Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12TH, 1999 – UXMAL (CONT.)

A typical farmer always carries a "coa", a kind of machete, which is good for digging out herbs.

In the direct sunlight it is hot, but the air itself is not so hot. The street is filled with people sitting on newspapers or burlap. It's common to find a small town with a big church like the one we can see in the distance. It's quite plain: no bell tower. This is a square with trees in big pink "planters" you can sit on.

Our guide says "Hello!" and gives a big hug to a stranger. There's the smell of vegetables and raw meet at room temperature -- slightly rotting. The people aren't smiling. Everyone has bikes. Smells like tortillas. It’s a wide street, with sharp shadows because of the harsh sun. The stucco is pink. Someone's selling hardware.

There's an 80-yr-old lady selling stuff. Our guide says that Mexicans never stop working as they get old. They don't get infirm, until they're about ready to die. They walk to church & back even at a very old age. Jorge had an elderly uncle who had to be picked up a couple of times at the police station; the police found him wandering around, senile and lost. Smiling old men often have bad eyesight but still smiling & walking.

I brave the medium-size warehouse like building with pink stucco where the meat vendors sell their unrefrigerated stuff. There are fans overhead. There's an overpowering meat smell, which changes as I walk past differing kinds of meat. Raw meat and people frying or cooking meat. There's blood spilled on the floor. It's quite dirty in here. Smell makes me nauseous!

Sounds: Christmas carols playing on one of the vendors' radios. The crowd's chatter and flies. "Shika shika" of sharpening knives. Glass bottles clanking against each other. There's corn dough for tortillas; a kind of paste. I smell sausage being cooked, a smoky smell with hot peppers. There's a seed, paprika, you smash and sell the seasonings in small plastic bags. The black paste is a mixture of chilis, used to marinade pork & meat. There's pork skins, fried, a very strong smell.

The ladies no longer have to grind the corn to make tortillas. Instead, they bring their corn here to a small workshop & grind it here. Sort of like an Internet Cafe, but no coffee, no computers, just the corn grinding machines.

Soccer and baseball are the two most important Mexican sports. I ask our guide, Do these villages have health concerns? Some don't know, but most do know. All this raw meat is probably animals killed this morning, early. So it's not very old meat. What isn't sold is indeed put in a fridge.

The entire market is basically laid out along the streets of a T junction. The pavement is OK, a little rough but not gravel. Standing in the shade is much nicer! Little stalls line the sidewalks, making it too tight to walk double. Much of the clothing is US-style lower-class stuff. A smashed fishing hat.

There's a problem with alcohol in the villages. The head of a household can spend money in bars. But there's little trouble with violent crime here. Our tour guide parked his car alongside a row of the bicycle-taxis. Some guy tells him, "You're mis-parked" as though guide should apologize. Our guide thinks that's rude.

There are shoes & belts & dresses for sale here. We buy a hat (though I lose it on an airplane later). There are handmade, embroidered dresses. The leather for the belts comes from elsewhere in Mexico.

I see a guy with a missing leg. I've seen that occasionally here, surprising since in the US it's quite rare. Our guide, Jorge, says that when somebody has diabetes in Mexico, often an amputation is required due to poor medicine and poor health.

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