December 13, 2008
Gilberto has moved mountains
Gilberto and five other masons from Merida arrived on Isla Mujeres Monday morning, after taking the overnight bus. I found them around the corner, on a side street that looks like a Maya village, with stone fences and stone houses, next door to where my friend "Mamita" lives. She is a little old Maya lady, energetic, erect, who once dressed down a cabbie over me. What do you two have in common, he interrupted as we sat chatting in the back seat. Well, we are good neighbors and friends, she began.
Gilberto and the other masons had rented a room near Mamita, rent being they work on the property while here doing other work. They heard there was a construction boom but didn't realize it was now almost all contracted condos that solicit masons from Chiapas for a fraction of what a Merida mason, 350 pesos a day, commands.
That's how I saw them, sort of working, wondering what to do. They were here for cash to send home. There has been almost no work for masons in Merida the past month, Gilberto would later confide.
So they came right over and in four hours, under Gilberto's leadership, moved mountains.
A job that had no end in sight was almost finished. Enough so that I ventured a detour to go ahead and finish the fence, which I really had not planned until January, when the rooftop scaping would be done.
Now that is done and today Gilberto and friends started tucking corners, stripping paint, leveling the cement for the above ground pool, so it's seams don't burst like the first edition. See, I wasn't nuts when I bought a back up! That and making all the rebar columns one level is the heart of rooftop scaping in this plan.
Below is the chief assistant. I don't even know his name! He has something that would pass for a criminal tool in the US. A shearer that just snaps through armex, a type of reinforcing bar for cement. That is being used to cut the open rebar off so it can be finally enclosed. If I later choose to build another room on top, well, I'll just have to take out a work permit. That is the reason rebar isn't closed here, a signal the job is never done.
One reason the masons and I got along so well is that I recognized what a value they are with their knowledge. They save time while charging a bit more. They know their stuff.
In the last week, I spent $350 on them,a crew of part-timers. As much on cement and supplies. A bargain at twice the price, I'd say. And I fed them well, something they appreciated, being in sticker shock when they saw only tourist food prices. Actually, the way things are going, almost all our restaurants now have tourist food prices, even the loncherias and taco stands.
So two squares from a good cook was welcome. Tomorrow morning, Sunday, they will be back - at least Gilberto - pounding out places they to retuck and paint, and Monday, after I take Gilberto to Marma for a special kind of cement he asked for, they will pour and trowel the final cement and paint over it. And take the plywood that was in my bodega, so they can enter any job able to make their frames.
And Alex can come over and set the new pool up for the holidays. Yes, mountains have been moved!