Home' Greymouth Star : May 19th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1536 - Anne Boleyn, second wife of England ’s
King Henry VIII, is beheaded.
1588 - The Spanish Armada sets sail for
1849 - Irishman William Hamilton is arrested
after firing blank shots at Queen
Victoria in L ondon.
1898 - William Gladstone, four-
time British prime minister, dies.
1915 - John Simpson Kirkpatrick,
the stretcher bearer who with donkey
Duffy saved many lives at Gallipoli,
is killed by a sniper’s bullet.
1935 - T E Lawrence, also known
as Lawrence of Arabia, dies.
1981 - Five British soldiers are killed in
ambush by Irish Republican Army men in
Newry, Northern Ireland.
1994 - Former US first lady Jacqueline
Kennedy Onassis dies.
2000 - Masked men storm Fiji’s parliament
and seize the island ’s prime minister, his Cabinet
ministers and lawmakers in a coup.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Dame Nellie Melba, Australian opera singer
(1861-1931); Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the
founder of modern Turkey (1881-
1938); Ho Chi Minh, Vietnamese
communist leader, (1890-1969);
Malcolm X, militant US civil
rights leader (1925-1965); Pol Pot,
Cambodian dictator (1925-1998);
Nancy Kwan, US actress (1939-);
Pete Townshend, British rock singer-
composer (The Who) (1945-); Grace
Jones, Jamaican-born singer-actress (1952-);
Phil Rudd, drummer for band AC/DC (1954-);
Jodi Picoult, American writer (1966-) .
“ Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.” — Mark
“The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to
a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
He sent his slaves to call those who had been
invited to the wedding banquet, but they would
not come.” — (Matthew 22:2-3).
Greymouth took a
step in the direction
of eschewing the
word ‘war’ while retaining the memory of those
who have fought and died for this country.
The Greymouth Borough Council, on the
instigation of Mayor Mr F W Baillie, will
rename the War Memorial Park and swimming
pool simply — Anzac Park.
After the mayor had made his suggestion, the
deputy mayor, Cr J F Stokes said that it was
time to “get that word war out of it altogether”
and supported Mr Baillie, as did other
councillors, in the name change.
The name of Anzac was nowhere
commemorated in Greymouth, said Mr Baillie.
“ We should have something in our town to
preser ve and perpetuate the name of Anzac,”
he said. The name itself was well enough
understood for it to stand for all the soldiers
who had left New Zealand to fight for this
country, said Mr Baillie.
“ You might have noticed there was no band
at Rugby Park last Saturday for the Buller
game,” Mayor of Greymouth Mr F W Bailiie
told a Greymouth Evening Star reporter last
night. There was no band at the representative
fixture, as is usual, simply because there were
not enough bandsmen to make one up.
Conductor of the band, Mr J Henderson had
done a wonderful job over the years but he
recently told Mr Baillie that there was every
possibility of the band going out of existence
because of the lack of members.
The conductor needs at least another eight
adult bandsmen to augment the eight who are
still active, though the full complement needed
uFood for thought
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Edgard Garrido and Lizbeth Diaz
udd led around a single
in a tiny wood and
cardboard shack on
scrubland in Mexico’s
Genaro Perfecto and his family prepared
to bed down for the night on a bare earth
His three-year-old daughter asked for
an extra blanket to ward off the cold, but
they had run out — a measure of their
hard-scrabble life spent har vesting fruit
bound for United States dining tables.
Since March, thousands of day labourers
have blocked roads, staged marches
and held meetings with lawmakers to
protest the grind of picking strawberries,
raspberries and blackberries in the Baja
California peninsula for what they say is
as little as $US1 an hour.
Perfecto is part of a growing underclass
whose frustration over pay and conditions
is pressuring companies that supply US
markets to make improvements.
At least one company said it would
reexamine its treatment of workers.
Kevin Murphy, chief executive of
US fruit company Driscoll’s, said his
company was re-evaluating standards in
the wake of the fruit picker protests, and
was going to audit living conditions.
“ We’re going to go back and look at
them again and re-evaluate them and put
in some improvements,” Murphy said.
Companies operating in the area say
they pay workers fair wages and provide
them with adequate health care coverage.
Local government officials, meanwhile,
say recent protests over wages by fruit
pickers were politically motivated.
Having moved north to escape poverty
in southern Mexico 15 years ago,
Perfecto, a father of five, said he is too
poor to simply move away from this dusty
stretch of industrial farmland known as
“If you’re ill, or cut yourself in the fields,
they don’t pay the day (if you are out for
treatment),” he said, flanked by plastic
bags dangling from the low roof that
serve as storage for their belongings, a
few threadbare clothes and blankets.
“ You keep quiet, and keep working
covered in blood,” added Perfecto, a
38-year-old whose main diet consists of
refried beans or flour tortillas sprinkled
Perfecto works for Mexican firm Berry
Mex, a major supplier for Driscoll’s. A
Berry Mex representative said it pays
workers on a regular contract even if they
are sick. But the representative also said
temporary workers, who make up about
75% of its workforce, are not paid for
fruit they have not picked.
In the last few months, labourers
have expressed increasing anger over
conditions that even some conservative
Mexican media have characterised as
On March 18, more than 200 protesting
workers on the peninsula were arrested
in a clash with local authorities. Several
protestors were injured on Saturday in
The boom in sales, meanwhile, has
enabled fruit companies to pay above the
minimum wage, which in Mexico is 70.1
pesos ($4.57) a day.
