Friday, February 27, 2009

Taxi Ride in San Miguel

The dinged up green taxi does an abrupt U-turn
in response to my hand-in-the-air signal.
The dark eyed, dark haired driver flashes
his perfect smile directly at me.

I muddle through my directions, in less
than perfect Spanish. He nods, understanding.
I settle myself in the backseat
and peer out the window. The taxi bounces

along on the narrow cobblestone streets,
dodging pedestrians, stray dogs, and other motorists.
Never meant for auto traffic, these winding passageways
thread relentlessly skyward toward the Parroquia.

We pass Parque Juarez, in all its formal splendor. Vendors
from the countryside have filled the park with flowers today.
The Candelaria Festival is underway, a partly Christian, partly pagan
holiday commemorating Christ’s birth and the fertility of seeds.

I spy a flower vendor, a young Mexican girl,
her hands full of white calla lilies.
I pinch myself. Can this be real?
Or am I staring at a Diego Rivera painting?

I pass a storefront, open to the street,
filled with roasting chickens on spits.
Thirty or more birds spiral in space
above a black, cast iron grill. I am suddenly starving.

We drive past the Buen Café, with its magnificent garden courtyard
and delectable cuisine. I am tempted
to stop to savor a glass of Aqua de Jamaica,
Mexico’s ruby red hibiscus flowers.

We are nearing the Parroquia, San Miguel’s most famous landmark.
This magnificent church, with its pink cantera stone façade,
rises to the heavens like a gothic, Disneyland castle.
A statue of Juan de San Miguel stands vigil out front.

I exit the cab, hand over 25 pesos, and look around. The well-
manicured Jardin stands directly before me.
Vendors approach with trinkets in their hands.
I suspect that most of these are made in China.

“No, gracias,” I say to those who approach me.
It’s hardest to ignore the children. They stare with imploring eyes.
Their mothers, dressed in sherbert-colored aprons, watch
and wait. How privileged I must appear to them.

In the garden a Mariachi band is playing.
Vendors selling corn on the cob and fruit cups
compete with ice cream sellers, scooping up
flavors like mango, avocado, and papaya.

Couples stroll through the square, holding hands.
I wonder where their chaperones have gone.
An artifact of an earlier age, perhaps. Pretty girls
with black, shiny hair link arms as they pass

me by. School age children, wearing matching green warm-up suits,
file through the square, accompanied by their teachers.
Mothers carrying babies are everywhere.
They all seem to own the same fleece blanket.

I wander through the Mercado.
Fresh fruits and vegetables tempt me to buy.
I linger at the stalls selling Talavera pottery.
I purchase a hand-woven rug, made in Oaxaca.

Time to leave; I know my way home.
I decide to walk, despite the cobble stones.
I head down Calle Jesus toward Parque Juarez.
I walk through the park so I can smell the gardenias.

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