Monday, July 28, 2008

Mercado Magico

A while back Kim Erno, our future host at the Lutheran Center in Mexico City, mentioned that Tepoztlan was one of Mexico’s “magical villages.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but of course it sounded inviting.

Turns out the phrase is meant to sound that way in an official sense. It’s all over the tourism brochures, chamber of commerce signs, and even the trash receptacles.

Since we got here I’ve been reading my way through some anthologies of travelogues from the late 1800s through the 1950s or so. From the reports of these writers, the towns south of Mexico City, like Taxco, Cuernavaca, Tepoztlan, and Puebla, to name a few – have been popular tourist spots for not merely decades but centuries.

Probably the majority, then and now, are weekenders from Mexico City, though on Saturday there were plenty of English-speaking gringos from faraway lands. (Dad, you’ll be happy to know that I spotted a West Virginia hat the other day – what’s a Mountaineer doing all the way down here?)

There is a market in the zocalo (town square) every day, but on weekends, when the turistas come, the market explodes into a sprawling mess that extends its wares up and down all the surrounding streets.

There are beautiful handicrafts and the usual souvenir t-shirts, of course, but there is also a sizable food section, with delicious-smelling taco fillings, cooked, and, er, uncooked (intact head of a pig, anyone?); lots of avocados, limes, and mangos, not to mention all the totally unrecognizable fruits and veggies. The seafood stand is particularly popular, which is odd, since we’re at least a day’s drive from any coast. Desafortunadamente (unfortunately, my favorite Spanish word to say) we’re reticent to eat any of it, since we´re still nervous about getting sick from street food. (Famous last words: How can anything that smells that good make you sick?)

Besides the street food, there are also displays of bootleg CDs and DVDs at cheap prices, a dude walking around with giant helium balloons, and then a few men standing not on either side but right in the middle of the crowd, one looking forlorn because no one seems to be buying his fresh-looking churros, another singing “Sombrero Sombrero!” every thirty seconds or so, like clockwork.

(above: Can you find the sombrero man?)

We watch the sombrero man, waiting for someone to buy his gleaming white wide-brimmed hats. After what seems like an eternity and at least fifty renditions of Sombrero Sombrero!, a well-heeled businessman from Mexico City (or so we´re guessing from his appearance) walks up and tries one on. He looks at his wife for approval, then tries another.

Finally he decides, and pulls a wad of cash out of his wallet. He hands the sombrero-seller a 500 peso bill (about 50 US dollars), far more than the hat actually costs. (Chris says this proves he is a Mexico City businessman, throwing around so much cash.) Surprisingly, the sombrero man has change, and the businessman walks away, his arm around his companion, his weekend outfit of dress slacks, dress shirt, dress shoes, and white sombrero now complete.

The sombrero-seller starts up again - Sombrero Sombrero! - but we are not in the mood for sombreros. We walk downstairs, down from the little balcony with the perfect view, and head for the nearest Tepoznieves.

The market, you see, satisfies all tastes.

1 comment:

Dad said...

Matt..hillbillies are just drawn to mountains...go figure