Wednesday, April 06, 2011

bras and baskets

It is Wednesday.

In Melaque, that means the flea market has come to town.

Some people get upset when I call it that.  How about giant garage sale?  Junk dealers?  Tourist trap extraordinaire?

Here, we call it the tianguis.

Every Wednesday, cars and pickups stuffed with -- well, stuff -- descend on a five block stretch of our little fishing village and turn it into the Adam Smith Entrepreneurial School of Marketing. 

Blue tarps are stretched over poles, and tables appear like mushrooms.  The result looks like something between a Bosnian refugee camp and a fence convention.

On my first trip to Melaque, my land lady told me that I could not miss the tianguis.  It was "the market of Mexico."

I took that literally.  I had seen photographs of vegetables and fruits stacked in colorful mosaics begging customers to barter over dueling kumquats.  It was exactly the type of adventure that had drawn me south.

Well, that is not what I found.  Instead, I found table after table of items for which I had absolutely no need.

But that was over two years ago.  So, come with me as I once again try to find something to buy in "Mexico's market."

First, let's establish one thing.  Year-round expatriates and Mexican citizens shop here.  But the target market is tourists.  And they descend en masse to be charmed and to buy the perfect gift for the house sitter -- something unique, but typical.  And there is plenty of that here.

Perhaps a tray or a pot or a basket -- all made out of reeds?  Or a handmade duster for your niece?

Or choose from a crayola avalanche of ceramics for the perfect bowl to serve salsa -- probably out of a jar from Safeway.

These bra tables are beyond all male understanding.  But the shapes and colors together are enough to keep me fascinated.

How about filling the cosmetic bag with some pigments that have never been seen in nature?  Unless it was on some extinct bird unable to camouflage itself.

If your moral compass suffers from non-polarism -- and you are feeling a bit like an outlaw -- you can buy a pirated DVD or CD.  And, at the same time contribute to the drug cartels, who control most of the pirated market.  How often do you get to indulge two vices with just one purchase price?

Or you could dress an entire Cecil B. DeMille harem with these snazzy sandals.  Someone was even thoughtful enough to take the foot fetishist consumer into account -- with feet to go.  Mexico knows its niche markets.

And if you want to combine a love of jewelry with an interest in exotic wildlife, you need not look any further.

But my favorite tables are the hardware tables.  You can find almost anything you need to fix a crack, a break, or a blowout in any home.  You could almost rebuild a cooker with the pieces on this table.

Late in the afternoon, the vendors will pack up all of this stuff (at least the stuff they did not pawn off on consumers), take down their tents, and drive off to the next town -- where they will go through the same routine.  Until they return to Melaque on the next Wednesday.

In my two visits to the tianguis, I have come home empty-handed.  But, that is not true, is it?  I did get some photographs.

And a chance to talk with you again.


Felipe Zapata said...

Movies in English indeed!

These markets are pretty much the same everywhere down here.

Tancho said...

You missed out! I think that high heeled shoe in the middle of the photo, the one with the faux diamond strap would be absolutely stunning on your tootsies.....
Speaking of stunning, isn't it about time for the transvestite show to return to your beach resort?

NWexican said...

If there was something in your pic's for the olfactories I would probably pass out..
Interestingly the tianguis look exactly the same in Tijuana, Mexicali and Algodones. Still fun to wander and sniff..

Steve Cotton said...

Like the poor, the tranvestites are always with us -- in Melaque. Maybe that is who buys these sandals.

Steve Cotton said...

It is an experience -- just not a buying one. Unless I have an appliance to repair.

Steve Cotton said...

I seldom see anyone buying anything -- even at the drug cartel table. I wonder how most of them make their living doing this?

Trinidad said...

I say those tourists are bold if they go for a molcajete, but then where would the fun be in lugging that thing all the way back to the U.S and to never use it? No,...safeway salsa for the ceramic bowls it is.

I always manage to go home empty handed but with a full stomach.

Trinidad said...

Yes, like a blender.

I must admit I was very happy one time to have found a replacement part for my blender.

ANM said...

I have to tell you, Old Duck, the items in your pictures look a great deal like the items on the shelves at Walmart. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the baskets were made in China.

But so what? These markets are great resources for finding the perfect single thing -- another carafe for one's Mr. Coffee, say. Or a nob for the cooker. For folks who believe it is better to "mend than end," these markets provide a valuable service.

And they are social. In a good way.

In some cities, the thing that often brings neighbors together is an attempted armed robbery of the local 7-11.

Give me the tianguis any day!!


Steve Cotton said...

Finding the odd part seems to be one of the sole benefits of these moving markets.

Steve Cotton said...

Maybe a small molcajete. And nothing would be better than making your own salsa -- as my brother does. But I find most of my northern friends prefer their salsa from a jar -- and mild.

Steve Cotton said...

You may be slipping into the mindset of the romantic tourist. I meet a lot of my middle class Mexican acquaintances at Walmart. Mostly shopping for supplies for their businesses. Good quality. Good prices. And a reliable supply. I chat as easily with the cashiers at Walmart as I do with the tianguis operators. Mexico is one big chat box. And that is one reason I thrive here.

As for repair pieces, we have a lot of locally-owned hardware stores in Melaque where I can buy replacement parts. And I strongly agree with you that the Mexican notion of repairing rather than tossing makes perfect sense. But I prefer to shop at the local hardware stores (or even Walmart) for a good reason -- they actually pay taxes and contribute to the slight infrastructure we have. I am almost positive the tianguis do not. For all of their local color, they are takers, not givers.

John said...

Bold title - I keep getting these bra sales spams lately - you?

PS - We do not need anymore stuff!

Steve Cotton said...

That would ruin my standing as an amateur. Or is it my writing that qualifies me? I get confused at this age.

LeslieLimon said...

If/when I ever visit Melaque, the tianguis will definitely be on my list of places to visit. This wannabe chef would be in Heaven with so many ceramic bowls and baskets. The bowls at our tianguis are mostly plastic or melamine. :(

Steve Cotton said...

When it comes to bowls and baskets we are a veritable Pottery and Reed Barn.