It’s early morning in Cozumel. Sitting on my roof deck I am getting ready to write about yesterday’s excursion to the local market, but, first, I need to listen to the singing. It’s 7:00 in the morning, it’s spring and it’s Sunday. This means that the tropical birds are busily competing with the Sunday morning worshipers. I live directly alongside a large Catholic church in the Corpus Christi neighborhood of San Miguel. There are many advantages to this fact, although talking about those are for another day. Today I want to pass along my shopping experience on a tropical island. Still, listening comes first.
Now that the early service is over I can concentrate a bit and tell you about our market here. It is quite large, boisterous, and filled with possibilities. Located fairly close to the center of town, it extends from avenida 20 to 25, which is actually one block, and it is also surrounded by a multitude of other small stores just in case you still couldn’t find what you needed. I like to get there when the folks are just setting up shop. It makes for better lighting and, often, better choices of just about anything one would need for living on, or traveling through, the island. Whether you want fresh fish, new shoes, lunch, or a hula hoop, they got it. I picked a spot for my bike, locked her up, and went inside.
The first thing I noticed was the music. Loud and rhythmic, it set a tone. As I walked around it didn’t take long to find the dj. He had a small electronic keyboard, an old speaker system, and a microphone. We are not talking high-tech here, folks. He’s also approaching an age that might typically make this American think of retirement, and, apparently, didn’t feel the need to dress in eye-popping colors. What a nice surprise. After listening for a little while, I caught his eye, showed him my camera and shrugged in askance. He immediately nodded yes and the photo part of my day began.
After grabbing a coke, which really is better in Mexico, I’ll argue with anyone, I headed out to look for some veggies and fruits for my week. I’m also in the market for some artsy stuff, but don’t have the resources right now, so they’ll have to wait for another day. Still, I can get an idea of the prices and see who’s willing to haggle. I started down one of the aisles and thought about how glad I am that I kept up with my yoga. It’s the only reason my head can swivel so many times; there’s that much.
While in the market, walking past one of the many food counters can be a bit of a challenge. Locals are lined up at their favorite spots and there are many, locals and spots. The smells are almost overwhelming. Churizo and beans, salsa and cheeses, chicken and fish all leave their scents. I maneuvered through and started towards a vegetable stand. On the way I noticed a pretty Mexican girl busily chopping up some veggies while talking with a customer. For some reason the thought of Eliza Dolittle popped into my head. I picked up my camera and focused. I then did my usual thing of eye contact accompanied by a shrug and she gave me a smile. But, if you look close, you’ll notice that her hands are blurred. Apparently nothing was going to stop her from chopping her produce and I didn’t think to set my speed. Now, this might also be a good time to mention that I always show the person the picture afterwards to see if they approve. It just seems to be a good thing and makes for better interactions. So, when I showed this pic to the young lady she smiled again, but she never stopped chopping up those vegetables.
I got some limes, bananas, berries and mangoes for my morning shakes. Then I walked a few feet to another stand and grabbed the week’s worth of greens to add to my current love of pasta. As usual, I was grateful that the actual shopping never takes long for me. I snagged some beans in a bag, grabbed another bag, but of spice this time, and I was about finished with my needs. It was time to get some chicken parts for my pup. I’ve found that I can add ” left over” chicken to my dog’s dinner and she’s a happy pup while I’m saving a lot of money on dog food. It’s a good arrangement. I head over to the area in the market where one can find all sorts of meat and fish either hanging from metal, setting on scales, or resting on ice. While there I get a pic of the guy who’s working the spot I usually frequent. Again, my “subject” is happy to allow a pic and he just can’t stop smiling.
Next it was time to go over to the stands with the fish. Now, let me mention, again, this is an island. If you want fresh fish, well, here you go. I wasn’t actually needing to buy any, but, for me, it seems to be a photographic requirement. I don’t know who set the rules, but when in an open air market, it seems to me that one must, at the very least, take shots of the fruits, the veggies, and the fish. I just wish they didn’t always looks so, I don’t know, sad. Still, I’ve been fishing since a kid and eat it often. I get the shot.
Not much more to do now but wander. It’s late enough that just about everyone has arrived and it’s getting quite hectic. Turning a corner I see an older woman who I’d bought some cloth from a few weeks back. I remembered that I’d thought of her mannerisms as regal when she’d waited on me before. Camera comes up, shoulders shrug, you know the drill. Afterwards, I showed her the shot, but she didn’t seem impressed. Friendly, but not impressed. Her daughter, however, assured me that it was okay that I keep the picture. I’m so glad because this woman, to me, represents much of what life was once like here on the island. Her Yucatan dress and her patient demeanor made me wish I could speak more Spanish. Probably much to learn from her.
Well, it was time to head home. Once a crowd starts to gather, I get ready to go; think it’s an age thing. But, before I go more than a few steps a woman with a small child steps in front of me. It was the second time and, although I could be wrong, I think she wanted me to take their picture. I’d noticed her watching me while I was photographing the woman in white a short time before. Then, when I see that her little girl has such an intense expression, I can’t help it, I ask. Mom says yes, and with a proud expression on her face, and a completely uncertain one on the little girl, I snap and show it to her. Again I am rewarded with a smile and the Mom (or Grandmother, I’m guessing here) turns around, gives the little girl a kiss on the cheek and walks away.
A few more steps, a quick shot of the outside from the inside, and it was time to get back to my pup. It was only about 11 in the morning, but my day was already close to complete. I got on my bike and started for home with a smile. What can I say? It was another good day on Cozumel…………..Salud!
p.s. I try to give accurate directions and street addresses, but, if I’m wrong, I have hopes that someone will either contact me, or reply on here with corrections………..thanks