Shoe shiners are part of the workers’ landscape in several Latin American countries. They are in the main streets and squares of the centres of the main cities.
The world of shoe shiners is diverse; they can be men of all ages. In some places they are restricted particularly to old people, while in others they are all children or adolescents. In some cases, these boys work part of the day in addition to going to school. In other cases, it is a full-time activity.
Being a shoe shiner is an activity that can be stigmatized, because it is associated with the work of cleaning shoes and with work that does not need skilled labour. In La Paz-Bolivia, the shoe shiners wear thick balaclavas and baseball caps to avoid being recognized by their neighbours or friends. Nevertheless, they can also establish good relations with their clients.
Lula, the ex-president of Brazil, was precisely a shoe-shine boy. The importance of the work of shoe shiners is recognized in Peru with a sculpture installed in a square.