There is a lovely woman close to my house who makes me quesadillas and tacos many times a week. She has a little stand in the road in front of her house, and several local regulars collect in the mornings for her superb cooking and amazing guacamole.
Today, I was enjoying my quesadilla when out of nowhere and an old man walks by and says, “Just let me get some juice, I’ll be right back.” in extremely clear English. Since I was obviously the only person around who understood what he said, I assumed this was aimed at me. I’ve never seen him before. He came back with a half gallon of orange juice, sat down at the table, and we proceeded to chat.
After the niceties of where-are-you-from and how-long-will-you-be-in-Mexico, he revealed that he spent 45 years as a professional singer and toured extensively around the US. After seven wives, 15 states, and tours of the Caribbean and Central America, he’s settled happily with his three dogs in Tlaquepaque.
He brought out an old photo album full of 50 year old shots of marquee boards in NYC and Los Angeles with his name as well as other traveling latin performers. My favorite was of esposa numero cinco:
In Mexico, people “invite” you to do things. “I invite you for a sopa” means I am being treated, or given something. A sopa here is a really thick tortilla with a huge pat of butter (or in this case chemical smelling margarine) cooked until the butter melts and the sopa is a little crunchy on the bottom, then salsa and frijoles are sprinkled on top.
After inviting me for a sopa, the sly old man slipped me his phone number stating that if I ever had an emergency or needed help to not hesitate to call. We chatted for a while and he helped translate some of the questions that the locals had been trying to ask me that I didn’t understand. He also said that he sees a Mexican marriage for me in my future, but that I should show him the man first so that he can tell me if he is good or not. This from a man with seven ex-wives. But maybe it takes that kind of man to recognize that kind of man. Then he sang a couple of lines from Love is a Many Splendid Thing.
As I left the taco stand, one of the childhood adages that most American kids learn was presented, “Don’t be shy, mi casa es su casa.”
While my northern friends are buried under piles of snow, wind, and ice, it’s starting to get blistering hot here. Sunday was a wreck from the heat, and the damage I caused myself with margaritas and music on Saturday night.
Sunday night I took a wander down some streets I’d never ventured down before. Most places, some of the most picturesque scenery is of the religious nature. I love the architecture, if not always the sentiment.
Saturday I went to the tostada stand where I get help with my homework. I ended up getting dragged, along with my guitar, to meet Pancho’s family. Pancho and his son, also Pancho, run the tostada stand where I first started playing music in town. He invites me to his sister’s house, and it turns out the cousin lived in California for ten years and speaks great English. He was my advisor for the night and kept an eye on things as people got out of hand and the tequila started to flow. We all headed down to the Parian to play some music and entertain folks, which as you can see, went very well. The bartender was extremely happy that this merry band of young men decided to stay for another round for the chance to sing along with the gringa.
When Pancho, who is older than my father, and has two girlfriends and a wife, started calling me Mamacita, I knew it was time to make my exit.
Relationships in Mexico are an interesting thing. Many of the people I’ve talked to here are not exclusive with their boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses. I asked Pancho (the dad), how he feels about his daughter’s husband cheating on her, and he said he didn’t care. “That’s Mexico.” I asked him how he felt about the fact that Pancho (the son) has seven kids with four different women. He said he was proud he had so many kids. Very different thinking from mine I suppose. It goes to show that a church on every corner doesn’t count for much. Tequila wins over Catholicism every time. For now, I’m choosing to keep my distance and enjoy Latin men from an arm’s length.
I had no idea that today was superbowl Sunday. While my friends back home are all posting about botched lyrics and bad vocals, I was bus hopping. Getting directions around here is a feat in connecting vague dots and extrapolation. The Mexican guidebooks are very spotty about actual bus or transportation information, and that may be because it’s always changing and hard to pin down. Rarely are there actual bus stops, just mutually agreed on corners where people congregate and flag down a bus heading in somewhat the right direction. I had asked a friend last night which bus to take to Tonala, and they waved in a generally southern direction and said, the 643 over there. Over where. Oh, over there a few blocks, you’ll find it.
I did, by chance, and after waving down a bus that seemed exasperated and having to actually stop and pick up passengers, I was on my way for a lovely bus around to the next town over.
If Tlaquepaque is where tourists, Mexican and foreign alike, come to buy things, Tonala is where they are actually made. On Sunday the entire downtown of the city is a maze of covered stalls on every street packed in as close as possible with thousands of people pushing and shoving to get at the next best deal. The centro is turned into a sea of multi-colored ceramics, clothes with beautiful embroidery, shoes, hand-made beauty products, produce, and, of course, food. Or as the most racist of my three roommates claimed, “oh I don’t want to go, it’s probably all ghetto and stolen stuff anyway.” To quite the contrary, it is a gorgeous market in a rather beautiful plaza.
I love how they make the enchiladas here. Instead of pouring the sauce on after like the American version, they take the tortilla, dip it in a big bowl of enchilada sauce, roll the chicken in it, cook it on the fire for about a minute, and then prep it with cheese, salad, and at his stand, fried potatoes. Delicious, and all for 20 pesos (less than $2.00).
To get away from the pushing for a while, I took a walk down some side streets away from the center. Tonala is on a rise in the landscape, and although all the power lines tried to ruined my view, there was actually some interesting mountains, and a mesa like formation in the distance.
One thing I find about the people here is that they are very aloof until you greet them. I was standing at a stall where I was considering buying a hand embroidered linen shirt, and the woman just wouldn’t acknowledge me. Until I said buenas tardes, and then she was all smiles, handed me several sizes to try on, and was friendly as can be.