Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four Women On The Loose In Guadalajara

Four Women On The Loose In Guadalajara
            I didn’t want to go. I was still recovering from burning the soles of my feet on the hot sands of Mazatlan. The plan was for Lani, Kathy, Crin and me to go to Tonola for the tianguis, the huge street market, and from there to Best Buy for Kathy to buy a washing machine.

            It’s hard to pass up a day in Tonola. But the bait that hooked me was Best Buy for a shop vac. My house is all brick walls, tile floors. I really don’t need a vacuum cleaner. But you go around the walls with a broom and watch the dust fly. No wonder I am the “Witch of the Rancho”.

            The Tonola tianguis is known throughout Mexico for artisan crafts. Every Thursday and Sunday vendors set up stalls in an area covering several blocks. People from several states in Mexico come to shop. To me, this experience engages every sense. I go; I see; I smell; I taste; I hear; I feel. I didn’t buy a thing.

            My friends bought mirrors with hammered aluminum and decorative tile frames, clay pottery kitchen ware, a bedspread, chairs, garden-pots, lamps, a bench topped with a five-inch slab of beautiful wood.

            One of my Mexican friends says Tonola is “for the people”. On the other side of Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, filled with high-end jewelry stores and galleries, is for the rich tourists from all over the world. I understand.

            Tonola has streets of cobbled obsidian, dirt parking lots, hundreds of tiendas. Men roam with two-wheel carts. Jose pointed us where to find items and wheeled purchases back to the truck.

            While shopping mirrors, I noticed a woman selling Moringa, both seeds and leafy tea.  The tea is boring. The seeds taste an intriguing bitter-sweet but must be husked.

Moringa will cure or prevent everything under the sun: circulation, cancer, heart, diabetes, digestion. It’s a standard Mexican home remedy. I’ve taken Moringa for a couple years. (I planted a small tree in my garden. Iguanas love it.) My haircutter in Mazatlan said, “Try it.” While I have no intention of living forever, I can verify that my hair is thicker than ever before in my life. I asked the Senora for capsulas. They are easier. She didn’t have any.

Later, we were on the absolute other side of the tianguis, in the middle of a tent of lamps.  Somebody tapped my shoulder. The Moringa woman held a packet of capsulas. I was delighted. Cynically, one could say, she wanted the sale, small though it was. What I felt was that she cared enough for my wants to secure the capsules and then to find me.

Kathy chose a lamp; the pole a metal rod, bent to form a round base, curved at the top in an arc from which hung a four foot cylindrical shade with abstract print in deep shades of brown. We clapped our hands at her find. Kathy wanted a black stand instead of gunmetal gray. No problema. In moments, the man wielded a can of black spray paint and gave her what she wanted.  

From the dusty streets of the tianguis we drove across Guadalajara to Plaza Galerias, the largest shopping mall outside Mexico City. All in Mexico is not “rustico”. From the moment we stepped inside the doors, my small-town-girl jaws dropped. This mall could be in Paris, London, New York City, or Los Angeles.

            Galerias reminded me that Guadalajara is one of the richest cities in the world. People strolled past with more invested in their apparel than I have in my wee casita. The mall, covering acres, houses popular Mexican and American stores as well as numerous international franchises. Up the escalator, gawking like proper country mice, we found Best Buy.

            I’m not a shopper. I know what I want. A small shop vac. A man pointed me in the right direction. I saw. I bought. Maybe it was the hot day. Maybe it was my feet. I wanted to go home.

            What is it that attracts us so strongly to Etzatlan? Perhaps the attraction is that in this village we feel like we have traveled back in time sixty years. There is no mall, no Best Buy, no Walmart. Men ride horses into town and hitch them to the posts in the plaza. We like the cobbled streets. We like that people walk to shop, to visit, to sit in the plaza.  

            We like the people who welcome us with genuine courtesy and respect. People are patient with our cobbled language. In this place of no more than a dozen gringos, they know us, they look out for us. Lord knows, we need looking after!

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

May 18, 2017

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