On average, Perfecto picks about 110kg
of strawberries a day, and up to 200kg in
high season, he said. Across the border in
the United States, a kilo of strawberries
fetched $US5.19 on average in 2013,
according to US government data.
But Perfecto said he earns between
850 and 1200 pesos ($56-$79) in a week
that regularly exceeds 50 hours, roughly
between $1 and $2 an hour.
Five of some three dozen workers
inter viewed showed payslips reflecting
earnings of between 782 pesos ($51.10)
and 1210 pesos ($78.80) per week. The
slips did not provide a clear breakdown of
the hourly compensation.
When asked how much it paid per kilo,
a Berry Mex representative stated only
that workers had an “average earning
opportunity” of $5 to $9 an hour with top
workers making up to $10 per hour.
This, Berry Mex added, resulted in
average weekly earnings of 3600-7200
pesos ($238-$476) in a 48-hour week.
A company representative could not
account for the gap in the wages the
company cited and those reported by
“ Where we find something that is
wrong, we will correct it. No one is
perfect in this world,” Hector Lujan,
chief executive of Berry Mex said.
Among the labourers hauling heavy
crates packed with strawberries was
Carmen Reyes, 34, who is seven months
Reyes says she will keep working as long
as possible before giving birth in order
to keep making money, as she has done
during her previous nine pregnancies.
One of the children died at two months.
Like Perfecto, she lives in a makeshift
shelter made from cardboard and plastic
sheeting, and complains of rashes and
skin discolouration from her work in the
“ When we’re nearby cutting fruit, they
don’t care, they continue to fumigate”
with pesticides, she said, gesturing to a
white patch of skin on her forehead.
Behind Reyes sat one of her daughters,
aged 15 and caked in dirt. O utside, her
husband, gaunt and dusty, worked on a
rudimentary extension to their shack.
“They say it won’t harm us, but we think
it does,” she said. — Reuters
The human cost of strawberries
Produce picker Cecilia Feliciano, 37, lies down with her daughter inside her house in San Quintin.
Arturo Azinian plucked a pair of Chanel
pumps from a box full of shoes, unfazed by
the leather peeling off the interlocking Cs
on the toes or the tarnished metallic heels.
“These have a lot of miles on them,
but they will be like new, for about $70,”
said Azinian, an 88-year-old Beverly
Hills cobbler famous for saving the fancy
footwear of the elite in the ritzy 90210 zip
Just steps from boutique-lined Rodeo
Drive sits the decidedly unglamorous
Arturo’s Shoe Fixx, where the Argentine
immigrant toils for 13 hours a day in a
warren of whirring machines and shoes
stacked to the ceiling.
A pair of men’s Salvatore Ferragamo
caramel lace-ups awaits repair, while brand
new patent leather Jimmy Choos are
getting some rubber reinforcements on the
bottom to prevent slipping and wear-and-
While handling shoes worth hundreds
and thousands of dollars, Azinian is utterly
clueless about the famous people to whom
“Recently, I had to go to the house of an
actress,” Azinian said.
“It was Jennifer Aniston,” chimed in
grandson Ari Libaridian.
“S he gave me shoes to repair, but she also
wanted to talk to me,” said Azinian.
Italian fashion designer Donatella
Versace once came in with a bunch of
sandals, and then later sent a limousine to
have Azinian taken to her hotel. Actress
Nicole Kidman also requested a house call.
Most actors, studio executives and
Hollywood producers send their assistants
to the store, although the likes of
Orlando Bloom and Jodie Foster have
come themselves. The designer shops
and upscale department stores down the
street often tell customers to take their
intractable shoe and handbag problems to
Arturo’s for a fix.
Asked for details about his encounters
with celebrities, the unassuming Azinian
laughed and said, “I don’t remember a
thing. I hardly remember my name!”
Azinian did not choose the profession, it
was chosen for him, at the age of 11, when
his father took him to apprentice with
shoemakers in Buenos Aires.
He and his late wife came to work in Los
Angeles almost 60 years ago and repaired
shoes for department stores before setting
up the Beverly Hills shop in 1988.
Ronny Gross has been a loyal customer
since then and always brings in her
red-soled Christian Louboutins, like a
pair of thigh-high black boots on a recent
“After you wear them a few times, the
red comes off and they put this rubber
thing on it and it just stays better,” said
Gross. “ I do it with every Louboutin.”
In the back, where Azinian prefers to
work, he has a few employees who have
been with him for more than a decade.
And when he needs help, he turns to the
skilled craftsmen among immigrants from
Customers often ask him to come out
for a chat. He charms the women with
flirtatious talk about dancing tango, and
lightens the mood with his wry sense of
“At the age of 88, he’s a little bit
annoying, but he is the heart and soul
of the store and people love to see him,”
Libaridian, the only grandchild who has
joined the business said.
Libaridian, 38, said he learns from his
grandfather about being patient with
the customer and employing humour to
get through the day, though he believes
the customers 60 years ago were not as
demanding as they are now.
There is no point talking to Azinian
about retirement or what will happen to
the business when he leaves. He’ll stay as
long as ‘the boss’ (his grandson) will have
“ You see, this keeps me healthy,” Azinian
said. “If I don’t work, the head stops
working.” — Reuters
Octogenerian cobbler to the stars
Owner Arturo Azinian poses for a portrait in his shoe repair shop in Beverly Hills, California.
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