Federico Estol is a Uruguayan photographer (1981) who graduated from the Politechnic University of Cataluña (Barcelona). He is currently working as a freelance photojournalist for local media and editorial assignments. Estol has participated in exhibitions and festivals in Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Finland, Latvia, Brazil, the Netherlands and United States. The Treasure Island is his third published photobook after “Fiestas del Uruguay” and “Hello Montevideo”. He has received several awards, grants and scholarships. Estol was recently given first place recognition at the rural-urban category by the Latin American Center of Photography granted by René Burri (Magnum Photos) 2012, the Photobook award by CDF of Montevideo 2013 and the Latin American Fotografía award 2015.
There are 3,000 shoe shiners who go out into the streets of La Paz and El Alto suburbs each day in search of clients. They come from all ages and in recent years have become a social phenomenon in the Bolivian capital. What characterizes this tribe is the use of ski masks so they will not be recognized by those around them. They confront the discrimination they face with these masks; in their neighbourhoods no one knows that they work as shoe shiners, at school they hide this fact, and even their own families believe they have a different job when they head down to the centre of the city from El Alto.
The mask is their strongest identity. That which makes them invisible; it is also what unites them. This collective anonymity makes them tougher when facing the rest of society. It is their resistance against the exclusion they suffer as a result of carrying out this work.
I was there and I can attest that there are shoes that blind you only by looking at them thanks to the family of shoe shiners in La Paz, the true heroes of shine.