Beauty School

Beauty School

3 April 2006 LIVING, Education & Language, Interviews & Editorials 26

You may remember Soco, whose quinceaños party we attended awhile back in her home town of Oxtapakab, about 40 km south of Merida. Soco is the youngest daughter of Brigida, the Mayan woman with the Irish name who cleans our house every week. (Brigida and Bernabe, her husband who still works in the milpas or corn fields, have 3 daughters and 2 sons, and 1 grandson). Since quitting school after the sixth grade, Soco had been staying home and helping around the house. Her mother told us that she was not interested in continuing her schooling. About six months ago, Soco must have gotten bored or realized she needed money, as she began accompanying Brigida every week, helping to clean both our house and office one day a week, and thus earning some extra money.

A few months ago, when Soco and Brigida were ready to leave, we noticed that Soco was dressed and made up as if she was going somewhere important. We asked what the occasion was and she told us that she had started attending Escuela de Belleza (Beauty School). About a month or so later we asked her about her school progress, and her face fell as she told us that she had stopped attending because her family really couldn't afford it.

After contemplation and discussion over the next few weeks, we offered to pay for Soco's schooling. The cost of $690 pesos (about $65 US) a month for one year with maybe an extra $100 pesos ($9US) per month for supplies costs less for one year than putting our own daughter through college in the States costs in a *month*. Realizing that her prospects without schooling were extremely limited, we decided that this was a way to help Soco create a more hopeful future that would not be limited to cleaning gringos' houses.

We learned that she wanted to attend Tania Beauty School, which faces Parque San Juan south of the Plaza Grande. She had chosen Tania Beauty School because her older sister, Mari, who works in a maquiladora in Tecoh, had told her that all of the best local hairdressers come from this particular school.

The next week, after the morning cleaning was done, we accompanied Soco and her mother down to the school to sign up. The lady at the desk outlined two different options: $400 pesos a month for two years at a slower pace or $690 pesos a month for one year. Agreeing that so many things can change in the course of two years, we agreed on the one-year program.

Soco turned over her birth certificate, some photos of herself and a certificate of completion of primaria (primary school, i.e. first through sixth grade) and the deposit of the first month's tuition. We had gotten lucky and come at a time when the $250 peso sign-up fee was being waived as a promotion. She was given a choice of coming at 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm or 5 pm daily, five days a week. Since she must travel an hour each way by combi (van) or bus, she decided to take the 11 am slot. She was told that she will be taking classes in hair cutting, hair coloring and hair styling as well as makeup, manicures and pedicures.

She was instructed to wear closed-toe shoes, the school t-shirt and blue pants while in school each day. The pants were not a problem because blue jeans are accepted, and being the modern Mayan that she is, Soco owns a few pairs of blue jeans. But being a Mayan living in the countryside, Soco doesn't own a pair of closed-toe shoes, so we bought her a pair on the way home.

She was given a receipt, an attendance card with instructions on how to deposit the tuition into the school's Banamex bank account and a list of supplies needed for the first day.

The supply list was typed up on a tiny piece of paper, smaller than a Mayan fist. Supplies listed included hair clips (called mariposas or butterflies), brushes and combs, a spray bottle, two school t-shirts, a school uniform jacket and a maqui, or manniquen head with real hair. The maquis were on backorder so she has to pick that up later. There was a brief moment of excitement when she tried on the uniform and couldn't help but smile, but most of the proceedings were carried on with much Mayan seriousness on all sides, with the crazy gringa snapping photos over in the corner. Soco walked out with two bags of supplies, an attendance card and a new pair of shoes.

Today is the first day of class, and the first day of Soco's future. Buena suerte, Soco! Good luck!


  • A'sha Loga 6 years ago

    I'm a licensed nail technician/ Esthetician. I'm interested intaking nail art classes to learn advanced 3d , Mexican nail art. One of the ladies that graduated from my school went to a school there and came back able to produce mind blowing nail art. I'd like to locate a school that I'm able to attend to do the same. Are you able to assist me in this search or at least recommend how to go about finding such a facility ?

  • Nury 8 years ago

    ALOHA. I am moving to Merida next year, and also been researching about beauty school. I would love to do nails. I can't wait to be there. I am from Villahermosa Tabasco, but I moved to Maui, Hawaii. School in Hawaii is too expensive, I cannot afford it. Living in México will help a lot, as rent won't be a dilemma. Reading the entire page and comments help. God Bless You.

  • Working Gringos 9 years ago

    Hilary, I doubt there is a license needed to practice in Mexico... though that might be changing. We will look into it and let you know.

  • hilary 9 years ago

    If you have an esthetician license in California, move to Merida, can you still work in the Yucatan or do you need to retest and qualify for a new license that is good in Mexico? If so, how do you go about it.

  • Jennifer 12 years ago

    A great story! I am so glad to read this as I have been considering this for the girl who cleans our house. She is still so young and has such a bright future. She envies me my doctorate; that I was able to be raised in a place where I knew I would be going through college. Soon I will be living alone here (the rest of the family is leaving) and she will be able to work less hours. Knowing she would love to go to Beauty School, but is unable to because her family is poor. I wanted to create a kind of scholarship for her to pay for school while working since she must still help support her family. We "gringos" come here and save so much money on the low cost of living here, why can't we give back a little to our new community?

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    As far as we know, there are no English-speaking cosmetology schools here. There might be some in a larger place like Mexico City, and our guess is that if they have English-language instruction, they are probably savvy enough to also have a website. You might try searching on Google. If you don't find one, you might consider starting one!!

  • sarah 13 years ago

    do you know if there are any english speaking cosmetology schools in cancun, mexico that you know of or do you know where I can go check to see what is available?

  • Virginia 14 years ago

    I am opening a salon in Tulum Mexico and looking for good hairdressers. I came across your article and was touched by it while searching on the web for schools in Merida. Did Soco complete school and is she looking for a Job? if so have her email me at

  • Jessie Poe 14 years ago

    Me and my boyfriend are thinking of moving to cancun and was just wondering if you have beauty schools there that are in english?

  • Working Gringos 15 years ago

    Actually, sadly, no. Soco is not doing hair now... she is working at Sam's Club as a cashier.

    The only hairdresser we can recommend is not in the Centro, but in Gran Plaza. The store is called "Aries" and anyone there will do a good job.

  • Jane 15 years ago


    I enjoyed reading this story. Came across it while searching on the site for a hairdresser in Merida. Planning a trip there next week and thinking I might have my long locks cut if there is time. I did not see a date on this article. Is Soco doing hair in Merida now?

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