Ramón Torres makes shoes at his shop in downtown Guadalajara. Torres, 75, has worked in shoemaking since he was 8 years old. He has noticed that local shoe quality has declined over the years with the introduction of synthetic materials – although, he notes, prices have remained about the same.
Rubén Hernández Medina, 62, a public bus driver since the age of 18, lives with his wife and two children in Mexico City, Mexico. Since the coronavirus pandemic started, he’s lost 25 kilograms (55 pounds) because he sometimes skips meals so his children can eat more. Public transport ridership went down 75% due to school and office closures. “I’m going to ask God for this to change at least a little bit, even just 50% ... I think with that we’d be on the other side,” he says. “And I think that behind us there are people who are even worse off than we are. We complain, but we need to ask God to help them and to help us.”
Ada Hernández works on a piece of mundillo lace in Moca, a town in western Puerto Rico. As she moves the bobbins, cotton threads intertwine to make the lace. The threads are then held in place with pins to maintain the spacing of the pattern. Hernández has been making mundillo lace for more than 50 years.
Gegeen Amgalan, 13, fills a bottle with lip gloss at her home in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Gegeen learned how to make lip gloss in March by watching videos online. She’s used her free time during the coronavirus pandemic to perfect her product, adding flower petals to change the flavors.
Robert Sango welds scrap metal to make a Scotch cart in Harare, Zimbabwe. Scotch carts are used to transport heavy loads. Sango, who has been in business for more than 10 years, says his major clients are farmers who buy after being paid for their produce, but because of a cash shortage in the country, business is in short supply.
The Papantla Flyers perform on a beach in Puerto Vallarta, a popular tourist destination in Mexico’s Jalisco state. The group usually performs a theatrical representation of a renowned Totonac ritual dedicated to Tláloc, the god of rain.
Luis Melendez García carries wood through a construction site in Chihuahua, Mexico. As a laborer, Melendez has seen his livelihood affected by the spread of the coronavirus. “Where we’ve really been affected is with food,” he says. “They’ve stopped work on a lot of projects, so how are we supposed to eat, to feed the family?”
Thilainathan Thavanesan, left, and Arumugam Rajeevan carve black granite into Hindu deities at a workshop in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. Thavanesan, the shop’s owner, says he receives orders for sculptures from all over Sri Lanka. “Making the idols is an orthodox task, and the proper moral practice – such as eating vegetarian food – needs to be followed,” he says.
Leonard Chidodo trims 7-year-old Tino Chiwato’s hair under a lemon tree at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe. Chidodo says business has drastically dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, and he now operates from home to avoid paying rent for his barbershop in town.
At La Victoire, a hair salon in Kirumba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dalmon Katembo Ndughuta cuts Devotte Katungu’s hair while Mumbere Jacques, 2, watches. Katembo Ndughuta uses homemade products to straighten customers’ hair.
Wellington Sydney Nyon’o paints a kindergarten in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. In Zimbabwe’s difficult economic environment, many people choose self-employment over the formal labor sector, due to fluctuation in the value of the Zimbabwean dollar. Self-employed workers get paid as they work, as opposed to receiving a salary monthly, which ensures that they’re paid the full value for their services, rather than a depreciated amount later.
Farouk Kasozi applies cement to a home in Nsumbi, a village in Uganda’s Wakiso district. Kasozi says that although construction work has continued after the three-month coronavirus lockdown, jobs are limited.
Gladys Matate, left, and Chipo Mandivengerei braid Tariro Nyashanu’s hair at her home in Harare, Zimbabwe. Mandivengerei says some clients do not feel safe in salons due to the coronavirus, so the pair have resorted to going where their clients feel safe. She adds that they always wear face masks to protect themselves and their clients.
José Ángel Tomas, 83, is a tailor in Guadalajara, the capital city of Mexico’s Jalisco state. He moved there on his own at the age of 12 to learn the trade. “Today, the fabric does not last long,” Ángel Tomas says. “Before, it lasted for many years. Now, they’re finished after being worn two or three times: They rip or lose their shape. Before, a suit was for one’s whole life. Not anymore.”
Seggujja David planes wood planks to make items like tables and stools in Kampala, Uganda. Due to the coronavirus, workplaces in Kampala were asked to limit the number of employees who come into work at the same time. Here, the six employees take turns in the workshop.
Viviana Alavés pours beeswax on a candle at her family’s shop in Teotitlán del Valle, a town in Mexico’s Oaxaca state. For residents of Teotitlán del Valle, marriage requires one of two things: asking for the bride’s hand before she leaves home or offering an apology for having taken her before asking. In either case, each aunt, uncle and parent of the groom must bring candles to the bride’s parents’ home. There, the bride’s parents will light each candle as a symbol of the good wishes and blessings the family bestows on the marriage, which will take place when the candles run out, approximately one year later.
Volonté Katembo, 15, washes a motorcycle in the vehicle washing area of Mbogho, a neighborhood in Kirumba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Since schools have been closed due to the coronavirus, some young people have used their free time to wash vehicles. They can earn between 1,000 and 1,500 Congolese francs (52 and 78 cents) for washing a motorcycle, 4,000 francs ($2) for washing a minibus and 9,500 francs (almost $5) for washing a commercial truck.
Fabián López installs a door in the hallway of a home in Tecámac, State of Mexico. He has offered his services to his neighbors since the coronavirus forced the blacksmith shop where he worked to close. In spite of the health emergency, he’s been able to find enough work to maintain an income.
Héctor Perdomo Encarnación sells masks on Avenida Juan Ponce de León, a main thoroughfare in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Before the coronavirus hit Puerto Rico and the government declared a curfew on March 15, Perdomo Encarnación worked in the construction industry. His work was halted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Now he sells masks, which his friend makes, Monday through Friday in the San Juan communities of Santurce and Condado.