Music to Work By

A little after eight every weekday morning, the trabajadores trickle in, wearing hoodies against the morning chill and carrying hefty backpacks, no doubt containing their lunch. These workmen are unsung heroes to me, artists in their own right, who deserve applause. With their strong backs and hands these men made the place I now call home, mi hermoso refugio (my beautiful haven), and they’re continuing now to build another below and next door.

Greeting one of the workers, Manuel (“buenos dias”), this morning from my terrace

Construction seems to be the name of the game here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. You see building construction going on almost everywhere you look – private homes, condo complexes, luxe hotels – to accommodate the ever-expected influx of visitors and expats drawn to this highly attractive destination. Clearly, there must be no shortage of jobs for construction workers here, and these Mexican trabajadores really know how to construct.

Manuel laying stone on an exterior wall

The men working at this site – some of whom I know by name by now: Rolando, Felix, Jose, Juan, Manuel – work together indefatigably from eight to six from Monday through Friday like a well oiled machine, a team. I listen to them – their hammering, drilling, welding, talking, laughing, whistling, singing (never arguing or shouting) – all day long. I work to their music too.

They sing along to their exuberant as well as soulful Mexican music – mostly crooners, accompanied by harmonicas, accordions, trumpets, and, of course, las guitarras. They seem to know all the words to all the songs. They even hit the high notes. Imagine: These broad-backed, seemingly indestructible mighty workmen singing such high notes.

Sometimes the songs are in English (“…the rain down in Africa…”), but mostly they’re in Spanish. I can’t catch much of the Spanish, except for “corazon” (heart); there’s a lot of corazon in their music.

At about nine, the owner/builder/jefe (boss), Gabriel, arrives to check on the projects’ progreso. He doesn’t lord over the men; he pitches in. He speaks to them as one of them. He laughs with them and sings with them. He’s a trabajador too.

Gabriel  (right) with one of the crew this afternoon

The men call me senora. When I stop to admire their handiwork and remark, “Que trabajo bonito,” they ask (in Spanish), “Do you like it, senora?” I tell them, “No, me ENCANTA!” (I LOVE it). I love to see their smiles.

In the two weeks I’ve lived here now, I’ve learned how to nap through the afternoon noise (ear plugs). And I’m not even minding the cement dust too much. The high-test testosterone that’s floating around with all that dust makes the situation rather tolerable, I feel.

Some of the crew hard at work

These are good, hardworking, family men who take pride in their work. I am in awe of them. Look at what they can do: With their strong backs and hands they build sturdy homes – havens – in this world for people to live happily in. Even people like me.

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For a previous WOW post on the importance of music in Mexico, please read:


32 thoughts on “Music to Work By”

  1. Ah, Bonnie. I loved this update. I live in Texas, and since buying my home, in a smaller area, have had the very best work done on my house by journeymen who all hail from Mexico, from construction, to roofs, to tile flooring, to tree trimming, and more, they have been amazing, absolutely amazing in their attitude and their craft. It is true. I am grateful, both for their expertise, and that I could afford them. I let them know, as you do, both by words and food, that they are respected and appreciated for making houses into homes, and maintaining them for people like me, who cannot do these marvelous things for themselves. I always pray they are protected and blessed.

    1. Dear BriA, your comment has given me goosebumps. Yes, you’re so right — in their joyful craftsmanship they make houses into homes. They deserve all the respect they can get. Best wishes, Bonnie

  2. I loved that, Bonnie! I love watching men at work, too. Especially men building something. I believe we’ve had this conversation before, in fact!

    My favorite line from your post: “The high-test testosterone that’s floating around with all that dust makes the situation rather tolerable, I feel.”

    1. Thanks, BeDear! Yes, we’ve probably had this conversation before; we’ve covered a lot of ground conversationally over the years! And I guess I’ve always been in awe of what good, strong men can do. (That line’s my fave too.:-) )

    1. Yes, Connie — imagine, such heavy, demanding physical work ten hours a day five days a week in the hot sun. AND they’re joyful about it. I think they’re miracle-workers.

