During my 4 months in India I washed my clothes as I traveled; in the shower, in buckets, in sinks, using outdoor faucets, whenever and wherever I could. There was cheap laundry service readily available and for a while in Chennai I even had a washer in my apartment. But for the most part, I carried my laundry detergent in a ziplock bag from one ashram to another, from one city to the next, washing my clothes by hand. I was prepared to do the same when I arrived in Mexico but I noticed a nice lavanderia in my neighborhood and started to think maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to give them a try. When my hostess Doña Gloria told me how she uses them, too, I gathered my dirty clothes and headed over to see the ladies at “Limpio & Liso.”
For just a bit over $2.00 (27 pesos) you can have ~7 lbs (3 kgs) of your clothes washed, dried, ironed, and folded. There are laundry services like this in New York as well but you can bet that it costs heck of a lot more than $0.35/lb. I almost think it’s not worth doing your own laundry here when you think about the water, electricity, time, and labor involved in the process. I took almost all of my dirty laundry to drop off but I couldn’t make the minimum (3 kgs) so I ended up paying 27 pesos anyway for my 2 kgs of laundry- I’m not complaining. In less than 24 hours I returned to pick up this bundle of freshness.
It felt almost like a mini miracle to me that they could turn this around in a day! And to top it off, the whites were WHITE and the mud stains on my shirt and towel (I went on a day trip over the weekend where I got splattered with mud all over) were completely gone. Not only that, an old stain I had on one of my T-shirts (going all the way back to India, I think) totally disappeared as well. My things came back in perfect condition, all ironed, buttoned, folded neatly, and stacked together inside a clear plastic bag.
I’m thrilled with what I received but it shows how cheap the labor costs are here, and how little money some make. My host family has a cleaning girl who is from a small Mayan village outside of Merida. Because her village is so far away she comes to Merida on Monday and stays for the week before returning back to her village on Friday. She’s at my host family’s house for two days during the week, and the other days she goes to Dona Gloria’s other daughters’ houses to work and sleep over. When I met her she spoke to me in Spanish to tell me her name, Ilsa, and told me Doña Gloria was out shopping. I didn’t think much of it until Doña Gloria later on told me that Ilsa grew up speaking Mayan and only just recently started to communicate in Spanish. Ilsa’s been working for Doña Gloria’s family since she was about 14 or so (she’s now 19). Doña Gloria told me that it’s common for Mayans to marry early but with Ilsa having seen a bit more of the world, she’s continuing to work. I didn’t ask how much Ilsa gets paid but I can’t imagine it’s very much. It reminded me a lot of the boys/young men who used to clean and run errands for my landlord in India.
I went on a bit of a tangent here but my new favorite thing in Mexico is the no-hassle laundry service. My conversation partner this week, Walther, prefers to do his own laundry at a laundromat. I looked at him like he had three eyes when he told me how he likes doing two large loads of laundry each week. He told me self-service laundromats are rare in Mexico and he loves that there is one near his house. I guess we all want what we don’t have but I’m sticking to the lovely ladies at “Limpio & Liso” for my laundry. They gave me a big smile when I asked if I could take some photos. What can I say, I think they’re awesome!