The Gardener

I have a guy, Don L, who shows up every fifteen days except when he shows up sooner or later. He does good work and I pay him $150 mxn, for about three or four hours labor. He trims the orange tree, buganvilias, etc, weeds in the back yard and around the front of the house. He moves stuff for me, he even laid some bricks for us once (that job paid a little more).

However, he has no phone ,no way to contact him. He came to work for us through la Maestra. Knowing that I needed someone she called me when he showed up at her house (they have a similar arrangement). I talked to him and he came over the next day. He has been showing up at my door ever since. He just used to show up whenever he needed work. This year we settled on the quince dia plan because it keeps the weeds and plants manageable. He is in the habit (more or less).of showing up every other Wednesday morning.

He, however, often comes by asking for work between times, if I don’t have any he asks for a loan towards next time. La Maestra, who is Mexican, warned me not to advance him money. I did it a few times, but learned what that meant was that he would look for other employment that paid better rather than discharge his debt to me.

In January, he borrowed money, in April he showed up again. My comment was “humph, I was wondering if you were still alive.” I paid him his full amount and nothing was said about the loan until he asked for another advance. Shaking my head sadly, I answered “No puedo porque me dejaste mal en enero, la palmera muerío” . He left me badly, in English we would say you left me in the lurch. I had been expecting him the next day to transplant a palm.

It feels bad not to advance him his pay, but I can’t get into that game with him. It feels like wrong, especially when he doesn’t show up. Instead of working for me, like we had agreed, he looks for other jobs. Knowing that he is only going to earn $50 makes me the less desirable employer. The $100 peso advance has been spent and the vicious cycle begins again. I don´t need him more than every two weeks, I probably really only need him every three weeks. I can´t invent tasks for him, but I do look to see what else he can do, because he is a good conscientious worker.

He knocked on my door yesterday at 5:30 pm, I asked him to come back next week like we had agreed. He asked me if I would give him six pesos bus fare. I did. It felt more honest, it wasn’t a loan, it was a gift. We’ll see how it plays out.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Shannon,
    You are preaching to the choir. I’ve been here eight years and the gardener is the first person I have had who consistently hits me up for an advance on his pay. I think he has realized that I won’t do it anymore.


  2. In my experience loans are not a good idea. It is usually very difficult to maintain a good relationship in the aftermath of a loan, or loans.

    I think trying to help him find more work is an ideal compromise.

    There are a couple of families in my neighbourhood that have children with serious illnesses and the medicine is expensive. I regularly give them a little money to help out but it is a gift, not a loan.

    There is so much poverty here and it is natural to want to help everyone in need, but it is simply not financially feasible.

  3. Calypso, I agree. He used to ask La Maestra for an advance and she said that she would find him more work instead. I think I am the more work option.


  4. If you want to give him money – give it to him. NO advances – that will just create a wide gap between you and him.

    Loans are tricky – charity is always cool. Don’t feel benevolent? – Do not turn his need into an advance – simply a BAD idea.

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