Yesterday was very full of activity as Wheat and I attended classes, went to the bank and prepared for our bus trip to Patzcuaro. We decided to eat at a cocina economica recommended by one of my Spanish teachers. It was only $2.25 per person for two courses and a drink – flan was 40 cents extra. The food was unremarkable – I had a soup made from what we translated as swiss chard and pork in a green sauce with beans and rice. But, hey, what do you want for $3 (including tip)?
While we were there, we heard a blood curdling scream and lots of loud weeping. Several people ran out of the restaurant to see what the problem was. One of the people pulled a chair from our table and set it in the entryway. A young girl was brought to the chair. She was still crying – apparently, she hurt her foot. Someone produced some alcohol, so maybe it was a cut. Finally, someone either collected her or escorted her home.
The proprietor of the place was an older gentleman who manned the pots and pans and yelled things out to passers by. For example, he yelled out at the Coca Cola truck that he didn´t need any Cokes. Then, a beggar came in and started asking for money. The owner very firmly, but politely, intercepted the guy and told him to leave.
I haven´t spoken that much about begging – it exists, as it always has in Mexico. Mostly it is old women or grieviously handicapped people sitting on the sidewalks soliciting funds from passersby. When you are in a restaurant, eating at one of the outside tables (and sometimes at the inside tables), a whole host of people come in. Most are trying to sell candy, baskets, tablecloths, and roses. Some bold little boys just come by and demand money, staring you down. I am used to being cajoled by cute young Mexican boys, so I am unfazable, usually. I had to laugh last night at a young boy who came cartwheeling along behind us. He almost hit us, so I laughed and said to watch out. He got to his feet and said, “Dame un moneda!” (Give me some money!) Of course, I said no, but while I was standing out on my balcony, he came cartwheeling under my window. He didn´t see me, but if I had had money handy, I would have tossed him some.
The last times I have visited Patzcuaro, I have read signs in the hotels counseling against giving money to children beggars. The literature explained that the money usually doesn´t go to them, anyway. They often have adults pimping them and demanding the money from them, or they are being bullied by older boys or members of their gangs for the money they accumulate. It´s still hard to see.
Yesterday, on our way from the second trip to the bank, it started to rain. By the time we got home, the clothes I had planned to travel in and my hair was soaked. Of course this would happen when we didn´t have our umbrella with us. As we approached the door to our apartment, I was as angry as a wet cat. I prayed that our landlady would not be waiting for us at the bottom of the staircase, as she often is. I did not feel like making conversation, and I could just picture our interchange. I would probably make some grammatical mistakes, she would feel obligated to correct me, and then, I would have to kill her. Luckily, none of that happened.
After circuitous taxi ride and an extended bus ride and another taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel at about 6:30 pm, just in time for cocktail hour. We did a little browsing, and I was very impressed at the wares in some of the shops. Of course there is the usual share of mundane folk crafts, but some of those shopkeepers are on the ball. Retablos are big, tin hearts and milagros are plentiful, and some shops have gotten their hands on some Alexander Henry fabrics to make purses and other things from. One or two stores stocked things from Gusano de Luz, a company I saw selling in Paris. I even found a shopkeeper who has taken to painting ex-votos.
Speaking of which – why am I sitting here, typing? I must go shop!
By the way, I was too full for a paleta of the day yesterday. We did go check out a La Michoacana that looked very promising, only there was no menu on the wall of flavors. When I asked the lone salesgirl, she shrugged and said there was none. So, next time we go, we are bringing the video camera and are going to ask her to recite a list of flavors.
I was just reading about the ice creams of Patzcuaro, and apparently they are very good. A town favorite is a flavor called “pasta“. I´ll have to check that out!