Vendedores Ambulantes and Good Coffee

Photos and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Vendedores Ambulantes
If You Are New to Mexico
If you are in Mexico for any length of time, you will make new friends.

And if you get invited to a fiesta, donīt be shy. Be sure to go! Mexico was made for "fiestas". In a small town they seem to be more fun.

Just about everybody in Mexico is from a small town or "rancho". Fiestas or parties in Mexico are important events where people go to meet people, dance, and eat.

You will meet all kinds of people of all ages from all the social classes in Mexico.

One Sunday I went along with some friends to nearby Cardel, Veracruz.

The reason for the fiesta was not important. It could have been a wedding, quinceaņera (debutante), baptism, graduation, or a birthday.

There are often what we might consider elaborate justifications for a fiesta, but any reason is good enough.
Loud Music is Part of the Fiesta
We could hear the loud thump-thump of the "cumbia" music from a block away.

At the entrance of the hall, the street vendors were selling ice cream or candies.

They were taking in the atmosphere of the fiesta.

The didnīt seem interested in selling anything, and happy to be part of the scene, watching the people as they go in to enjoy the fiesta.
The loud music coming from eight 4 ft. high speakers makes you want to dance.

The hall is filling up fast and my friends are looking for a table.

They see some other relatives from their rancho and we are invited to sit with them shaking hands with everyone politely greeting these unknown people with "mucho gusto", "mucho gusto" to everyone.

It was hard to catch their names.

In this part of Mexico remembering peopleīs names doesnīt seem to be that important.

Activity is Everywhere
After the greetings and "abrazos", I settle into my seat squeezed in next to my friends and begin to look around.
There are attractive girls everywhere, but who knows which ones have tough boy friends, so I just sit back and try to be an attentive guest.

And there are kids everywhere, running, playing, and having a great time.

As people circulate greeting friends, they kind of dodge the kids playing.

Some people call me "guero" because I am blonde in appearance. Instead of greeting me with, "Hola, John!", they say "Hola, Guero!".

Or if they are closer friends, they say with a smile, "Hola, Guerito!".

Some give me a big smile and "Ay, mi Guerito!" along with a friendly "abrazo".

I donīt feel like a tourist any longer.
old lady
Sitting at the Table
Then I saw some friends from Veracruz and got up to go visit with them for awhile.

Later, I went back to save my seat at the table with my friends. Itīs considered bad manners not to sit at the table with the people who invited you.

I sit back and enjoy the music and people watching. Itīs almost impossible to carry on any kind of conversation.

By now there must be a 1,000 people and the hall is packed!

Nobody seems to mind the tropical heat, and the cumbia music throbs on.

I noticed that people kind of wobble around slightly walking to beat of the cumbias.
The Formalities Begin
Now it is time for the ceremony to begin.

The music stops, and the meeting is called to order.

There is an opening monologue performed by the leader, then the people celebrating the honors stand to be recognized.

They receive the applause of families and friends, and people like myself who were just invited along.

One of the things I like about Mexico it that itīs not considered bad manners to be invited to fiestas where you are not part of the immediate family nor do you have to even know anyone to attend.

You are accepted as part of the family.

There is absolutely no reason not to accept an invitation to a fiesta, other than illness or a family emergency.
The formal ceremony is over in about an hour or so, the loud music of the celebration starts up again, and the serving begins.

First the refrescos, then tamales. The Tamal in Mexico and Guatemala is universal.

In the north they are small and cooked in a corn husk. And you eat them by the dozen.

In the coastal areas, they are a little larger and are cooked in banana leaves.
Two are Enough
In Guatemala they are much larger and also cooked in banana leaves. Some are spicy hot and others are not.

You can usually eat two. I can barely eat one.

After the food the dance begins, and the kids join in, too. The older people sit and talk, and youngsters play.

Then after awhile the younger children get tired and one by one wander back to the table to curl up on their mothers lap and go to sleep.
Time to Go
Then we begin to gather up our things and prepare to make the drive back home.

We get up and thank the people who let us sit at their table shaking hands saying "mucho gusto", "mucho gusto" again, and again to each one as we leave.

We can still hear the cumbia music throbbing away as we get to the car.

The fiesta was fun! I saw some old friends, and met some new ones who invited me back to their "rancho" whenever I wanted to come for horseback riding or sample some good "rancho" cooking, better than at any Mexican restaurant.

I have met a lot of new and interesting friends at out of the way places at fiestas who have showed me the best of their area in exchange for nothing.

I donīt feel like a tourist any more. Iīve also noticed that "Mexican food" in the restaurants doesnīt taste the same.

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