Saturday, January 10, 2015
marketing our day
When we set off for Juchitán de Zaragoza yesterday morning, I really did not know what we were going to find when we arrived. But Columbus didn't know what he was going to find, either.
That is not entirely fair. After all, Columbus ended up finding a world he had never dreamed of. At least, I had some idea what I was going to discover in Juchitán de Zaragoza. Most of what I read turned out to be true. But there was far more.
To look at its town square, it would be easy to conclude Juchitán is just another Mexican colonial settlement. After all, the central square is there with its landscaping and the required gazebo. Colonial government buildings (some of the longest I have ever seen) surround two sides of the square. And there is a church.
But all of that is merely dressing. The buildings may be Spanish, but the people are not. They are not even mestizo -- the dominant culture of Mexico.
They are primarily Zapotec. Even though Spanish is understood, when we visited the local two-story market, Zapotec was the currency of commerce. The same people who built Monte Albán.
A number of pieces I read made the mistake of referring to the Zapotecs as being a matriarchal society. It is an easy mistake. Most of the booths are run by women. The odd man is seen here and there. But the booths are mainly a female monopoly. Women with both physical strength and strength of character.
However, the society is not a matriarchy. Men and women have assigned social roles by custom. When compared with other tribes, though, women have an almost equal role with men in Zapotec society. From my brief observation, it appeared the women were larger and stronger than their menfolk.
But those observations are subject to a major caveat. Juchitán is a very tolerant society when it comes to sexual matters. That has led to the open development of muxes -- men raised as women, who are usually attracted to men. Some sociologists have noted muxes are valued in Zapotec society where womanly duties can be accomplished with masculine strength.
We took an extended walk through the market. I often wonder who buys the stuff on sale in such places. I ask the same question whenever I walk through an Import Plaza. We saw plenty of gawkers, but few paying customers.
Fortunately, for you, your intrepid photographer did not fully comply with the rather eccentric and eclectic prohibited activities sign.
Even though I used my camera, I can honestly state, my head was not topped with a baseball cap; I was not wearing sun glasses; or smoking; or using a video camera. Complying with four out of five makes me a model citizen.
Almost every market of this sort offers cascades of shoes. I was particularly attracted to this display with the meticulously painted toe nails. It almost looks like a Dayton Leroy Rogers fantasy. (If you need to look up that reference, you probably don't want to.)
These dresses were colorful, but I am not certain I could imagine anyone wearing one -- other than as a bridesmaid for a third cousin who could never remember your full name. Or Harvey Fierstein on a bad day.
But it was the food that attracted me most. I cannot get heirloom tomatoes in Melaque, but they were everywhere here. The problem would be finding kalamata olives and true feta for a great Greek salad.
This was an rather jarring sight for me. I thought they were mushrooms at a first glance. But they are table after table of turtle eggs. The sand was a hint of their provenance. And the vendors were quite clear about what they were selling.
Correct me if I am wrong. But isn't selling turtle eggs just the slightest bit illegal? Or is my attorney slip showing?
We returned to the square in the evening with dinner on our minds. I had heard great praise about the local food. I opted for chicken cooked in potatoes and onion.
I occasionally need to be reminded that just because food is authentic does not mean it is good. The salad, the marinated vegetables, the onions, and the potatoes were as good as any I have tasted. But the chicken was unchewably tough. I suspect it was the bird, and not the cooking method.
There really was nothing adventurous about the chicken. But my drink was entirely new to me.
Somehow I lost my notes on its name. But it was green, warm, frothy, and sweet. Perhaps, too sweet for me. But I would certainly try it again.
Just as I intend to try a lot of new things on the rest of our trip. If all goes well, we should be well on our way to the Gulf of Mexico when you read this tomorrow morning.
Adventure is brewing in our future.