If you spend enough time walking up and down the streets of Mexico, you'll see something like this:
If you take a close look at his chair, you'll see the words "limpieza de calzado" literally translated as "shoe cleaning". We'd call it a shoe shine. And in México you'll probably hear it more commonly referred to as a boleada de zapatos, or boleada for short.
I just realized that I have no idea what the official title of a person who does shoe shines is here in the U.S., but in México that person is called a bolero or bolera if it's a woman. Other names you may hear are aseadores de calzado, lustrabotas, lustradores and lustra zapatos. There may even be more names, but if you're looking for a shoe shine guy any of these should get the message across.
Although it's common to see puestos (stands) like the one above, it's also very common to see guys walking around with their cajón para bolear, or shoe shine box. If you ask for a boleada, they do it right there on the spot.
Let's cover a little more vocabulary related to shoe shines.
Shoe shine polish is called tinta or grasa para zapatos (México). Wikipedia offers a few other options, click here to see the list.
The shoe shine rag, or any rag for that matter, is a trapo. The shoe shine brush is called a cepillo. In fact, cepillo is a generic word for brush in general. The act of shining shoes is called lustrar zapatos, bolear zapatos or hacer una boleada. There are probably other ways to say it as well. A shoe shine chair is a silla para lustrar zapatos or silla para bolear zapatos.
Whew, did I miss anything? Let's hope not. Here are some sample sentences:
¿En que trabajas? Soy bolero.
What kind of work do you do? I'm a shoe shiner.
¿A cuánto la boleada? A 25 pesos.
How much is a shoe shine? 25 pesos.
Juan es alto, bien vestido, con los zapatos bien boleados
Juan is tall, well dressed with his shoes well shined
A mis zapatos le hacen falta una boleada
My shoes need to be shined
Bolear zapatos no es un oficio, pero me da para comer
Shining shoes isn't a profession, but it feeds me
Voy a que me boleen mis zapatos
I'm going to get a shoe shine
Here's a great video of an interview with a bolero, or in this case a lustra zapatos because they're in Guatemala. And yes, you do see kids this age working, as sad as it is. If you can't see the video embedded below, you can watch it on YouTube.
Here's another video that's a little longer if you're up for more of challenge. It's more of a mini-documentary, I found it to be rather interesting and well worth the 9 minutes it takes to watch it. Aside from practicing your Spanish, it will also teach you how to shine shoes. Again, if you don't see the video, click here to see it in YouTube.
And that's all for today my friends. You've been armed with everything you need to know to get a shoe shine. Now go forth and impress your Spanish friends.
¡Hasta la próxima!