|On a corner near Salinas Grande|
Bits of worn canvas strung between tree branches shade a quiet street corner, allowing the vendor a bit of shelter from the sun and the rain.
She and her teenage son have a colourful jumble of boxes and sacks set out on the curb; juicy oranges and ripe yellow mangoes, prickly fresh pineapples and large heads of green cabbage. It’s a kaleidoscope of hues and shapes.
|At a speed-bump on road to Chetumal|
In Mexico it is very common to see fruit and vegetable vendors who occupy their favourite locations in the diverse neighbourhoods around the country. A few years ago we drove south to Chetumal, near the border of Belize and Mexico. Beside the road, near the ever-present village speed-bumps, we saw a number of vendors hawking peeled oranges, or whole pineapples, or pineapple chunks. We stopped and purchased a bag of the pineapple chunks, tossing a few pieces into our mouths with great anticipation of the cinnamon-flavoured juices flooding our taste buds. Cinnamon? Hell no! The pineapple was flavoured with fiery chili powder. Between yelling in pain and laughing we guzzled water trying to soothe the heat. We have learned to be a little more cautious, but we still buy fresh produce from the street vendors.
|Across from tortilla bakery (Photo J. Ghog)|
On Isla Mujeres, just a few blocks south of our house and across the street from the tortilla bakery, are two ladies who have been on that corner for as long as we can remember. It always amazes us how many people walk, cycle, or drive to this stand – purchasing fruits, vegetables and occasionally live plants for a garden. On the days when it rains, the ladies move their wares across the street and under the protection of an upper balcony at the tortilla bakery. I have always wondered where they stash their collection of boxes, pails, containers and sun-bleached plastic tables when they are done for the day.
|Near kindergarten on our street|
A slightly more mobile produce stand appears a couple of times a year just south of our house in the wider area of the road by the kindergarten crosswalk. This fruit stand consists of a well-used black truck riding low on its suspension, weighted down with freshly picked pineapples, watermelons and mangoes. The enormous, juicy pineapples cost around twenty pesos or just under two dollars. Driving non-stop from the area around Vera Cruz, the family members bring their produce to the island neighbourhoods with each new harvest.
|Doña Florentina (Tony Garcia photo)|
And at the northern end of the island, across from the Café Cito at the corner of Matamores and Juarez, sits the lovely Doña Florentina. She has a very loyal following of buyers, and of admirers who have taken her photo time and again over the years. Dressed in one of her beautiful traditional huipils, made of lightweight cotton and trimmed with brocade-style embroidery she is very photogenic.
Doña Florentina sells more than just produce. A few years ago Betsy Snider and Captain Tony Garcia purchased a few live laying hens from her. During the long arduous trip from the farm near Valladolid to Isla Mujeres the hens were stuffed into an old net bag that had previously been used for shipping oranges. When the hens were released at their new home they happily settled in to lay delicious eggs, while keeping snakes, scorpions and assorted bugs under control. “I loved those birds,” said Betsy. Organic farming at its best; invented before marketing companies decided that organic farming was sexy and marketable.
|Doña Florentina on Matamores & Juarez|
In all of these produce stands there are no best before dates, no multi-national corporation “Chiquita Banana” or “Dole” stickers on the goods. You won’t find blueberries, or cherries, or apples. The produce is regionally grown, and sold when ripe.
Pick it up, smell it. Savour the freshness. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables!
Lynda & Lawrie
|Lawrie with two dollar pineapple|
If anyone has photos of Doña Florentina sitting on her corner in centro, Betsy Snider is planning to create a photo memento book for her. Betsy is on FaceBook and would love to receive a copy of your photos. Or you can send them to me and I will forward to Betsy.