June 22, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Madrid, Spain, Traditions, Video


You might remember that awhile back I introduced you to a few of my favorite Spanish professions. Well, with 20% of Spain’s population unemployed, I thought I’d be a little helper and share some of the other often-overlooked Spanish job opportunities out there. Seriously, though, I would happily take on any of these tasks…probably…OK, maybe not the first one.

El Chatarrero

Recently, I’ve heard someone hollering in the streets from my living room. At first I thought it was some vagrant (hey, I’m from San Francisco – totally normal), but after hearing him a few times, I came to realize he was advertising some kind of service. Already familiar with the afilador (the knife-sharpener who plays an ice-cream-man-like tune from his motorcycle), I was befuddled as to who this new seller-of-services could be.

To ease my confusion, I replicated the yell for Jacobo, and he knew exactly who it was – the chatarrero! Get this – the chatarrero is the “junk collector man” (or, if we are being politically correct – the recycler?)! He goes around screaming “Chatarrero! El Chataaaaaarrero!” so that people will come out and give him their junk and scrap (called chatarra). You’d think this would be such an unattractive job, but I’m absolutely in love with the idea and have spent the last weeks with my ear nearly pressed against our living room wall. I eagerly await for him to return so that I can run downstairs with the first piece of crap (err – scrap) I come across in our house.

What’s particularly funny is that just days after my junk-man discovery, Jacobo and I were in a bar, when low and behold a music video popped on TV called “El Chatarrero.” I clapped and jumped up and down. I couldn’t hear the music, but the video alone was enough to get me all excited about junk and stuff. And fortunately, I found a version of it on YouTube, so here you have it – el chatarrero and a whole lot of chatarra:



El Butanero

Mr. Butanero makes regular deliveries of butane tanks to those older homes that don’t have gas and, like the milkman, he is famed for being the potential father of unexpected little ones. Why the butanero and not, say, the panadero (the bread deliverer)? Well, because the butanero, with all of his muscly goodness from lifting tanks of butane, is a far more likely suspect than that weakling who delivers delicate baguettes.

Just as with the chatarrero, I’ve spent unhealthy amounts of time trying to find this fool. I’ve seen his truck filled with orange tanks many a time in past years, but of course these last weeks since discovering it’s a proper job (you know, with a fun name), he nor his tanks are anywhere to be found. Save your disappointment, however, because while trying to hunt down photos I found this spectacular music video that is pretty much too hilarious to avoid posting. It features a couple of transvestites and a questionably hot butanero – it’s totally PG and totally worth watching.



El Sereno

Yet another profession that’s kept me busy searching Madrid – el sereno. As I was doing my research for this blog (and by research I’m referring to listening for the chatarrero and chasing around random guys in the street who push wheel-barrows full of scrap metal), I heard about this other antiquated career. The job of el sereno went extinct some 34 years ago, but as a part of a recent coffee campaign by La Estrella, they’ve decided to bring him back to Chamberí (my neighborhood) for two whole weeks. So naturally I’ve been wondering my barrio trying to track the guy down.

Back in his heyday, the sereno would keep nightly vigil over the local streets. This fellow would have the keys to your house, help you with groceries, tell you the time, call the appropriate authorities during any emergencies, and was basically just awesome – clearly.

Needless to say, el sereno hasn’t turned up either. He must be hanging out with the butanero somewhere. And surprise – I found another video! The following video features an original sereno (a bona fide SG, if you ask me) and a new one. Sorry it’s all in Spanish, but Gramps is so cute that you don’t care, right?



La Peixiera

Now this is my kind of job. While regaling a Galician friend of mine with my proud discovery of el chatarrero (his eyes glazed over a tad – I can’t for the life of me figure out why), he shared with me an awesome job specific to the inland pueblos of Galicia (and Portugal) – la peixera. Oh goody goody – it sounds like a girly job! This chica apparently arrives to said pueblos every afternoon with her van full of fresh seafood. She pulls in, opens the back and starts selling away. A girl after my own heart! Originally, she’d actually carry her goods on her head in a basket, and in many cases it was seafood caught by her family and/or fisherman husband. Good thing that peixeras don’t exist here in Madrid – for the sake of what little remaining productivity I have. And no, I couldn’t find any fun fish-delivery videos. Sorry about that.

