Christmas Shopping in Guadalajara
Evelyn, my new friend from Harlem— Harlem , New York , that is—searched the palapa huts on the beach at Mazatlan until she found us. “There is a shopping tour bus to Guadalajara every Thursday. What do you think?” Kathy and I perked up. “We leave at night, shop all day and return home the following night. It costs only five hundred pesos for the bus. And there will be a tour guide.”
We were an easy sell. We’d landed in Mazatlan exhausted and had done virtually nothing but lounge on the beach, stare at the waves and eat shrimp in the two weeks since we’d arrived. A trip to Guadalajara sounded exciting. We’d get an overview of the city and would know if we’d like to spend time there. For a seven hour trip by bus, the price was exceptional.
When Kathy’s husband Richard arrived on Sunday, as tired and ready for a rest as we had been, we surprised him with the trip, already pre-paid. He raised his eyebrows at us, but went along with our plans. None of us knew quite what we had bought but we were ready for the adventure.
Thursday night at eight we queued up, handed over our bags for inspection by the policia, were given our itinerary and a sack lunch and boarded the bus, one of several heading to the same destination. We were the only Gringos on the bus. Our tour guide, Guillermo, spoke for several minutes. About the trip. I guess. Next year we are determined to arrive in Mexico with a bigger Spanglish vocabulary.
Fortunately, o ur itinerary was printed in both languages. The first stop was Medrano Street from 3 to 8 am. “It is a flea market where you can find all kind of clothes. Be careful of your purse. Because in this season is really crowded.” Guillermo made a ten minute speech at the front of the bus, then indicated to us with gestures at his watch, that we should be back to the bus at 8 am. Oh, and be careful of our purses.
What in the world were we going to do for five hours in the middle of the night at a flea market! Explore, that’s what. We agreed to stay together. It was body to body crowded. A shoppers Mecca , the market sprawled over several streets. Stalls, stands and shops jammed with shirts, shorts, shoes, purses, jewelry, electronics, bedding, you name it. We wandered through the press of people. The atmosphere was like a carnival. We soon split up, each going in whatever direction interested us. Oh, my, the food stalls—the most exceptional baked goods in the world. When it was almost time to leave, we couldn’t find Richard. We nearly panicked and went on the search. With relief we finally spotted him. A tall Gringo did not move through this pack of people unnoticed. We had to go. I was just getting oriented and ready to shop. I comforted myself with plans to return next year; I would go armed with a list.
And thus we ate and shopped our way through Guadalajara , always with Guillermo looking out for us, to make sure we knew when to re-board the bus. We stopped at shopping centers, upscale malls which could have been anywhere in the world, a denim market, arts and crafts markets, and ended up at the huge San Juan de Dios Market, footsore, weary, and happy. We all agreed that shopping Guadalajara deserved several days, with the first stop the flea market. I noticed that Richard was rather quiet through this discussion. The cliché, deer in the headlights, comes to mind. But we intend to also browse through the museums and galleries, photograph the stunning architecture and tour the countryside. It is not all about shopping!
When we boarded the bus for home about twenty extra people crowded in, standing in the aisles. That is, twenty extra people with muy huge bags of plunder. We hardly had room to breathe. One bus had broken down. We swayed through the town for about an hour to a central bus station where a replacement bus awaited. It took some time to redistribute people and bags. On the way again, our driver strived manfully to make up time. We charged and roared through the countryside. About an hour north of Nayarit, our bus gave out, coughed its last fume and died by the side of the road. The driver and Guillermo climbed over the engine, wrenches in hand, to no avail. The policia soon arrived and sat guarding the bus. That’s when I realized there were hundreds of thousands of pesos worth of goods on board, most of it for Christmas.
It was full daylight before another bus putt-putted up to rescue us and carry us back to Mazatlan . During this entire venture, everybody was patient, polite, and cheerful. I never heard one word spoken in anger, not one whine, not one display of impatience. Buses break down. It happens. Will we go again? You bet. Will Richard go again? Maybe not. Maybe he will stay on the beach, in the shade of a coconut palm, reading a book and sipping a cerveza. But Kathy, Evelyn and I are making our lists and checking them twice.
Havre Daily News: Looking out my back door