THE EVERYDAY PARADE
Life comes to your door in La Gloria. Not exactly in a neat little package, but delivered, to be sure. Starting at 6:30 AM, a slow parade of vendors begins to roll by, some on bicycles, some on foot, others on motos or in trucks. They trickle off sometime after dark, but often it's late by the time they disappear completely for the night. This week, we’ve slowly been learning to differentiate between everyone’s honks, cries and whistles.
The tortilla man rides his bicycle down our street several times a day. That guy works hard. He is up at dawn, and stays at it all day. His honk is high-pitched and rubbery, several brisk honks in short succession. It’s 50 pesos (less than 50 US cents) for a stack of fresh, hot tortillas–corn or flour. (And to think I bought some boring, old packaged ones upon arrival at the grocery store. Idiota!)
Knife Sharpening Guy announces his arrival by playing a flute–three triangulated notes (think of the first three notes of the song, “Over There”). He pulls his rig through less often (maybe a few times a week), trudging past with what appears to be a very jury rigged piece of rolling luggage—the suitcase part replaced with a wooden box where he keeps his knife sharpening wheel. We haven’t needed any knives sharpened yet, so we aren’t sure of his rates (we’re pretty sure they’re more than decent).
The water truck rolls through every few days, honking three or four times as it passes. They carry large pallets of jarras de agua purificada, jugs of purified drinking water. We’ve decided to buy our drinking water from Santiago, our next-door neighbor who runs the little corner store. He gives us two 20 liter jugs for 480 pesos (a little over $4 USD) and will even help carry them over to the house. We just bring him the bottles when they’re empty and he recycles them and gives us new, full ones. The water truck costs a tiny bit less, but we’ve decided to support Santiago. Since the SuperExpress (a chain grocery store) moved in down the block he struggles to maintain his business, his inventory now only half of what it once was.
The Oaxaca cheese man’s signature call is the most obvious. He walks down the street with his wares in a box on his head, calling out: “Oaxaca! Oaxaca!” His cheese is 50 pesos (around $5) for 1/2 a kilo. Not bad for the creamy, coiled food of the gods, a staple in any self-respecting Isleno’s household.
Relying on more of a soft sell, the ice cream man comes by in the evenings, dinging his bell and calling out in a kindly manner, “Coco! Coco!” The coconut ice cream is (as you might expect) a favorite of locals and visitors, alike.
From time to time, the trolelotes man wheels his cart through. One night, we were eating in the street (literally, they put the table in the street for us and traffic had to drive around) at Basto’s, a neighborhood restaurant a few blocks away. The trolelotes man rolled by, stopping (opportunely) at the bar across the street for a “break”. Our friend, Steve turned to us and asked, “Have you ever had trolelotes?” We shook our heads, no. He pushed his chair back and bounded over to the cart, returning with a small, paper cup filled with white corn in some sort of sauce. He dug the tiny plastic spoon into the mix and took a bite before passing it over to us. “What am I eating, exactly?” I asked, pondering the strange mixture that was both familiar and foreign at the same time. “Feed corn,” Steve said with a grin. “At least in Canada, they’d call it feed corn.” Indeed, trolelotes is a popular local snack made of (in some cases) feed corn. Other times, regular corn is used. The corn is mixed with butter, cheese, mayonnaise, hot chili powder and lime. We decided it must be an acquired taste, because we found it neither delicious nor repugnant, just something undefinable in between. But definitely different, and actually not too bad–for feed corn.
Today, we welcomed a new vendor to the mix: Gigantic Virgin Mary Statue Peddling Guy. While I was working at the dining room table, a face appeared in the small open window in our front door. “Hola! Buenas Dias!” a man yelled cheerily (and at the top of his lungs) into our living room. “Tu eres la senora de la casa?”, he inquired politely. I got up and chatted briefly with him at the door, inspecting his wares thoroughly before deciding that no, I wasn’t in the market for a humungous ceramic statue of the Virgin Mary. He cradled a pair of heavy statues in the nook of each arm, one in a bright orange robe, the other sporting the same robe in hot pink. “Muy hermosas,” he said enticingly in a sing-song voice, holding each one out in turn. “No hoy,” I shook my head politely, smiling. “Son muy bonitos, pero no, gracias.” And with a toothy grin he bowed and walked on.