Our travel was on board a large Volvo bus with comfortable seats and good air conditioning. We
bought reserved seats from La Paz to Todos Santos with open ended seats for the return. So we could leave when we were ready.
After enjoying the town and an early dinner at the Santa Fe Café. We went back to the bus station turning in our open ended tickets for seats on the 6:40 bus. When we tried to board there were only two seats available and we were a party of three. So even though we had confirmed tickets we had no seats.
The terminal has two companies present; Eco Baja Tours and Aguila a scheduled bus line. They seem to be related as the Eco people sold us our Aquilla seats.
The Aguila driver returns with us to the terminal counter where José, an Eco-driver is leaning on the counter finishing his paperwork in preparation to go back to La Paz for the night. José hears our plight and says, that he is returning to La Paz empty with his van. Without prompting, he makes about six phone calls to get authorization, then takes our tickets as full fare to La Paz even though Eco trips usually cost more than Aguila trips.
José has an accent, but his English is very good. I compliment him on his skill and ask how he learned to speak English so well. Watching movies with the subtitles on and then off to practice. He also loves to sing along with 70’s rock. Queen, Pink Floyd, some Beatles etc. I tell him I thought he sounded a little like George Harrison. We laugh. He is 33 years old. I ask him about his education and he tells me he took IT classes at the La Paz institute of technology but didn’t finish.
Our driver is very upset with his president and we discuss the current oil crisis. The government just raised oil prices 20 percent and people are protesting and blockading highways and gas stations. They raised the minimum wage to 80 pesos per day (US $4.00) per day in January, but gas is now 18 Pesos per liter ($3.40/Gal). He feels the problem exists because the president opted to use Texas refiners instead of building refining capacity in Mexico.
Somewhere along the way José reveals to me that he makes $16 US per day as a driver. His day is six hours driving then 4 hours waiting then 6 driving. After he is done José often has to deliver vehicles for maintenance and so forth “It’s a long day”. I feel guilty about the 600 peso breakfast we enjoyed at the Hotel California.
The modern divided highway unrolls as we drive towards La Paz. He is a single dad and you can tell by his voice that he loves his 12 year old daughter, and desperately wants to give her a better life. I tell him that undocumented workers outside a home depot in the bay area make $20 per hour. He tells me he is unwilling to risk exploitation in the US, the risk of deportation, imprisonment, because of the potential for ill effects on his daughter “family comes first”. He spent $250 (15 days work) for a US Visa application to come to America legally, but despite the fact that he has a clean criminal record, a home and family in La Paz, he has “insufficient reason to return to Mexico” and his application was denied.
He has since discovered that Canada will allow a Mexican to travel there without a visa. If he can find work, an employer only needs to fill out a form stating the duration of that employment and the visit can be extended for up to a year. (Why don’t we do something like that instead of building a wall?)
We talk about quality. He tells me that all Volkswagens sold in America are built in Mexico to German standards. He mentions that Haute Couture designer Carolina Herrera makes her clothing in Mexico. Then he points out his white shirt, “This shirt is Oscar de la Renta, it’s very high quality, and made in Mexico “. As I lean forward between the front seats I notice his clean white shirt, carefully pressed even at the end of a long workday. Previously unnoticed, the fold of the collar is completely frayed where the fabric rubs on his neck. He probably has to buy his own uniforms.
As I leave the van, I triple his income for the day, and wish him the best of luck in his plans to visit Canada. I would hire this guy in a heartbeat.