Elmer Padilla has been delivering the mail to stoops and mailboxes across the Mission for the last 22 years. In a month, he will retire. “Our job is getting harder and harder,” he says.
Padilla lives in Vallejo and commutes to the Mission to deliver the mail. This job “gives me food on the table and a roof over my head,” Padilla says. He got the job as a mailman after being inspired by his late brother, who also worked for the U.S. Postal Service. The income from delivering mail goes to his three children and wife in Vallejo, as well as to his two children in the Philippines, where he was born.
Mission Local walked alongside Padilla as he dropped political literature, Amazon boxes and bills for residents. Election season means “working 11 or 12 hours every day. That’s long hours.” But he enjoys the neighborhood.
He was offered the chance to change areas, but decided to stay. “I like the people around here, they never touch me or nothing. It’s similar to the Filipino attitude because we were under Spanish rule, so we adopt a lot of things from them and have some things in common. Some of the words Latinos use, we also use those words.”
In the two decades he has been working in the Mission, he has noticed changes. “I haven’t seen gangs for a long time. Like on 24th and Shotwell, it’s gone. Now, rent is high, people pay more.” The neighborhood, he said, is safer nowadays, even when it gets dark. When asked about the importance of the USPS to democracy, he says “that without the ballots there is no more democracy for us.”
“I’m not a citizen, so I can’t vote,” he said, adding that he has a green card. “I wish I could vote,” he says. “One of these days.”