Las Tandas

One of the ways folks were able to pay their bills, or buy something nice, without having to save was by participating in a Tanda. There’d be maybe five to ten workers who’d come into an agreement, say $50 or $100 a week, if there was 5 people at $100 a week, that meant for the next five weeks each one would take turns taking home an extra $400. It was a way to deal with low wages and still make ends meet. When someone died, there was also something similar, a cooperacion, it was based on honor, each worker would contribute $50 to $100 in order to send the body home. When I was in Memo’s crew one summer old Ramón died of a failed liver, his nephew, younger than I was there, he died on the job, throwing up blood after having had straight alcohol with some compañeros during lunch. That summer was the year of deaths, because not long afterwards a tractorista, who said he had experience driving forklift but didn’t, flipped it over on a hill and chopped his head off. Both were undocumented, both men had families who depended on them, and the cooperacion and their bodies were the last thing their families ever saw.

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