Mexico’s first street paper, Mi Valedor, launched earlier this year in Mexico City in an effort to address the cycle of poverty trapping thousands of homeless people living on the streets.
The photography-based publication offers an inclusive portrayal of daily life on the streets of Mexico City, and is a place for its homeless vendors to collaborate artistically and tell their own stories, as well as earn an income.
One such vendor is Oscar, who reflects on his experiences of homelessness and explains how the street paper is helping him get back on his feet.
By Oscar, Mi Valedor vendor
I ended up on the streets because I didn’t appreciate what I had at that time: a good family, a good education, I didn’t want for anything. But I started to fall apart in school. I was curious to try drugs, so I began to use.
I was intelligent and naive; I thought I could always return to my studies. I let myself become alienated because I belonged to an inner circle that wasn’t mine: the inner circle of crime.
My original plan was to have a family and career, but I missed out on too much. I started to commit crimes, and messed up my teaching career.
So, I devoted myself to touring the prisons of the Federal District, until I got tired. I wanted to try to enjoy life and live my last years in freedom. I started to work in construction. Meanwhile, I studied by myself, because I’ve always liked learning: archaeology, anthropology, Hermeticism, symbolism and meditation.
For a long time, I wasn’t aware of hostels – I paid for hotels. I’ve always liked going out all dressed up. I could be anyone, no one would suspect it was me… There goes one of the beautiful people, they’d say, not knowing I was just the handyman. I lived like this, I went to good restaurants, spending my money like an idiot, and felt like the boss. I should have saved my money instead.
Anyway, in the hostels, the easiest thing to do is to go with the flow. Everyone was taking drugs, from the hostel to the dining room: spending almost no money, going no further than to collect your 15 or 20 pesos for your alcohol or your drugs, and there’s a lot of food. Pure ranch [Mexico City slang for disgusting food, like gruel] food, but a lot of it. I am already tired of ranch food.
Mi Valedor gives me the opportunity to speak another language. It is opening another door in my thinking, and I can now see better the reality of the streets. It creates some expectations for me.
I don’t want to die on the streets like so many others. I want to live in a dignified manner now. I love interacting with people because it motivates me to keep doing my best in my project. I want to open a home. It would start off with a lot of discipline: no drugs, no sex, no fighting. I want to get a site in a central location for people who want to work, and so be able to create a community that is more aware.
Translated from Spanish into English by Alison Walker. If you are interested in being an INSP translator, get in touch.
INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.