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Posts Tagged ‘street vendors’

On September 16, Mexico celebrates Día de la Independencia — marking Father Hidalgo’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) to begin the ten-year war for independence from Spain.  However, the entire month of September is El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) and streets and vendor stalls are awash with the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.

Last week, walking down to Mercado Benito Juárez to pick up a few last-minute regalitos (little gifts) to bring up to family and friends in el norte, within two blocks I saw…

There is even a very yummy green, white, and red patriotic dish that appears in restaurants in September — Chiles en nogada.  I’m hoping it will still be on the menu when I return at the end of the month from the el norte trip.

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Cocijo (Zapotec god of rain, thunder, and lightning) has finally awoken!

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Street dogs huddle in doorways.

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Street vendors batten down their hatches.

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Pedestrians watch for sidewalk waterfalls.

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Streets become deserted.

Walking home in Oaxaca in the rain.

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Mexico’s El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) is upon us and overnight, as August turned to September, the streets erupted in green, white, and red.

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Mexico celebrates September 16, 1810 as the beginning of its fight for independence from Spain.

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Flags are flying everywhere and are for sale on every other street corner, along with all manner of patriotic tchotkes.

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From buses in the city to moto-taxis in the villages, everything is decked out in the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.

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As for Oaxaca?  The five-month renovation project at Mercado Benito Juárez has been completed and vendors have moved from their temporary stalls on the surrounding streets back into the market; Sección 22 teachers have returned to their classrooms and 80% of the encampment in the zócalo has been disassembled; the governor will give his final Grito de DoloresGrito de Dolores at 11:00 PM on September 15th; and the annual patriotic parade will fill the streets of the Historic District with participants and observers on the 16th.

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A week and a half ago, we were strolling Havana’s Paseo de Prado.  It was a sunny, blue-sky, already hot and humid Saturday morning.  Amid the backdrop of crumbling, but not abandoned, buildings, vendors had set up their stalls…

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and were ready to sweet talk a tourist or two into buying a tchotchke or three or four.

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Locals walked purposefully down the uncrowded promenade.

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All was tranquil, save for those gathered on one of the blocks (middle of the image below) to buy and sell properties.

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The scene and the people were a far cry and a world apart from the glitz and glamour of the Chanel fashion show staged along that same paseo yesterday.  The average monthly wage in Cuba is the equivalent of $20 (US), thus I find the spectacle of European haute couture prancing down the Prado, in the center of Havana, deeply troubling — never mind the exploitative use of stereotypes.   Here’s what local Cuban designer, Idania del Rio had to say:

“I think that catwalk is going to be more for Chanel than for Cuba. I don’t know whether the people here in Cuba are ready for this type of product.”

Nevertheless, as a fashion designer she was curious: “I want to see what $40,000 clothing looks like,” she said.

Afterwards, the 33-year-old was not entirely impressed: “It was very interesting and maybe too nostalgic. A lot of Cuban cigars, colours and hats from another era. It represented a Cuba that doesn’t interest me right now, because today’s Cuba is another, more contemporary Cuba.”

I’m glad we weren’t still there; I don’t think I could stomach the over-the-top excess versus the real need we saw around every corner.  I don’t know…  Does Cuba really want to return to it’s decadent pre-revolutionary role of being playground to the world’s wealthy?  Trickle down economics has an abysmal track record, so I’m not sure that it’s the best model for Cuba to follow

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September is El Mes de la Patria in Mexico (the month of the homeland) and Oaxaca is showing the colors.  Green, white, and red is everywhere — from the almost sublime to the downright ridiculous!

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¡Viva Mexico y salud!

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