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- Experience with Cleaning Ladies in Latin America
Back when I was living in the US, I was always taught to take up after myself.
You want something to eat?
Either cook at home…
Or eat out if there’s a restaurant you like.
Got a dirty home?
Clean it yourself, jackass!
Same for doing dishes.
In short, I never had a “cleaning lady” when growing up and I don’t know anyone who did in the US.
Nobody to cook or clean for you.
Anyhow, that changed a little bit when I started traveling around Latin America.
Because, relative to the US, it seems like Latinos down here are more interested generally speaking in having cleaning ladies and all for whatever reason.
Sometimes cooks too but that isn’t common in my experience.
Though it has happened!
In one home stay I had in Bolivia, they had some lady who cooked meals every so often.
The family at that home stay was a bit wealthier though than most families I have seen down here.
And with cleaning ladies?
More common than you think!
Though, as you can imagine, you don’t see that as much in poorer households – or at least I never have.
But it’s not reserved to the richest either – you see plenty of normal households with cleaning ladies even.
But it’s a funny thing to me and also one that sometimes annoys me.
We will get to my experiences with the “cleaning ladies” and then end it on my thoughts on the matter.
Cleaning Lady in Bolivia
As I said, I had my first cleaning lady when I was living in a home stay in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
You can read more about my time in that home stay in this article here.
Anyway, the home was definitely more upper class in terms of how nice it was and also how relatively more wealthy the family seemed.
Not Bill Gates wealthy but they definitely seemed comfortable.
Anyway, I never saw the cleaning lady much in this home stay.
She was a middle aged woman from what I remembered and did her job seemingly alright enough.
The house never seemed dirty but it never looked dirty before she even cleaned anyway.
Outside of maybe doing the dishes, I suppose.
You wouldn’t notice anything different or nicer about the house after she finished her job.
But she was nice and that was that.
Cleaning Ladies in Colombia
Next, I lived in a Colombian city called Barranquilla as you can read here.
In the apartment that I lived in, we actually had multiple cleaning ladies that would come and go.
They all worked part time and would work different days of the week.
Their job was mostly to take the names of anyone new coming into the building, watch the gate, take phone calls, sell snacks at the front desk and clean the place once a week or so.
They all seemed nice though they never could get my name right.
That’s a side point that sometimes Latinos seem to have difficulty with the name “Matt” or especially “Matthew.”
With Matt, you have to pronounce the double T a bit strongly for them to catch it.
Otherwise, as in the case with these cleaning ladies here and others, you will be called Max, Map, Mapa (not joking), Mah, etc.
The TH seems to be confusing for some folks and will end up calling you Matew.
More info here on funny names Latinos call me when they have difficulty with Matt or Matthew.
Anyway, back to the story…
Similar to the Bolivian lady, it never seemed like the cleaning ladies did much ever when it came to cleaning.
In fact, there was even an incident…
Where another person – some local Colombian visiting Quilla for a week or two for the Barranquilla Carnival…
Which you can read more about that great event here…
Complained that some money went missing.
Did the cleaning ladies take it?
I didn’t and nobody else was living there if I remember right.
So who knows…
But that is a complaint some have about cleaning ladies down here – they can’t always be trusted to not steal something as sometimes some do.
We had two ladies I remember in particular.
One who was a bit chubbier and shorter but was very nice and sweet. A bit younger too in maybe her early 30s.
Another one who seemed a bit sketchier and more “barrio” like so to speak in how she spoke and how she came across.
Who was fairly skinnier and about my height at 5’9 more or less.
Cleaning Lady in Cuatro Caminos
Next, I remember having some cleaning ladies in Mexico City in my first two apartments but they were not really memorable enough to talk about.
They did their job and that was it.
Now, when I was living near Cuatro Caminos of Mexico City after those two apartments…
As you can read about here or here…
We had a cleaning lady who never did much of anything.
This was the first time that I remember learning how much cleaning ladies cost down here…
At least in Mexico City anyway…
All the people living there (about 3 of us) had to split the cost each week.
It was roughly 200 pesos or 10 USD total for the cleaning lady each week.
To summarize her job…
I remember walking out of my room and a young Mexican guy who was deported from the US named Juan who was my neighbor….
Came out around the same time as I was in the kitchen and we both looked at the apartment…
And had the same thought.
He asked me “did she even clean anything?”
The place honestly did not look any different.
The lady literally could have walked right in, taken the money and walked out.
Because her cleaning skills weren’t noticeable that day.
Outside of some wash clothes being placed nicely on the washing machine.
That was it.
