Steve is  my age.

He is standing on a ladder in work clothes scrubbing graffiti off pieces of slate glued to a concrete wall. We both agree it is a stupid place to put slate – stucco, or plaster painted, would make more sense. Still, vandals have marked the wall and the manager has to have it removed and Steve is the man hired to do it.

He tells me he  is from Uruguay but migrated to the U.S., lived and worked there twenty five years. He came back to Uruguay because he still has a daughter here. For now, he works as a maintenance man for this apartment building but back in the states maintains large resort hotels and keeps commercial kitchens running.

“My wife went back last month,” he tells me, as he washes off graffiti. “I want to go back and drive my truck. I love it. I like Miami. My son has a construction business and a big house I can stay in .”

The conversation confirms that Uruguayans know all about the United States . A young man at the bus station , who spent five years trying to become a legal U.S. citizen, but couldn’t get accepted, expressed his belief that getting ahead is tough in Uruguay and immigration is a way to move up economic ladders, and the United States has advantages in the freedom department.

“In the U.S.,” he said, “it is different. People think ahead.” Here, if your family is not important, you have difficulties.

Graffiti is on the move around the world and is Punta Del Este’s a canary in a coal mine.

If they catch the culprits, Steve is pretty sure they won’t do a thing to them.

The cost of keeping people locked up has killed more than one government budget.

 

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