Jul 12, 2004, 5:52 PM
Tampico's other main square is Plaza de Armas. It has a wonderful cathedral one one side that dates from the late 1890's and was, supposedly, financed by the oil magnate Edward Doheny (who also founded that hyper rich enclave of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills). Alongside the cathedral is a more modern branch of a bank that replaced a fantastically Moorish cinema building - long since demolished. The other side of the cathedral has a beautifully ornate colonial 4 storey structure that houses the local DIF office - the Department of Family Services.
The local government's own Town Hall dominates the square and takes up an entire block. It is of classical design and features the usual central balcony from which 'el grito' is made every 16th September - as in all cities across the Republic.
The telephone company offices, both old and new, are on the other side of the square (next to the Hotel Inglaterra) with stores on the remaining side. The square itself has tall and stately palms around it and features a huge pink stucco bandstand, with an ornately tiled and domed roof, in its centre.
A word about 'Mercado Juarez'. The main traditional market of Tampico is a place of cash-only bargains, cheap food, bright colours and thronging life - a noisy, crowded, hot and blowsy place with many smells, stores and sights. Fresh blue-claw crab (the 'jaiba' of the local idiom) is slabbed daily with 'mariscos y pescados' from the bountiful Gulf waters, and there is always fresh-picked and still dirt-encrusted produce from the rancheros of the surrounding countryside. It is a working-class place, where poor women from the pueblitos and barrios mix with housekeepers to the middle-classes and the occasional Mennonite from a local community nearby.
The market complex is actually three separate markets. One is for fresh produce only, the other for 'gastronomic' foods (whatever they mean by that) and the third, Juarez, features all manner of goods as well as those described.
The markets are adjacent to the docks and 'la barda' of the sandwiches. Close by is a beautifully compact and ornate railroad station building, now used as offices. Tampico has trains but they are private freights that moan and clank like restless phantoms long in to the night. The station dates from the times when there was a thriving passenger train service which, like the streetcar service, is long gone.
More soon about shopping & eating