Monday, June 1, 2015

XXI. Un Poco de Esto y Algunos de Ese

A Little of This and Some of That

Some traffic at Seis Esquinas--the woman to the left is arranging 
red roses to sell. There are some customers heading to the neveria
for some ice cream, and the boomboxed compact is blaring out 
political ditties and songs for the upcoming election. 
This past week when there's been nothing else that seemed to need doing, I’ve strolled down Calle Ocampo, which, when it crosses Calle Colón turns into Constitución—the street where we live. I enjoy the immersion in Mexican culture as I stray away from the more anglicized area around the Centro. I took these photos of the tiendas, casas, murals and shrines as I passed. They each speak to some discovery about a way of living that is different from the city life stateside that I'm used to. 

Zapateria y abarrotes
A vivid orange building houses the zapateria, or shoe store. The fan-shaped ornamental spikes serve double duty as security for the second floor residence of the store owner. Security here can also be much more obvious, and its imagined violation more cringingly scary, as in the broken glass or concertina razor wire you occasionally see guarding the top of a wall. 

Frutas y verduras—this one is on the highway, 
or carretera. Notice all the cognates—words in 
Spanish that are suggestive of their English meaning. 
The little tienda to the right of the zapateria is a typical abarrotes, or grocery convenience store, you find every couple of blocks. Sometimes they also advertise "Vinos y Licores". You'll usually find not much more than soft drinks, snacks and candy, plus a cooler for yogurt, and milk and there's often barely room inside to turn around. If you want to expand your choice of vittles to include fresh fare you'll have to go to a place advertising "Frutas y Verduras"—"Fruits and Vegetables".

You occasionally come 
across a wall, or in this 
case, a fragment of a wall, 
that is decorated like this. 
Among—and sometimes above—all these shops are residences, most offering some visual idiosyncrasy that sets them apart. It may be a mural, a shrine—almost always to the Virgin of Guadalupe—or simply a style of ironwork or vibrant color of paint that distinguishes them from their neighbor.

Just after I cross Calle Libertad, I run into what we would call in The States a "pocket park"—formed to accommodate the angle of Calle Hidalgo's intersection with Ocampo, as well as the home of un árbol muy grande.

This is Seis Esquinas, or Six Corners, a mini-plaza surrounded by numerous shops each providing a different necessity—a polleria for chicken and a carnicería for meat, a loncheria for lunch and vinos y licores not to mention the Centro de Salud for what ails you. You'll also find a reparación bicicleta for bicycle repair, not to forget the nevería where you can pick up an ice cream cone, and next door is a papelería for office supplies and copias, or copies. The estética across the street tends to your beauty needs. Add to that the benches and ubiquitous shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe, the basket lights hanging from the arbol and you've got yourself a fine place to gather day or night, to chat, wait for the bus, and greet or just watch the many passersby.

Admittedly, this shot is a block off Ocampo and expresses a
style that is not traditionally Mexican, but it definitely wakes
you up, and that's what we moved here for. Note the security
features at the roofline. 
Taken together this stroll takes me past places expressing their individuality in colorful and unique ways. Interaction is encouraged by the narrow sidewalks where you literally rub shoulders as you meet and pass, often with a friendly, "Buenas días". A quick step into the street to accommodate a mother and child or elderly woman with cane will usually elicit a gracias.

Most all of the tiendas are small owner-run businesses, and many enterprising people set up shop right on the street, in front of their casa, selling barbecued chicken or posole maybe only on two or three afternoons or evenings a week.

Rather than going to a Walmart or Krogers for one-stop shopping, you wander inefficiently, but more leisurely—and socially—around your neighborhood on a daily round to gather a little of this and some of that. In the interest of full disclosure, though, "this and that" has not so far included raw chicken or meat from one of those streetside shops.

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