translated from Spanish: The epidemic left Philip without his waiter’s job, now sells ‘chitchat’

Don Felipe Méndez lasted two and a half months without work, after the closure of the legendary restaurant La Casa del Pavo, in the Historic Center, where he has been a waiter for two and a half decades. He did not get another job, although he tried – in some taqueria, in a tianguis – and his last resort was to put together “chácharas” to sell them: old iron, plastic bottles, aluminum cans.
“It’s very difficult, listen; I got to the point of looking for my irons to see what chats I can sell, because this is a bastard,” says the 58-year-old man.
“We already know that our health and our lives are in between, but we must entrust ourselves to God and cover ourselves well, protect ourselves as best we can, and to fight Him, because if not, what are we going to do?”
Find out: Mexico loses 344 thousand 526 jobs in May for COVID-19 effects
Last time, in a junkyard, he was paid 150 pesos for everything he put together, and with that he bought tortillas and bread to feed his family for two days (he lives with his two daughters and five grandchildren).
Chachareando, as he says, complements the pantries of beans, rice, sugar, cereal, pasta, gelatin and oil that Iztapalapa’s mayoralty has given him for being unemployed.
“My employer called me 15 days ago, he told me we probably opened next week, he said he spoke to me again, I’m waiting for him to dial me, but while I’m watching what I’m splashing, he hears,” he adds in a phone interview.
The story of Don Felipe sums up the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant sector, one of the most affected by the crisis.
The National Chamber of the Restaurant and Seasoned Food Industry (Canirac) has estimated the closure of 300 thousand sources of employment in this sector and an economic loss of 100 billion pesos.
Still, waiter Philip retains hope that he will get his job back.
“I hope you’ll call me. Believe me, if you call me right now, I’ll be dragged right away. I hope God wants you to open, because it’s three months,” he says.
“Imagine, I’m desperate, going back and forth in the house, I’m used to working since I was taught to work, at 12, from there to here, working as a donkey. My family says, ‘Hey, we hardly know you, you’re not here.’ I say, ‘Do I work or do I stay to be looked at?’ Now that this has happened, I say, ‘Do you want to keep watching me here?’ On the one hand it’s fine, but on the other hand, what are we going to eat? I love my family very much, but I’d rather be working to bring them something, that they don’t have to run here and there, seeing bad faces that you don’t have one need.”
Don Felipe is a believing man, but, already desperate, he entrusts himself even to Alfonso Cuarón, who filmed in La Casa del Pavo an iconic scene from his film Roma, which won an Oscar last year.
“It would be a good time to endorse your help. It would be time to really see who Alfonso Cuarón is, if he edified in solidarity with the people, not anything else with La Casa del Pavo. If I could, I would tell him not to forget the people, the people who, in some way or another, are with him and support him; whatever it doesn’t, there’s a success of Cuarón on TV and there goes all the Mexicans to support him, to buy their movies, to watch them and to give them the support, even if it is moral,” he explains.
–Did you see Rome?
–Yes, sir; I really liked it,” he says. Look, for us old people it was a nice thing, something to like, because it reflects what was fashion and time of that time; we saw a lot of things that don’t exist today, from the simple TV, where do you find a TV like that today? Bottles of the Buffalo sauce that we drove in the restaurant were labeled that time (to film the scene with Yalitza Aparicio), and that’s not wherever you want, only antiques can have it. All the streets, how they gave him the image of what it was that time, right? It made me nostalgic.
‘We don’t drop’
Just over a month ago, Briseida José Juárez, owner of Café Alameda, feared that she would have to close her business if the confinement extended beyond May. May passed, June is passing, and Briseida, 29, not only did not close, but has seen a slight improvement in its sales.
“This month I kind of went up a little bit, I didn’t see the need to close, I think it’s because people are already coming out, you see a little more movement,” he says.
During this contingency there were days when their income, which under normal circumstances was up to 10 thousand pesos per day, plummeted to 200 pesos a day. It was the most critical moments. Now he celebrates that his sales have had an uptick to a thousand pesos a day. The two workers he kept as waitresses finally collect tips in addition to his salary.
“I’m giving them their money a week, they depend on it, the tips have improved, they already take about 50 pesos, which is already something. They thank me, they hope that this will open as soon as possible so that they will start to recover, because they also told me that they were left in debt. And I feel good, glad I didn’t have to fire them or rest,” she shares, and you hear he’s smiling on the other side of the phone.
Three months after the start of the health emergency, Briseida carries out debts in the payment of services such as electricity, water and telephone, as well as the rental of its establishment, located in the colony Santa María la Ribera. The few income you earn goes to replenish your cafeteria supplies and pay payroll.
Although the scenario is not the best, she is optimistic, because she did not drop at the worst moment of the pandemic, less so now, in the hope that COVID-19 contagions will go down in such a way that the epidemiological traffic light will go from red to yellow in Mexico City and can reopen restaurants.
“We always opened early, and what we managed to sell was good; we don’t drop, we didn’t say ‘you can’t,'” he says.
Other restaurant entrepreneurs do not glimpse the same optimistic scenario as Briseida.
Fernando Campo, owner of Fonda Garufa and Alacena Bistró, points out that he has not fired one of the 83 people who make up the payroll, all with social security. Three months have passed since generating debt; another two months with the same low sales, he warns, would mean a fatal blow.
“We’re selling 90% below normal, we’re basically holding out money for staff, because they live up to date; that’s going to lead to brutal losses that I don’t know how they’re going to get over it, and if this goes on for two months like this, we’re already talking about it going to close a barbarity of places. My business would see him virtually lost,” he warns.
Fernando not only accumulates debts in the payment of services and the rental of his establishments, located in Condesa, Del Valle and Lomas, but has also had delays in paying wages.
“I have debts to the staff, we have been practically up to date, although they themselves decided to reduce their days and keep their work; all the money that comes in is to replenish the input and to pay payroll; we’ve paid for light and social security. Lease already I have debts from March, April, May and June in all three locals,” he explains.
The restaurant entrepreneur points out that at the moment the government’s support with credits in the payment of services and obligations is crucial.
“I believe that the government can give credits on electricity, social security, and establish something for the relationship with landlords in paying rents,” he says.
Vicente Ramírez Mauro, owner of the La Santa María fonda, reopened his business this week to sell exclusively at home, after more than two months of closing it. I used to think it wasn’t worth keeping open and paying the payroll for your five workers when order sales were so low. Now he’s looking for at least those little income.
“I’m restarting the business, obviously there’s no sales, but no way, we have to start chopping stone from now on, because we can’t go on like this anymore; if I stand for a month more like this (no income), I don’t come back, it’s more, I can’t even stand the month anymore, I have to worry about my business, my workers and me. The few savings that were already gone, that is also why the intention to reactivate me, I cannot go on like this, because there is no savings that will stand if there is no income”, he says.
Vicente, 55, invested in remodeling his establishment, located in Santa Maria la Ribera, and rehired two employees.
“The workers had a lot of anxiety, they were marking me to ask, “When did we start, when did we start?” luckily I have full staff, they are eager to return, the need is strong, on that side I also care, it is a responsibility that I have with people, I have six sources of work to take care of, including mine,” he says.
It’s 3pm on a Thursday and he’s sold two meals on the day. That’s 140 pesos. And it’s more than anything.
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Original source in Spanish

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