Street Vendors | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Street Vendors

Oops.

Somehow I managed to publish these pictures without writing commentary. So I'm reposting them with some explanation of what they're all about.

A Senior Moment. Some of you will understand.

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All day long people walk through San Miguel de Allende selling stuff. Theirs are not lucrative careers. This woman makes and sells dolls. Her entire enterprise—manufacturing, distribution, advertising, selling and finance—operates right here on the street.

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She is a fixture; I see her almost every day. She's not happy that I am taking her picture. Her right hand is descending, at the tail end of a "go away" gesture. Beat it, jack.

She is not wearing shoes because she doesn't have any.

This next woman is selling nopales (prickly pear cactus pads) and chamomile. Or begging. Hard to tell which. She has perfected the pitiful look that tears at the hearts of tourists, particularly gringos, who have no actual need for nopales. And so they give her a few pesos and she returns home at the end of the day with most of her inventory intact.

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This man is selling raw, warm-from-the-cow milk, door-to-door. The cup in his right hand is a standard measure used by all the milk vendors in town. Some sellers make their rounds in pickup trucks carrying several large cans of milk. This guy doesn't have a truck, but at least he has shoes.

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Next we have the peanut vendor—one of my favorite street characters. His two heavy pails are suspended from a wonderfully worn and curved shoulder pole. As he walks, he cries out in a penetrating voice, "¡Elotes! ¡Cacahuates!" (Corn! Peanuts!)

The corn is the doughy, starchy stuff that Mexicans prefer, mixed with mayonnaise, lime juice and chile powder. The peanuts have been boiled in their shells and are mushy: They're what we call "goobers" in the South. He also sells boiled green garbanzo beans in their spiny pods. Think Mexican edamame.

He passes by my house regular as clockwork every afternoon. When I hear him calling "Caca-WAAAAH-tes," I know it is time to get up from my siesta. Or not.

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The man below sells drinks: water mixed with flavored syrup. No carbonation. No ice. I suppose its main attraction is its low price.

The vehicle he is using is a heavy-duty tricycle, but one built sort of in reverse: two wheels in front and one in back. It's a common transport in Mexico. I saw them used to unload cargo from the Cozumel ferry. The men riding them wore shirts proclaiming their membership in the Union of "Tricicladeros" (tree-see-clah-DARE-ohs).

In a small Yucatan town, tricicladeros drove machines fitted with a bench seat over the two front tires and an awning overhead. Three-wheeled surreys. Taxis. They were taking chiildren to school: two or three well-scrubbed kids and their stout grandma wearing her spotless huipil (a kind of dress).

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The ice cream vendor's expression is reminiscent of old Soviet propaganda: The proletariat resolutely facing the future.

Except he's an entrepreneur. The march of the bourgeoisie?

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Would you eat anything out of that grimy cart? What's the Bacardi box for? What's the bottle of water tied to the side for? Is it clean? Are his hands clean?

Maintenance is not a priority in this shop. Check out the nose wheel on his landing gear. Check out the grubby hat.

The man with the bicycle (¿bicicladero?) is another San Miguel fixture—he makes and sells hand-woven reed mats. (Sorry, I don't know the spanish name for them).

These people know that gringos are fascinated by them and often want to take their pictures to take home and show their First World friends how backward things are in Mexico. In other words, their images have value, and they're not afraid to ask for money if they see you pointing your camera at them. This man is saying "¡Pague!" (Pay!).

You can't really blame them. They're all dirt poor. Still, I find it annoying when they ask.

We bought mats from this man a couple of times in the past. So I figured I was his buddy. His demand for money kind of hurt me. Which shows that when it comes to relations with my Mexican neighbors, I am totally clueless.

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This woman with her wise, serene face, sets up shop in Colonia Guadalupe (one of the neighborhoods outside of the Colonial Center). She's got a pile of aguacates (avocados) to sell, but her main business is selling tortas (sandwiches). The turquoise bucket contains some of her ingredients—chopped onions and peppers.

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Some vendors come in from the campo (countryside) on occasion to earn some needed cash. This woman is selling huitlacoche (corn smut) and nopales. She's so obviously destitute that I gave her $10 pesos. She replied that her picture was worth $50 pesos. I refused. Her daughter, sensing that her mother was unhappy with me, glared accusingly.

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The huitlacoche trade attracts the bottom of the street merchant pecking order. These children, who should be in school (since it was Monday when I encountered them), are also selling fungus-infected corn kernels. Do they look happy to you?

Tragic. Their futures are being mortgaged. If they belonged to a family temporarily down on its luck, you could almost accept the need for them to work. But these kids proved to be street-wise. When I snapped their photos, the boy marched up to me and said, "¡Dinos algo!" (Give us something!)

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Street vendors add color and interest to our town. Tourists are fascinated by them. But they exist only because of grinding poverty.

I get a topic for a post. They get a life of want.

It's not right.

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