In Mexico City when residents want the services of a carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, or general handyman they head straight for the Cathedral.
In Mexico City when residents want the services of a carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, or general handyman they head straight for the Cathedral. The south-east boundary railings oft he House of God is said to be the world's oldest employment exchange.
For hundreds of years the Cathedral site was used as an employment centre by bricklayers and tilers only. More recently they have been joined by craftsmen of several other trades including plumbers, electricians and house painters.
Members of a Guild which is over 370 years old, the Mexican craftsmen proclaim their trade by displaying work-bags containing their tools - together with an occasional sign or advertisement - by their regular spot.
From dawn until late in the day, they stand quietly before the Cathedral railings and wait for customers to come along. Prices are not high but clients engage in price haggling as a matter of principle as established custom dictates. However, the daily rate agreed upon is usually about GBP1.13. Odd Sterling Materials are extra.
The rules of the Guild are strict. Members are expected to comply with the terms of the deal they negotiate with the customer. If a workman says he can do a job - and then discovers it is beyond his capabilities, he loses his fee.
The Guild dates from the time when king Philip 2nd. of Spain licensed stone cutters and masons to build the capital of his new Empire.
The forefathers of these craftsmen had built the mighty Mexican Pyramids.
The city was duly finished and the workers that have followed have continued to prove their skills form that time on as they did in 1599 for Philip of Spain.
The strict code of the Guild is enforced by the "Old Men", its senior members. They ensure that the code of competence and honesty is maintained.
Both the public and the police support the fact of the code's worth.
For many years membership was hereditary, but today new members with new skills are admitted - but not before they prove their skill. They must also be vouched for by existing members before they receive the approval of the "Old Men". Once admitted, there are no subscriptions.