“I’ll always be able to put food on the table”: Hecho en Bs As vendor Ricardo Blanco reflects on street paper’s role in his life

Interview by Roberta Ríos, Hecho en Bs As

39-year-old Ricardo Blanco has been an on-and-off vendor for Hecho en Bs As (HBA) since 2003. He reflects on his life so far, and how working for HBA has helped him feel more confident in being able to provide for his family. Blanco is most proud of his family – his wife and his four children and grandchild – and the home that he’s been able to build.

Hecho en Bs As: Where do you and your family live?

Ricardo Blanco: We live in Alejandro Korn, just outside Buenos Aires. I have my own house! I was able to build it thanks to all these years that I have been working. I’m telling you this to show people that everything is possible. My wife and I used to spend a lot of time in the streets, in roadside hotels and in boarding houses. That was until we got a plot of land in the province where we built a small house that we eventually sold. With that money we bought a bigger plot of land where we have our house now.

How has the pandemic affected you?

Our situation has improved now, but at the beginning it was chaotic. We couldn’t go out and we couldn’t do anything, so we had no jobs and no money. We ate quite modestly, we had a very difficult time… As I couldn’t go out and sell, some relatives and neighbours gave me some small jobs to do.

HBA vendor Ricardo Blanco. [Credit: HBA staff]

What are your days like?

I wake up, I go with my wife to buy some bread, butter and caramel spread to have for breakfast with my children…. I try to listen to my kids as much as I can, because I know that I won’t be back home until late. I ask them to do some chores in the house and I go out to sell HBA.

For how long have you been selling HBA?

I first heard about HBA a long time ago. It was around 2003, I had just left jail. I didn’t have any job opportunities and many guys I knew were selling the magazine and they’d tell me: “This magazine gives us a chance to work so we don’t waste our time,” so I started to sell it too. Later on, I found a new job and I stopped selling the magazine… However, I went back to selling it every time that I lost a job… And the doors were always open for me.

You came back six months ago…

Yes, I came back when I lost my job. I worked for 10 years in the construction industry. But I had an accident, I injured my knee and they fired me because I was unable to work. They paid me a compensation and with that money I could buy a motorbike and start to build a house for my oldest daughter, who is already a mother.

What does HBA mean in your life?

This magazine is a great help to people in the streets, unemployed people and marginalised people. It is an opportunity for those who really need it. It is work, and work gives you dignity. I enjoy selling the magazine… You need to have a positive mindset and be resilient. Good energy leads to good sales. There are hard times too, like the ends of the months. Let’s say that for every 300 people, 1 person buys a magazine. But sometimes someone buys two or three, and that cheers you up.

HBA vendor Ricardo Blanco. [Credit: HBA staff]

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I have already achieved most of my dreams: I’ve finished building my own house, I’ve bought a motorbike and one day I’ll buy a car, I know I’ll have one. And well… I would like to have a steady job, but I know that even if I don’t I have one I’ll always keep on working, because I’ve learnt how to do a lot of things and I’ll always be able to put food on the table.

Would you like to say something to the HBA community?

This message is mostly addressed to people who are starting out now, who don’t have a house and who think that having one is impossible. A few days ago, a policeman killed a boy who was trying to rob in front of a bank. When I saw him lying on the pavement, I was staggered. That was my life before. I was in prison for 5 years. I have a shot in my back that could have been a shot in my head… I’ve been trapped in so many bad things, but I have always been good at staying positive. I believe a lot in God. All my life is based on faith… if you have faith, everything will be fine.

Translated from Spanish by María Victoria Velasco Sánchez

A note to readers: Street papers provide trustworthy independent journalism and an opportunity for society’s most vulnerable and marginalised to earn a meaningful income. The impact of the pandemic has severely affected their work. Find out how to support your local street paper through subscriptions and donations here.