Holy Week On Beaches Of Baja Coast

By  John Derby
Times Publisher
March 31, 2016

Gilberto is one of the workers who helped us build our house in Baja California, Mexico. His English is about as good as our Spanish, and that is the way we have formed a relationship.
Each year there is maintenance which must be done after the storm season, and Gilberto is one of the workers we hire to do the work. We do not carry hurricane insurance because if the hurricane is really bad, the insurance company doesn’t pay off, it just goes out of business.
Besides, labor is cheap, and we can hire a man like Gilberto to do the repair for $500 to $1,000 and this is the way they make a living.
Giberto has no saving account and instead he will buy a pickup and fix it up. Then he will buy a Panga (Mexican fishing boat) and set it up for giving rides during the Holy Week. If he runs out of money, which he always does, then he will sell the boat and then the pickup.
Because of our heart surgery, we did not make it to Mexico until early December. By the time we arrived Gilberto and his family were in dire need. He had sold his pickup and boat and needed every dime just to pay for providing for his family.
We do not underpay Gilberto. He earns $10 an hour and that is considered better than average pay in our area. In return he does fairly good carpentry work and knows where to find the cheapest material.
This year we built an addition onto our house, so there was plenty of work for Gilberto once we arrived. By mid January, he had purchased a pickup, and by February he found a Panga which needed some TLC.
Gilberto’s grandfather had been a fisherman years ago when fishing was a way of life for many Mexicans in this area. The Chinese long liners came up into the Sea of Cortez and ruined much of the fishing industry. However, something many Mexican men love is their Panga.
Each pay period Gilberto would mention how much of his pay he was putting toward his Panga project. He needed a trailer and he needed a canopy for the boat so he could shade the tourists which he would be taking out during Holy Week.
Literally thousands of Mexicans come to the beaches of Baja Mexico during Holy Week and camp along the shoreline. The shorelines belong to all Mexicans, unlike the United States where many beaches are owned exclusively by one or another family.
The boat project was a major topic of conversation each day at work. Gilberto found an old trailer, then he needed wheels and tires. He swapped us for an old trailer hitch which he fixed, and he had our welder fix a frame for his canopy which was covered with a Sunbrella.
When Holy Week was just one week off, he brought the boat and trailer around for us to see. It was a beautiful repair job; newly painted in blue and white.
He mentioned that during Holy Week he would only be able to work two hours a day because the rest of the time he would be taking tourists out in his boat. He was already counting the money he would make for each family who used his boat.
“I’ll make 500 pesos per family for one hour ride,” said Gilberto. That would be about $30 US, and in an eight-hour day, four times as much as he could make as a carpenter.
The opening day of Holy Week, Gilberto arrived for work early and he needed our welder to do one last job. He needed to install a rubber roller on the trailer so the boat could be launched from the beach.
Finally Gilberto was good to go. He left the job after two hours with a big smile on his face, however, to our surprise he returned an hour later.
“What happened?” We asked.
“I couldn’t get my motor started,” he said sounding very dejected.
He spent the whole day trying to get it repaired, however with no success.
On Good Friday he showed up at the job site looking even worse.
Now Gilberto is not one to beg, but he did ask if anyone could buy the gas which he intended to use on his Panga.
Alas … there would be no boat rides for Gilberto this Holy Week.

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