Last week I moved to a new part of town, still in the center of Oaxaca but in the less touristy more local part. I wasn’t sure I wanted to move over here, partly because it is away from a lot of my friends and a bit of a walk from my usual haunts. However, in the week or so of being here I have been reminded of so many of the things that I love about Mexico and the reasons I chose to live here…
The Way People Acknowledge Each Other
Mexicans still seem to have the sense that we are all human beings that should acknowledge and talk to each other. Whilst sitting having lunch in a Comida Corrida place (comida corrida is a lunch of 3 or four courses and a flavoured water that usually costs about forty pesos- £2/ £3 USD) every person that entered said either good afternoon or bon appetit to me, even the children. It is very normal here to walk into a restaurant and acknowledge everyone and to once again say bon appetit (Provecho in Spanish) upon leaving. I love it! It makes me feel accepted and part of Mexico every time. In fact, I once wrote a whole blog on the word provecho, which I never published. This has reminded me that I will have to search it out!
Admittedly, I had an incredible market right on my doorstep in my old place, but there is something extra Mexican about the market I am near now. Every vendor gives me tips on how to use the food I am buying and tells me what new things they will be getting soon. I had a long discussion with one market stall owner about the price of eggs and how they had gone up tremendously (something like 150% in the last year) and how we were going to have to think of new alternative breakfasts, since so many traditional breakfasts here have eggs as the main ingredients!
I love that when I eat at the market all the eateries work together with the stalls. I can order juice and they will go to get it from the juice lady and when I pay them they give her her split of the money. It’s a win-win situation.
Mostly I love the life and the vibrancy of the market. The noise, the smells, the sights and the tastes and I love that a statue of Saint Jude has his own little alter right in the middle of it all!
Walking round my new neighbourhood, I sometimes feel like I am in a new city. There are tiny shops selling roasted coffee, stores offering what looks like homebrew Mezcal, hardware stores, fabric shops and even a man sat in what is essentially a tiny hole in the wall selling computer equipment (perfect, because I wanted to buy a wireless mouse!) I popped around the corner to buy hooks to hang pictures and then a few blocks down I picked material for curtains that will be made at the store. I can’t explain how much I love it! Sadly, my plan to spend 2013 without visiting a supermarket fell down when I moved but really if I had all the time in the world and a rolling basket I could have bought everything I needed in the local stores. Long live the local economy of Mexico!
As a result of my move I have found myself smiling more, interacting with people more and generally feeling more like I really live in Mexico.
So if you’ll excuse me I am off to enjoy a fresh juice at the market, whilst chatting about the price of butter before going to pick up my curtains!
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.