On a related note, just earlier this week I heard the familiar sound of the afilador. I quite literally sprinted out my door, following the tune of his harmonica down my block. When I finally found him, I discovered he was totally not the cute SG-like afilador I was hoping for, but rather a couple of creepy guys with a kidnapper-style knife-sharpening van – the worst combo possible. Without even saying a word to them, they asked me to get in the car. I promptly turned around and decided I wouldn’t be chasing after the afilador anymore, dull knives or not.

10 comments

10 Responses to “Awesomely Spanish jobs – part 2”

  1. Erik R. Says:

    Great post! Some of those were new to me.

    I thought of one more. How about the usually-African immigrant guy carrying all the belts and purses and pirated DVDs that will walk into a restaurant and go table to table asking if anyone is interested in a crappy belt or a handheld-camera recording of the latest not-out-yet-in-Spain Adam Sandler flick? I’ve never seen that particular “job” in other countries, although I guess you could argue that it’s not a “Spanish job” since it’s never done by native Spaniards.

  2. Sabrina Says:

    Too funny, Erin! 🙂 I love videos you picked. And I can’t believe all the crazy little jobs there are nobody knows about.

    They have the gas-bringing guy in Egypt as well by the way. He drives around and bangs on a empty tank when he’s in the neighborhood. You run to your window to tell him you need a tank and he comes up and brings one while taking your old one. Service at its best!

    And the sereno? Every neighborhood should have one! How much easier would that make life?! Seriously! And safe too… Imagine somebody who knows exactly who’s who in your neighborhood and who doesn’t belong there. I wonder how they get paid though… does everybody chip in?

  3. Erin Says:

    @Erik – fundamental to the “is it a job?” test is whether the profession has a name. If it has a name (and I won’t offend anyone), then it totally needs to be on the list! Which BTW, a friend of mine came up with a good fake/real Spanish job: the sacamierda. You know, the guy who cleans the sidewalks. Unfortunately that’s not really his name (if he even has one), so I won’t be writing about that any time soon :).

    @Sabrina – I adore the idea of el sereno. I don’t know how they paid him, but I’d for sure be down with forking over some change to have such a service. The Egyptian butanero sounds pretty awesome – I think the transvestite duo needs to do another version of the song for Egypt, don’t ya think?

  4. Sabrina Says:

    We should suggest that to them 🙂 They could totally incorporate some belly-dance moves… Oooh, I can see it happening already!

  5. Jon Says:

    Great post. This cracked me up. The idea of the sereno is brilliant – does he not have a descendant in the (usually grumpy) porteros who manage apartment buildings and live in the basement?

  6. Erin Says:

    Ahh, so I see you’ve met my portero then??? I would like to think that the sereno is slightly less grumpy than the portero, but that wouldn’t be difficult given the stooge we have curled under our stairwell. He’s the exception to the “cute Spanish grandpa” rule – oh and the juez de paz at my wedding who finished by yelling “lo estais haciendo fatal!!!” Ufff. I digress.

  7. Erin Says:

    This is so funny! They have weird random jobs like that here in Costa Rica, too. But nothing as intriguing as El Butanero. The latino version of the milkman LOL 🙂

  8. Erin Says:

    I heard that they have the afilador in Latin America – is this true?? The strange thing is that I’m pretty sure that they don’t have and/or never had a milkman here.

  9. bnann Says:

    I have a “potato-seller” who periodically comes to sell 10-20kg sacks of potatoes from Rioja from his truck. And in smaller villages in Castilla I have seen mobile pescaderias/fruterias. There are even mobile grocers (saw one in Sortres in Asturias) but have seen programmes about such things in remoter parts of Pais Vasco, Castilla, Aragon.
    And of course the famous Xmas Olentzero here is a “carbonero” : one who made charcoal from trees. There was a wonderful film in the 80s with a carbonero as the hero, “Tasio”. Watch it if you get the chance.
    The side-walk cleaner has a name already, i.e. “barrendero”.

  10. Erin Says:

    Love it!!! I’ve got my list then for part three of “awesomely Spanish jobs”. I will need to do some research! Thanks for sharing!

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