By Paulina Río, Hecho en Bs. As.
His name is Juan Pablo Mendoza but everybody calls him Balú. The 32-year-old vendor is proud of his ‘number 2632’ badge given to him by Argentinian street paper Hecho en B.s A.s (HBA). You’ll find Balú wearing his badge and selling the paper six days a week on one of Buenos Aires’ busiest thoroughfares. He says, “My goal is to work until I’ve sold the last copy. I’m not going home until I’ve sold it.”
What were you doing before you started selling HBA?
I’ve worked as a builder’s mate, gardener, house painter, minicab driver, in a carwash, just getting by really, doing any job that came along.
How did you start as an HBA vendor?
I was working in a carwash and a guy came up and offered me a magazine and told me all about the HBA. I read the magazine and a while later when I had no job, I remembered that their phone number and address were in the magazine and I went to sign up. I’ve been working for HBA for two years now.
Any interesting stories for us?
Yes. About a year ago I sold someone a magazine and he gave me $100. When I tried to give him his change he said, “You know what? I want you to keep the $100 because you’re making a fresh start. Have a nice day and go sell a million copies.”
Do you have any goals?
My goal is to work until I’ve sold the last copy. I’m not going home until I’ve sold it.
Any sales tactics?
Yes. Firstly, read the magazine and secondly, respect. Personally, the articles I find most interesting are the ones about people’s lives, things that happen to real people. I think that people who buy the magazine are most interested in those kind of articles.
What do you enjoy doing?
The thing I enjoy most is having a good meal with my family on Sundays, talking to my wife, looking after my baby son. I make the most of my day off to clean the house, if there’s anything that needs doing at home, I’ll do it; a bit of rewiring or painting.
Afterwards, we’ll go out shopping. My wife is pleased that I’m working for HBA because she knows I’m okay and bringing money in. Sometimes I call her to find if she needs anything at home and I’ll go get it. I feel that I’ve changed too, I used to be very introverted, now I’m more confident.
What would you like to say to other street paper vendors?
This is Balú, sending you good vibes. Get stuck in and sell loads of magazines.
Any dreams you’d like to share?
Having my own home and looking after my family. I’d like to send a message to my son Santino Valentín Mendoza: you are my life and I love you to the moon and back.
Translated from Spanish to English by Translators Without Borders / Penny Lynch.
Come back for more vendor stories every Wednesday – or explore our rich series of inspiring tales here.