Shoeshine Senor?

I used to go to Mexico on business. Usually to Monterrey (Nuevo Leon) but sometimes to other places as well. When Donna and I would go on vacation, we would often go to Mexico. We’ve been to pretty much every special place in Mexico – at least once.

One year, we decided to go to Oaxaca – in the far south – with our dear friends Bill and Lorraine. Oaxaca is a wonderful city in the far south of Mexico. It is a poor area – yet known for its varied culture, indigenous people, amazing heritage and biological diversity. We stayed in a beautiful downtown hotel — the Camino Real (now called the “Quinta Real”).

Our hotel was a few blocks from Constitution Square, a grassy center with many shoeshine vendors around the perimete. I was wearing my black slip ons so I began walking – slowly – around the square. Each chap I passed asked if I’d like a shoeshine (“limpiar sus zapatos?”) and I’d smile and walk on. After a trip around the block I selected a gentleman to shine my shoes. And I sat. He scraped, brushed, polished and shined. I paid and gave him a nice gratuity.

He smiled. Thanked me. But I hesitated. I asked him (in Spanish) if he knew why I had selected him to shine my shoes and not one of his competitors. He looked at me and shook his head. I suggested that he walk around the square and look at the shoes of his competitors. Each one wore unpolished shoes. Except for him. I told him I selected him because his shoes were shined as bright as the morning star. He looked down. And it was like I’d punched him. It was an “Aha” moment. For him. And for me. . . .