(posted from Cholula, Puebla on Feb 16)
Wednesday was a free day. Most of our group left the RV park around 10:00 AM headed for the central plaza in Oaxaca. We rode with Pat and Barry and followed Bob and Bettie (with Harold and Marilyn in the back seat) in a four-car caravan into the city. The four of them must have been thoroughly engaged in some interesting conversation because, once again, Bob never saw the tope that jumped out in front of him! We saw him as he hit the tope at 45 or 50 mph. At least he wasn’t pulling his travel trailer this time. The rear tires of his car must have bounced at least three feet off the pavement and when it crashed back down all of the mud and dirt that had accumulated underneath his car came down in a big cloud of dust! Thank goodness they were wearing seat belts or they would have had some sore heads for sure.
We parked in a parking garage that was only about four blocks from the plaza so it wasn’t a bad walk. For a weekday, there was a tremendous crowd in the plaza. Vendors had their wares laid out on tarps and blankets all around the plaza. There were also a lot of vendors hawking their goods while walking through the crowd. Most of the souvenirs were very bright and colorful. Many appeared to be handmade, yet many of the vendors sold the same products. There must be a big wholesaler somewhere that sells these “handmade” souvenirs to the street vendors.
The reason for the big weekday crown was because of a political rally going on in the center of the plaza. This could be why the sound truck woke us up with Mariachi music. A group of people stood on an elevated, covered platform (like a very big gazebo). All around the platform people were holding up signs and red flags. On some of the signs were pictures of revolutionaries such as Castro, Che Guevara, and others I didn’t recognize. I guess it was a rally of the communist or socialist party. One of the men on the platform shouted a lot and punctuated most of his sentences by pumping his fist or a finger in the air. However, most of the people in the square, except for the group with the signs and flags around the platform, were paying him very little attention. It was kind of a carnival-like atmosphere, with people strolling, playing, eating, playing music, and selling souvenirs. There were also about half a dozen very busy portable shoeshine stands scattered about the plaza.
The plaza was ringed with restaurants, making it tough to decide where to have lunch. Although it was noon, many of the restaurants were still offering breakfast. Some offered nothing but breakfast. We chose a very nice-looking hotel restaurant that was located on the northeast side of the plaza. I ordered an omelet with chorizo (Mexican sausage), cheese, and tomatoes and a glass of the best limeade I’ve ever had. Everything was excellent but the prices were somewhat higher than in most of the small towns and villages where we have eaten. Our table was on the patio with a wrought iron railing separating us from the crowd. There was a continuous stream of vendors that came up to the railing to try and sell us something. They would stand there until you looked at them and once you made eye contact they wouldn’t leave until everyone at the table had said “no”. They seemed to think that “no” meant “maybe” and it must work for them because Kathy and Carol Ann each bought a handmade table runner from an old woman who must have been pushing 80 or 90 years of age. Once the other vendors see you buy something they think, “sucker,” and pounce on you. I must have said “No, por favor” a couple of hundred times while we were at the plaza. After a while you begin to feel a bit guilty because they are poor as dirt and you are the “rich” American (or Canadian) tourist. Of course, that may be their intention.
After lunch, Barry, Pat, Carol Ann, and I went to a very large and very new Chedrui supermarket. This is perhaps the biggest Mexican supermarket chain. This store was very much like a Super Wal-Mart and was elevated with parking below the store on the street level. Moving sidewalks carried you from the parking lot up into the store and back down to the parking lot. The moving sidewalks had grooves in the surface and the buggy wheels would “stick” in the grooves to keep the buggy from rolling down the sidewalk.
Carol Ann asked me to get two dozen eggs so she could make deviled eggs for that evening’s cookout and potluck supper. I found the eggs easily, but they had regular eggs and light eggs. What the heck is a light egg? Do they feed those hens less food of something?
When Carol Ann and I finished our shopping we got in a checkout line and transferred our items from the cart to the checkout counter. After the cashier rang it all up I gave her my VISA card and held my breath. The cashier and the lady bagging the groceries tried to explain something to me in Spanish. It seemed like I was supposed to take my credit card to another checkout or perhaps to an ATM in the store. When they realized I obviously had no idea what they were trying to tell me the cashier pressed a button that rang a buzzer and started a flashing light. I had no idea what was going on but I felt like I was caught doing something I shouldn’t be doing. A man came over, took the credit card, said something in Spanish and walked off with the card. I must have look puzzled as both of the women told me in sign language that it was OK and to wait.
When the man came back I was given my receipt to sign plus a Monedero Chedrui card and what I thought was another receipt for $50 pesos for something, but was actually a $50 peso credit on the Chedrui card that I could use later!
That evening as we began eating outside, it began to rain very hard. We picked up the food and all of us tried to squeeze under a too small palapa. Fortunately, the rain did not last long and we were rewarded with a huge double rainbow.