Wednesday, December 28, 2016

World market

There is so much on offer in Oaxaca! The old central square of the colonial city, or Zocalo,  with vendors of all kinds - from shoe-shine stands to balloon sellers, to sellers of toys with their wares laid out on the pavement.

There are strolling musicians. There are a couple of guys who tote a full-size wooden marimba around the square, playing duets in various locations. There are old ladies carrying baskets of candies; old ladies carrying sheaves of bark paintings; old ladies carrying woven table runners draped over their shoulders.

There are rolling cars, some mounted on bicycles, for vendors to sell roasted ears of corn, raspados (fruit slushies), or tacos, meat seared on an earthenware comal over a propane burner.

Vendors sell children long inflatable mylar tubes, so they can spar like star troopers with one another, or launch the tubes high up in the air, where they float slowly back down to earth.

It is impossible to escape these entrepreneurs, they are not shy about pressing their wares upon you, even coming up to your table in a cafe. They set up on sidewalks and even in the entrances to buildings.

The dads were just as fascinated as the kids
There was a guy with a little stand set up where he made puzzles out of metal wires - the kind of brain-twisters my brother and I used to love as kids.

Small children, some that looked as young as six, wandered among the sidewalk cafe tables with necklaces draped over their arms, selling.

I asked my friend Alice what was up with the guy walking around with two metal tubes he clicked together. Then the guys drinking beers at the table next to us beckoned him over. Alice explained that the object he wore on a strap over his shoulder was a battery, and the metal tubes were wire into it. As we watched,  two of the guys each gripped a metal tube in his hand, and then joined hands with everyone else around the table. The vendor cranked up the voltage, and the party laughed as they felt the electrical tingle. He cranked it up higher and higher, daring them until one of them broke hold. A weird game!

This entrepreneurship is everywhere. Accordion players sit on the sidewalks, their children and a donation cup beside them.

Just south of the Zocalo are two large markets; the Mercado Benito Juarez and the Mercado 20 de Noviembre.

Benito Juarez is home to sellers of produce, meat, cheese and flowers. It's a colorful and noisy place, and you might see some surprises.

While the 20 de Noviembre market is home to sellers of prepared foods. You can find bakeries and lunch counters here. I came here one morning and sat on a painted wooden bench to drink delicious warm chocolate from a pottery bowl, dunking a roll of fresh pan de yema.

For the Christmas season, there were many temporary markets in streets and plazas to sell crafts and gifts. The prices were very tempting, but you must shop carefully - a lot of the stuff is mass produced and machine-made.

A truly beautiful piece - $7000 pesos, or $337 US dollars
I found some beautiful blouses in one tent up near the Templo de Santo Domingo. Here the goods were guaranteed to be handmade and crafted by local people.

People here seem to live to sell things; entire families are involved in the enterprise. The energy and drive of the vendors is a little overwhelming. If you're not used to it, it intimidates you. But as the days went, I became more accustomed to the constant salesmanship, and began to accept it. It's the drive of people striving, trying to survive, trying to subsist in a hard world.

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