  3. Oh yes, I hear the singing everywhere in San Miguel! The buses, the taxis, the construction sites, and of course, the Jardin. Connecting with your heart and spirit makes the work easier.

  4. Oh, Bonnie, I loved your comments about the hard-working trabajadors. I remember when we had a house in San Miguel and hired workers to do a project, I was always amazed at how hard they worked but with such enjoyment and appreciation for the work. Hope you are enjoying your new abode!

    1. Thank you, dear Sher — Yes, I am enjoying it immensely. I hope this home-euphoria doesn’t end! I even think that when all this nearby construction is finished I’ll miss having these happy, hardworking men around. 🙂

  5. With your words and photos, you transported me to your home. I heard the singing, the laughter and the constant sound of construction work. I think these men take pride in creating good quality homes. Homes with character. What a vastly different mindset I have observed in my lifetime. Workers arrive at 7am and the sound of a loud radio and shouting of orders and instructions are the norm. There seems to be a pressure to get things done quickly, since time is money, and there are more jobs lined up after mine. What’s worse, is the disregard for garden beds and plants. Plants lovingly grown over many years, have been damaged. Thankfully, they do recover over time, but I cringe still at the thought of needing construction work ever again. What you have experienced is the way it should be. Instead of building a commodity, they build a work of art, that inevitably becomes a home. I’m glad you are enjoying your new home, finally, Bonnie.

    1. Dear Loula — Thank you, as ever, for your thoughtful and insightful response. Yes, these men are artists and seem to be very proud of their artwork. I wanted my WOW community to know about them and applaud them too, as you have. — Abrazos, BB

  6. Hi Bonnie my 2 pups and I pass your apartment every morning when we walk around the park. we live around the corner and it has been a pleasure to watch the building being built from the ground up. And now I know who lives in one of the apartments , it makes it very special.
    Look out for us ( 6:45/7:00) and we will shout out a Buenos dias.

  7. Dear dear Bonnie! It’s so like you to find joy in the constant cacophony of the work these men are doing! At first it called to mind “ whistle while you work” and it seems perfectly logical that you are the Snow White to their seven dwarfs! How wonderful to see the growth, to be a part of it, and to reap the benefits of it! This makes me very happy.

  8. Dear Bon,
    I love how you are able to turn an everyday meeting into a heartfelt description of shared humanity. Many would walk past the workmen without really noticing them. In a few words you are able to show us how, through your respect for their artistry, they respond by sharing their personality. It is really wonderful.

    1. Thank you, dearest Paul. I had a conversation on the street here recently with a woman who said she reads my blogposts. She said she loved how I made readers pay attention to the ordinary, which is what you’re saying too, I think. I’m flattered that you think so. — LU2, BB xx

  9. Dearest BB,

    As an architect, the phase of a project that I most enjoy, after the initial design conception, is the construction phase. I love visiting construction sites. I derive endless joy from watching our designs on paper turn into physical reality, and interacting with the contractors and craftspeople who perform such important tasks and take pride in their work. Unfortunately, here in the US the process of construction gets bogged down in so many rules, regulations, and financial obessions (though many are for the protection of workers) that pleasure is often sidelined. What you are witnessing in SMA sounds more pure.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, dear Monty. Yes, “pure” is a good word for it. Perhaps because Mexico is far less litigious than the U.S…. I look forward to the day when I can show you this place. You’ll really appreciate its design and construction. — xx

  10. Thank You very Much Sra Bonnie…It was a very nice thing to read How you feel about all of Us…thank You and Bienvenida!!!

    1. Thank YOU, dear Gabriel, for all that you do! I feel so fortunate to be here in one of your beautiful apartments. And, as I’ve told you many times, I never intend to leave! 🙂

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