Three nights ago I was sitting at my dining table in the dark, listening to music, and spacing out. The symphony of barrio dogs erupted far to the south and was traveling my direction. Just as my three pups joined the chorus I saw the source of the symphony, two flashlights walking down the road. I figured it was my neighbors who like to take a post-prandial walk, until I heard a soft voice say, “disculpe.” Excuse me.
Turning off my music I greeted the voice. It was a local traveling churro saleswoman. Being unable to eat churros I thanked her kindly and she moved on to the next neighbor. As is my manner, I kicked myself as soon as she had walked away. I had passed up the opportunity to make a new friend, practice my Spanish, and learn a bit more about my neighbors.
Two days later she rolled by again. This time I didn’t mess up. I raced to my garden gate, asked the price, returned to my kitchen, grabbed the loose change off my counter, then told the churro lady, “I’ll take two please.”
A sweet family of three greeted me at my outside gate. In the dark of the previous night I had not seen the two beautiful children. The mother was a lovely indigenous-looking woman whose head barely reached my shoulders. She chose two churros from her plastic bin and handed them to her seven year-old daughter who was waiting with a plastic cup and a squeeze bottle of cream sauce. I tried to hand her my ten pesos but she directed me to her nine year-old son, explaining that he was the moneyman. We had a short conversation and a few laughs at the expense of my less-than-perfect Spanish. As they headed off down the road, I was left wishing I had bought more than two.
Here in my sleepy pueblito traveling sales people are the norm. Most travel in cars and trucks and have their unique sales pitch blasting out of speakers tied to their roof. Ramon the gas (natural not gasoline) man rolls around town, blasting his horn, exchanging empty tanks for full. We have a couple water men with trucks full of five gallon garafons of water, each has their own water-related calling song. The tinker, his loaded truck swaying precariously from side to side, sells plastic buckets and mops and chairs and trinkets and gewgaws and who knows what other manner of treasures. Another man has converted the sidecar of his moto to an umbrella covered traveling nuts and chews shop. The ice-cream van is fancy and new, but the music is traditional ice cream truck, which always makes me think of pedophiles and drug dealers. The Pescadero Bakery sends his man around with a truck filled with freshly made pastries. There are a plethora of fruit, vegetable, and cheese vendors but my favorite is the man who drives a truck with an attached flatbed trailer. On that trailer are extra large coolers filled with a variety of homemade cheeses brought down from the rancheros. I’m not as thrilled by the chicharron man who strolls down the street with what looks like two complete sides of fried pork fat. I’ve even had wandering empanada/water/strawberry vendors find me at the most off-the-beaten-path campsites all over the Baja Peninsula.
On a side note, I spent one month studying Spanish in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state. The theme song of the local water guy there was, “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” Every walk home I prayed I would not encounter him because he seemed to be calling the rain with his song. Every damn day I saw that man and every damn day I would be drenched by a downpour, arriving home as soaked as a Sheila dog at the beach.
But my new favorite is my sweet churro lady with her two children. You can bet I’ll be a regular customer – four churros for twenty pesos plus a twenty peso tip. I’m sure my friends and neighbors will be thrilled with the gift of churros and I hope my two dollars will help keep food on their table. Maybe one day my garden will have gifts for all my favorite neighbors and vendors!