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Parking cars on the edges of Mexico’s informal sector

April 24, 2016

Rafael leads an informal union of parking attendants in Guadalajara.

Leonardo has been working on the scorched streets of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city, for eight years. To some, he is a criminal who extorts honest citizens and claims ownership of public spaces. To others, he is a useful handyman whom they trust with their car keys each morning.

Having failed to find a formal job to support his wife and four children, 42-year-old Leonardo is one of the 57 percent of workers who labour in Mexico’s informal economy, according to a 2015 study (PDF) by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Like all informal parking attendants, known here as ‘franeleros‘ or ‘viene-vienes‘, Leonardo has his own designated patch, where he helps locals to park and then keeps watch over their cars. Those who have been working the longest claim the right to the city’s busiest blocks, he explained.

Some locals accuse parking attendants of extortion but others trust them with their car keys.

Some locals accuse parking attendants of extortion but others trust them with their car keys.

“On a good day, I can make up to 600 pesos (about $35) but another day I might only make 50 pesos ($3),” Leonardo told Al Jazeera.

Easily recognised by their baseball caps, baggy T-shirts and jeans, and the washcloths slung over their shoulders or hanging from their back pockets, franelerostypically charge 20 to 40 pesos ($1 to $2) to watch over people’s cars in a city where robberies are all too common.

However, many locals view franeleros as an annoyance and fear they will purposely damage their vehicles if they refuse to pay up…

Click here to read this feature in full at Al Jazeera English. 

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