No free tortillas in the Workhouse Republic
Every afternoon when I knock off from writing, after I suck down a Modelo beer and take an hour nap, I step out onto the 400-year-old cobbled street, with its hap-scatter string of vendors lining both sides. All sorts of vendors -- vegetable vendors, vendors of tacos, chicharrones, chenille bedspreads and plucked chickens, cigarros, soft drinks, sopa and suet. Merchants whose business address consists of a card table in front of their casita.
Here in this working class neighborhood on Calle Zaragoza, tourists seldom venture, and the neighborhood merchants' customers are their neighbors. Their goods are the common fare of daily family life in Mexico. Today, at a table less than two blocks away, I purchased a dozen brown eggs, with the idea of making huevos rancheros. The purchase took three quarters of an hour, and included stumbling but cheerful half English/half Spanish conversations with the six vendors between my casita and the table of Gabriel, the old egg and cheese vendor with an artificial leg and wizened smile who assures me that rooster-fertilized eggs make a man go all night. "I am too old to care about that," I half speak, half gesture in that rudimentary sign language understood everywhere. "Hawwww" he chortles and says something in Spanish I cannot understand. An English speaking bystander, a teenager with a backward baseball cap and dressed in "L.A. sag," translates: "He says his pendejo is as hard as his plastic leg. You still alive! You never too old!"