During my last year as a volunteer, I moved away from my lovely little pueblo and lived in a city. One that travel guides rarely mention. But while there may be a dearth of tourist attractions, the city merits attention because it is a typical Mexican city. It is blue collar, it is “up and coming,” and it is always described as tranquilo.
For a year it was my city, and I liked it.
No more than five minutes from my apartment were countless markets. Several times per week I would buy papayas, mangoes, tomatoes, avocados, chilies, and onions. Everything was so fresh and flavorful that I still daydream about those trips to the market.
Returning home, I carried my heavy groceries along the narrow sidewalks. I walked with a quick pace past constantly long lines for the ATM. I dodged ladies who awkwardly tripped down the sidewalks in their extraordinarily high heels. I watched carefully for potholes and wires that regularly disrupted my path.
On one side of the sidewalk, the streets were packed with taxis and public transit vehicles honking their specially modified horns. The streets are downright musical in Mexico: gas trucks; trash collection trucks; mobile ice cream vendors…each with a unique song that repeats over giant speakers.
Lining the other side of the sidewalk were tasty comida corrida restaurants, tortilla shops, and yoga studios. Like most other cities in Mexico, the international influence was apparent but the traditional shops remain the staple.
The few public green-spaces were always occupied. By day, amorous couples occupied the benches and kissed like they had never been kissed before – although the men were usually very careful not to let their carefully-gelled hair get messed up despite their passion. By night, mariachi bands awaited customers seeking a serenade for their lover.
On the edge of the city, it was apparent that most Mexican cities have followed the bad development habits of the USA. Strip malls are next door to big-box stores like WalMart and Home Depot, and the housing developments leave a bit to the imagination. It is a pity.
I would return home from the market, greeted with a “hey, what’s up!” and a kiss on the cheek from my roommate. He would then invite me to eat mushroom quesadillas and to go rock climbing a few days later. We would put on some music and recount our days in a very colloquial Spanish/English mix.
For his job, he was a Mountain Guide for adventuresome tourists. But to me, he was a reminder of how important friends are.
It was nice to move from a small pueblo to a mid-sized city; I was able to experience the “many Mexicos” that exist in a tremendously diverse country.
Home: a nice place to lay my hat at the end of a busy day
To see photos taken inside my apartment, check out my post titled Goodbye is a gift.