Above is a photo I took the morning of the opening festivities of the Patronales Festival in Sahuayo, Michoacan, Mexico. It was taken in the main plaza and what I like about it is how much it shows what life in Mexico is like.
The first thing you notice is the colors, of course. Mexico is not a pastel place. Sure, the toys are colorful, but it’s not just that. For one thing, the people themselves are a nice, warm brown color. Not glaringly white like I am. Even the buildings here are snappy bright colors. Notice the hot pink store in the background.
But there’s more in this picture than just the colors. In the center of the photo, you see a young man in a wheelchair. Nobody is casting piteous looks at him and he’s not surrounded by caregivers. He’s just another guy down at the plaza getting ready for the festivities and having a chat with the toyseller.
And check out the young men on the left. Got that kinda cocky stance that most guys their age have, but not a backward baseball cap or a gravity defying pair of low, low, low riding denims among them. Maybe when your state has real life narco/Federale gun battles going on, you don’t need to look gangsta. On the other hand, Sahuayo is in [gasp!] Michoacan and yet there’s not a policeman in sight and the plaza is packed. There are definitely problems here in Mexico, folks, but don’t believe all the horror stories you hear or read in the US media.
Oh, and one last thing about the picture above. Notice the dog? Now that one might be on a leash. I can’t really tell and I can’t remember. There are lots of street dogs in Mexico, but if you ever visit, try to remember that street dogs are NOT, for the most part, homeless and/or lost. Well meaning dog lovers in the Ajijic area [particularly snowbirds and other visitors] have been known to pick up homeless or lost dogs and post frantic messages on local webboards, only to discover that they’ve basically dognapped someone’s pet.
Let’s take a gander at some other photos from the plaza. Food vendors, whether established or visiting, stationary or wandering, are prevalent around all Mexican plazas. Here are some that I saw in Sahuayo. In this first photo, you can see the hamburgesas’ vendor’s stand in the background and the roving macaroon vendor’s wares in the foreground.
By the way, hamburgesas in Mexico are not only made of beef. Hamburgesa refers to the bun that the sandwich is served on and not to what it contains. You can, for instance, get a hamburgesa de pollo [chicken patty], hamburgesa de pescado [fish], or hamburgesa de camarone [shrimp]. Sometimes the fish or shrimp are breaded and served on a hamburger bun, and sometimes you get a grilled filet of fish or boiled and/or broiled shrimp on a bun.
In this same picture above, you can see some other things. Check out the guy on the right side. He’s selling little stools for 40 pesos so you can sit and watch the parade. Sher, Kathi, and I brought our own, but Warner bought himself one while we were there. Nice thing is that you don’t have to wander all over looking for one. There are not only folks selling them on every corner, they walk the parade route and sell them too in case you just decided that you need one. Check out the woman on the right:
In the “hamburgesa picture” above, you can also see some of the religious icons being sold on the steps to the church [this is, after all, a religious holiday], as well as the local ambulance, and a fellow selling fresh squeezed orange juice behind the ambulance. Here, I’ll post the picture again so you don’t have to keeping scrolling up:
A little later in the day, the local Red Cross [Cruz Roja] had folks stationed around the church offering free [but suggesting a donation] blood pressure checks.
As you see in the above photo, Felipe’s hamburgesa stand is gonna offer table service. The local beer and soft drink bottlers are Johnny on the spot [or perhaps Juanito on the spot] to offer up tables and chairs for vendors selling their products. Felipe obviously has a deal going to Coke. But not everyone has this kind of deal and they instead offer curbside seating. Like these guys:
It’s always easy to find something to drink at fiestas and parades. Vendors with pushcarts sell drinks and there are plenty of small stores [abarrotes] that sell bottled water, soft drinks, and beer. But maybe you want something a bit more exotic? Aside from the vendors selling fresh fruit drinks, you can also find stands like this:
Nice cold coconuts in which they punch a few holes, shove in a straw, and you can wander the streets sipping your drink in an organic, disposable container. Just make sure they have enough holes drilled into the coconut. My friend Kathi once almost turned blue and gave herself a hernia in Barra de Navidad when served up a coconut with only one hole!
And then there are the candy and nut vendors. I’m always impressed with these people. Apparently somewhere in the area is a large truck full of candy and nuts and each vendor goes over with his or her wheelbarrow and designs a layout that s/he thinks will appeal to the buyer. I’ve never actually seen these large trucks, but they gotta be there! Here are a couple of wheelbarrows offering their wares:
I particularly like this second shot, because it shows not only the goods and the wheelbarrow, but the scale in the back so that the vendor knows how much to charge.
One of the interesting things about Mexican candy that I have found is that it’s not overly sweet. This is kind of astonishing given that “sweets” here in Mexico are made with real sugar. As I’ve mentioned previously, soft drinks taste the way you remember them when you were a kid because of the use of pure sugar. And yet the candy and pastries here, while still made with pure sugar, aren’t as sweet as you might find at your local Safeway.
And, finally, because it always amuses me [yes, I have a base sense of humor], I give you a photo of two things in Mexico that always make me laugh out loud: the curly weenie and the Bimbo bread.
Apparently, you can take the educated anthropologist out of the country, but you can’t take the snickering little girl out of the anthropologist!
Readers, if you live here in Mexico, I can only once again recommend that you attend the Patronales Festival in Sahuayo. And if you don’t live here, COME VISIT!!!