even move their heads as a sign that they don't want their products. That is just one of the complications they faced by street vendors daily

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QCOSTARICA – More than 5,000 people try to earn a living informally in the streets of San José by selling all kinds of products. They are joined by others who need to ask for “a little help.”

Photo: Alonso Tenorio

The coronavirus further complicated a job that is carried out in the sun and rain and that does not ensure the day’s food: there is less money to share and the fear of contagion drives away solidarity.

According to data from the Observatorio de Comercio Ilícito de la Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica – Illicit Trade Observatory of the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce – showed in 2018 that only in the central case of San José there were about 5,500.

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At present many of them, in addition to working informally and avoiding the municipal police who ensure that they do not obstruct the roads, now deal with the low sales derived by unemployment and the fear of people to approach and interact, due to the coronavirus.

Photo: Alonso Tenorio

Working the streets, either to drivers in cars at red lights or on the boulevards of the capital city, the reality is the same.

In the avenues and boulevards, people do not close the car window: they only turn their gaze and accelerate their walk. They seek to avoid those who are there to earn a living.

Photo: Alonso Tenorio

San José, even when going through a health crisis, is still bustling and busy. The only thing different is that most people cover their faces with masks.

“I sell because I need to work. I have been an itinerant for 30 years. During the pandemic I have done badly. People are already more outside, they are close, they do not maintain any distance: you see them without a mask, as they already lose respect for the virus.

“What happens is that they do not spend money. You can see that they are window shopping. One has a hard time here. You have to put up with your physiological needs, because if you can’t find someone to lend you a bathroom, you have to pay for one,” she whispers as she watches that no municipal police come.

Photo: Alonso Tenorio
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Doña Xiomara, who turned 65 on November 13, and the only benefit she finds reaching this age as “ciudadana de oro” or “adulta mayor” is that she can now ride the bus for free, a benefit enjoyed by the elderly in the country.

In addition to facing low sales, weathering the elements, the pandemic, working informally also means avoiding the municipal police in a constant game of “cat and mouse”.
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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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