Mar 13, 2009, 1:05 PM
Post #1 of 2
The El Cerrillo Barrio in San Cristóbal encompasses, as one might expect, a small hill and the surrounding urban area. Probably its central architectural landmark is the old Santo Domingo Temple and ex-Convent with its newly reworked and striking facade which, along with its interesting interior, makes it a prime San Cristóbal attraction. Adjacent to the temple and its plaza is the municipal market which is surrounded on all sides by the large and frenetic indigenous market which spreads out for blocks and where countless food and other products are for sale by established stores and indigenous vendors who come down to the city from surrounding mountainside municipalities and isolated hamlets and this market is endlessly entertaining and a source of fresh fruits, vegetables and fowl and livestock both processed and on the hoof. The surrounding community is home to a large indigenous population but also a large mestizo population and those communities are interspersed with a community of artists and foreign residents who lend the barrio a certain bohemian atmosphere. All of this stew is cooking away a few blocks from the historic center of this ancient town the Spanish stole along with the surrounding fertile Jovel Valley from the 400 years later still-pissed off Chamulas. The area is reminiscent of what one would expect of the Left Bank in Paris when it was evolving into its present character but let´s not overdo the comparison. What I mean by that is that the barrio is still evolving from a poor indigenous neighborhood to a neighborhood attractive to artists and young people and restaurateurs catering to that crowd but in the meantime it is still a poor neighborhood with its share of whorehouses and cheap barbershops and down-market retailers and overnight vendors selling so-called indigenous arts and crafts actually made in China and kids selling candy and chiclets and that sort of thing and discount dentists and prostitutes and their sleazy johns come in from the wife and family left fending for themselves in some hardscrabble mountain village and regional bread purveyors and a fair number of beggars not typically the in-your-face kind you would expect and loathe in Tangiers or Marseilles but more tranquil in keeping with the character of the Highland Mayas and your faithful correspondent decided, in his old age, that this was the neighborhood for him if for no other reason than that it is a source of constant rebirth as one would expect of such a place and so there I am part of the year while residing in the precise opposite foreign colony at Lake Chapala the rest of the year and talk about old age indecision and disparate communities but that is the subject of another post.
So, here I am in this evolving but still poverty stricken neighborhood living on a street a block from the barrio plazuela which has much in common with Steinbeck´s Tortilla Flat of Monterey Bay fame and I have conciously chosen to live next door to an indigenous midwifery operation on one side and a corner attracting whores and their johns on the other so the incessant loud knock on the door at 2:00AM should come as no surprise to me.
Loud and persistent knocking on our front gate commences and continues until, although we have been in bed for at least a couple of hours, my wife rises and walks through the courtyard to the front gate . I must confess that I would have been content to let this interruption to my reverie pass without acknowledging its existence no matter how long this took.
WIFE: Yes, what do you want?
JOHN: A room!
WIFE: We have no rooms!
JOHN: A room!
IFE: The whorehouse is on the corner. We have no rooms.
JOHN: A room!
WIFE: Get lost or we´ll call the cops!
JOHN: Oh, OK!
Sound of drunken uncertain departure.
The next day the sex worker this john was seeking and who invariably hangs out on the corner one house down from our residence sees my wife walking from the plazuela to our house and asks her where her husband is. My wife indicates she does not know this. The whore responds, "Well, you know he drinks too much beer that he buys at the abarrotes across from the plazuela and not only that he buys that expensive already chilled Tecate when he could buy unchilled Corona much cheaper but I´m not suggesting this as he drinks too much beer anyway and that´s why he´s so fat."
We spent a lot of time in Hawaii when we were younger and I swear to God the women around here and the women on the Big Island have a lot in common and that is mainly that they constantly stick their noses in the business of local menfolk both close and of distant acquaintance who just want to drink in peace and be left to their own destructive devices without having to answer to every Goddamned female coming down the pike if you get my drift.