Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Money Exchanger

In a city of 9 million people, one of the oddest jobs on the streets of Lima is that of the 'money-changer'. These men stand outside supermarkets and cash machines, like portable banks, and often offer a better rate. They normally work in herds so as to not to get robbed, however, one of them, Lucho (pictured above) opts to always work one block from the rest.

interview by CĂ©line Wald

What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Luis Hernan Cornejo Salinas and I’m from Lima.

And what do people call you?

How long have you worked here?
More or less 10 years.

Describe a normal day
I wake up at 8:30, I shower and I leave to go to work at nine. I eat breakfast in the street. I eat out mostly, I only eat dinner at home. I go to the local bakery and there I’ll have a sandwich, a juice for breakfast, things like that. From there, I come here to work until 6:00 at night. I eat lunch here in this chifa or a restaurant around here.

Do you have any preferences, are you a regular at any places around here.
No no, I eat wherever.

Why do you think you have more clients than the other money-changers? Why do you think most people in this neighbourhood come to you?
Well…because of the way I treat them. I always treat people like friends instead of customers. It’s the way you treat people.

Why do you think people give you this confidence?
I think it’s just the way I treat them you know? It’s all about the way you treat people.

Why do you work here on this corner alone rather than working alongside the other money-changers on that corner?
Because I like solitude. I like being alone, I’ve always been doing things alone. For my entire life.

And why do you think the other money-changers don’t come into your corner?
Well, it could be because I’ve never tried to have hold a friendship with them. You know, they’re collegues, nothing more…nothing more.

And do you have any ‘friends’ around here?
Look, I don’t think that friends exist. The only friends I have are my father and my mother. Apart from that…friends just don’t exist. Only acquaintances exist, nothing more, I don’t know, It’s something particular that I believe you know?

Do you consider your children as your friends? Your cousins? Uncles?
Of course, they’re my friends. My family consists of my son and my wife.

Do you know the tamal seller, who has her stall across from you?
Yes, I’ve known her for years…I’ve known her for more than 10 years. Even before I started working here.

Do you ever buy her tamales?
Yes, I always buy her tamales

Do you know her name?
No, no no no, like I said, I don’t really like to go “in depth” with people.

When is your day-off?
I don’t have a day off you know

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
I cook

Are you a good cook?
Yes, I cook and I watch some television…or read a book no.

What’s your favorite dish?

And can you cook ceviche?
Yes, everything, I can cook anything.

Is it common in Peru for men to cook at home?
I think it is. There are a lot of people, men who cook. I’ve cooked since I was a youth, since I was a youth.

Out of pleasure or necessity?
No, because I’ve always liked to cook. I’ve always liked to cook.

What do you like most about your job?
What do I like most about my job?...Well, earning money (laughs)...yeah earning money

And what do you like least about your job?
Well, it’s a risky job as well no? It’s a very risky job. Because of this job, I have a grand-daughter who got shot and she’s recuperating right now, thanks to god. This is what I don’t like about my job, the risk, it’s very risky.

What happened and when?
About a year and a half ago, I went to go pick up my cash load for the day unaware that I was being watched. I was in my car with my wife and my grand-daughter. A car stopped in front of us and several men approached us with guns demanding my wad of cash. I resisted and then, out of nowhere, one of them shot my 3 yr old granddaughter in the neck. She survived but became tetraplegic. It’s the worst thing that has ever happened in my entire life.

And how are you holding up today?
Well, I’m seeing that my grand-daughter is recuperating little by little no. But this…psychologically, I always/still have my depression you know. Moments in which I feel bad you know, you know, I don’t have happiness.

But you still continue working as a money-changer here?
I have to work. It’s something that you just can’t avoid. You just can’t avoid it. Life goes on so they say no? I mean, I have to work even more for her so that she can recuperate faster and go forward with life faster.

And do you have any plans for the future?
Plans? I don’t think one can make plans. You can’t plan and forsee things. I live the daily life. Of course I have prospects you know, plans you know. But like I said, in reality, you live today’s day, not tomorrows.

What is something that people should know about Lima?
Well, it’s a very attractive country. It’s a country that has good people, well as well as bad people, like in any place you know. But it’s a country with lot’s of good people, lot’s of collaborators.

What do you like most about Lima?
What do I like most about Lima? Well, I like a lot of places you know. Like the Parque de la Leyendas (the local zoo), where I used to always go with my niece, with Romina, I used to go to the parque de las leyendas, you know, I always used to go with her. She’s the only person who has always accompanied me my entire life. She’s the best thing that god has given me and I hope that she gets well soon. But that is what I like most, the parque de las leyendas where I always used to go with her.

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