Cleaning Lady in Pachuca, Mexico
Next, when I was living in Pachuca, Mexico…
As you can read about here or here…
I had a cleaning lady for my apartment.
And though she seemed like a very sweet old lady who couldn’t have been older than 500 years old…
Very sweet lady.
I hated having her come by to clean my apartment.
Because, in all the other incidents where I had a cleaning lady, I would have a small room to myself and the cleaning lady would clean the rest of the apartment that was shared between myself and neighbors.
In this case, I had my own apartment to myself and the cleaning lady would clean my own personal space.
And that was weird.
First, it felt odd because it made me feel like some posh kid from London or some shit.
“Oh, cleaning lady, please serve me some tea and crumpets while I watch the Queen deliver her nice speech on the tube.”
Like, thank you, but I can clean up after my own damn self.
It’s easier to forget it when the cleaning lady isn’t cleaning your own living space but instead just the living room that you share with others.
But now she has to come in at certain times and you have to be ready for her…..
And sometimes that is inconvenient because sometimes I work all night on my online projects and go to bed at like 8 or 9 AM.
So either you lose sleep or however you have to work around it.
And because I felt so weird about having a personal cleaning lady, I would leave the apartment for the two hours it took her to clean it.
Go take a walk somewhere when maybe I don’t want to take a damn walk!
But I got to leave because I’d feel awkward about having a cleaning lady.
It feels so odd and uncomfortable to me to have something like a cleaning lady when I can clean myself.
I’m not sure how to best describe it outside of it making you feel like some faggot ass upper class kid who can’t take care of himself.
Second, I would also be concerned, at first, that she might steal something like what happened in Colombia.
Though that never happened and I trusted her after the first few times.
She did seem very sweet.
And I would leave her a glass of water or offer her some snacks when she came by since she was going to work for a few hours there.
Anyway, that was that with that one.
Cleaning Lady in CDMX
Finally, we have a cleaning lady at my current place now.
She seems nice.
No complaints really outside of just not liking the feeling of having a cleaning lady.
Much of what I said before in the last section.
But the one I have now is a woman who is probably in her 40s or so and seems nice.
She does clean the pitchers for my tea – which I never ask for but is nice as I never get around to doing that.
Either way, here’s my thoughts below.
A lot of my thoughts can be seen in the previous sections.
First, it often seems the cleaning ladies never actually clean much of anything.
I never understood why so many Latinos have them.
Like the one in Cuatro Caminos who so very clearly never cleaned anything.
And others who do the basic sweep on the floor and what not.
Though the place is never that dirty anyway and I clean up after myself anyway.
Second, it seems a bit classist to me in general.
I have a theory – not sure how accurate it is – but it’s been my impression as an outsider.
That Latinos like their cleaning ladies because it makes them feel more “upper class” or at least not poor.
In that it’s a symbol in a way that makes them feel accomplished in life.
“I might only make 500 bucks a month but I can afford to hire people to do work for me! I’m impressive. I hire people because I’m so busy making my 500 bucks a month that I need someone to sweep the floors. I can boss them around. Look how accomplished I am!”
I have no idea if that mentality is actually part of the reason for why folks down here sometimes hire cleaning ladies when, objectively speaking, most of them in my experience never cleaned much of anything.
Third, it makes me uncomfortable having one as I explained before.
Fourth, there is the risk of someone stealing your stuff – which makes it even more confusing as to why they have them (though most people don’t steal obviously).
Fifth, why not clean up after your own damn self?
This was one of the first things about life down here that seemed alien to me.
Why are there so many damn people here who seem too lazy to clean up after themselves?
Well, it’s obvious when you look in the streets and see piles of trash and rats everywhere as you can read more about here.
You honestly can’t do your own fucking dishes at home though?
Fucking pathetic really – be a grown ass adult and do your own damn cleaning.
I don’t know – personally, no real judgment against folks who use cleaning ladies.
Nothing against them!
And the cleaning ladies themselves are often nice people who are just doing what they need to for money.
But it always seemed weird to me how people insist on cleaning ladies when I and others I know have often noticed that they don’t do that much.
And the work isn’t hard – just clean up after yourself.
Makes no sense to me but fair enough.
At least with the cleaning lady in Pachuca, you sometimes do get though a nice sweet old lady to talk with.
That is a positive perhaps – if the person seems nice to know and all.
Though if I want to meet nice people to hang with, I’d go to a bar.
Either way, if you personally prefer having a cleaning lady, that’s cool.
If I owned my own property, I’d never hire one as I don’t get it.
But that’s just me.
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