Monterrey, Mexico

By Daniel Becerril

The need to find a place and make it your own is sometimes the only way to cope in a life full of surprises, hardship, sorrow and joy. It’s unbelievable how humans are capable of accommodating themselves in any space and under any circumstances.

I first heard of Oscar Almaguer, or Don Oscar, on a local TV program. It was the story of an 83-year-old man who had been living in a battered VW Beetle for the last 10 years. Don Oscar’s story was the perfect one to show life’s full range of social complexities and I thought it would definitively make an interesting picture story.

In these times of economic hardship it’s not that uncommon for people to live in their cars after falling on hard times but Don Oscar’s story is a little bit different. He and his wife got divorced 10 years ago and sold everything in order to split it in equal parts. Instead of leaving Don Oscar with half, she disappeared with everything, or almost everything. What she did leave him was their 1967 VW Beetle, known here by the Mexican nickname “Vocho.”

Devastated, with no money to buy or rent a place, Don Oscar had no alternative but to start living in the Beetle. His monthly pension of 2,000 pesos ($153) was barely enough to buy some food; new clothes or shoes were out of the question and a cell phone was an inconceivable luxury for him.

One of his daughters, with whom he was reunited several years ago, offered him lodging but he decided to take her up on her offer only once in a while. When he does, he parks his car in her garage and enjoys a shower, uses the kitchen, sits in a chair and watches TV. For me, it’s a bit difficult to understand but I guess he has grown so fond of his car as his only private space, that he prefers it to living with someone else.