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“Old But Nuh Cold”

“Old But Nuh Cold”
December 28
11:04 2019

“Old But Nuh Cold”

December 2019 –

There is that popular term “old but nuh cold” that befits Francisco Marquez – an 86 year-old man who moved from his home country in neighbouring El Salvador 30 years ago, looking for a better life in Belize – and whose occupation requires that he has physical strength to get the job done.

Marquez, having spent all his youth and his prime as a carpenter, soon realized that with the evolution of changing building trends from wood to concrete, his carpentry trade was becoming swiftly unpopular and in poor demand. He thought that moving to Belize might still land him enough jobs to survive on; but he also found out that even as a single man, he could not make ends meet with the frequency, or lack thereof, with which the jobs were coming. So Marquez decided to take up a whole different occupation in shoe repairing. He started off just watching older men mend worn out footwear or replace entire soles, then tried a few of his own before he got the knack of doing more complex work like stitching the soles.

Marquez took his newly-acquired talent from Belize City to San Ignacio where he has made his home since he made the switch from carpentry to shoe repairing. And since then, he has made that his livelihood. At age 86, Marquez is a regular sight on the streetside on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio Town, Cayo, just a few yards from Pink Boutique.

But as he quickly found out, while shoe repair provided a steadier means of income, it also did not come without its share of occupational injuries. Marquez shared with the Reporter that suffering the occasional needle stick injuries – with needles the size of crochet ones, and hammering his fingers are all part of the job. But he loves what he does and walks the one mile distance from his humble abode in Santa Elena around 7:00 every morning to set up his makeshift table and chair, his sign and his personally-made tools. And once his day begins, he can be heard from up the street singing his favourite Mexican songs as he works.

Although his trade is now a rare one, since most people just buy a new pair of shoes when their old pair gives in, people who have sought the elderly man’s service attest that his prices are affordable and the quality of his work is excellent. Marquez also does not take long to finish mending a pair of shoes. He told us in his native Spanish language that he can glue and sew a pair of working boots in half an hour and guarantees that the job will last for the life of the pair of footwear that he mends.

Although he is single now, Marquez has four sons in El Salvador. He lamented that after he moved to Belize he lost contact with them; but that is a distance that he hopes to close someday, he said. He also does not plan on retiring anytime soon, he told us.

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