Tuesday, December 11, 2012
CHILAPA, Guerrero, Mex. -- I hustled back to the quesadilla joint. The woman had run out of gas to heat her outdoor burner and was now cooking from her kitchen stove back inside the house. She had a long table full of customers waiting. Long story short, I sweet talked my way into renting out a room in her house. What finally won her over: I showed her a video I made of her cooking quesadillas on my camera.
As we discussed the room rental there were still stragglers from the earlier parade cruising down the street. There were teenage boys in paper mâché jaguar masks and a grey spotted horse led by a man in a mustache. The mood was so festive I couldn't help but feel jealous. The likelihood of this scene ever happening on my street in the United States was pretty much zero.
I slept on thin mattress set on a creaky bed frame for $20 that night. I only got a few hours sleep. The artesian market got going at 6 a.m. and I had a bus to Mexico City to catch at 10:30 a.m.
When I arrived at the market I instantly knew my risk had paid off. The stands of arts and crafts seemed endless. You could tell the people selling the goods were also their creators. It was just after the seasonal corn harvest and it was amazing how these artists used every part of their crop to create everything from handbags to floor rugs to colorful Christmas tree decorations.
I ended up spending most of my money on a man from the tiny town of San Francisco, Ozomatlan. He was the only person I found in the market who sold antique-like wooden masks. There were faces of devils with their tongues out, men with lizards for noses and angles with fat cheeks. The work was gorgeous.
The man's name was Abat, or at least that's how I assume you spell it. When I asked him to write down his contact information he hesitated to take the pencil from my hand. He couldn't read or write. Unfortunately that's not uncommon in one of Mexico's poorest states.
Suddenly I felt a little angry. I wish these artists could make a better living out of what they do. I wish they could have access to an education. I wish they didn't have to sleep on the sidewalk under a tarp the night before market day. They deserve better.
There are no Americans in Chilapa, Guerrero. The majority of tourists write off the entire state and head straight for Acapulco. When I told people in Mexico where I was going in Guerrero, a common response was, "Eww. Why are you going there? It's so ugly."
But the table full Mexican tourists I ate breakfast with at the artesian market told me, "People don't know what they are missing here."
I agree 100 percent. There are no McDonalds or Starbucks or tour guides in these parts of Guerrero. Not that I ever missed them.