Many ask me what life is like in Mexico. We move in slow motion amid Technicolored landscapes wearing bright-colored clothing while symphonies supply the background noise. Nature’s bounty hold us in constant rapture. We are a passionate people, you see. The rest of the time we simply engage in our national pastime of smiling. That is, when we’re not breaking into dance at the drop of a hat.
As we sat over breakfast on the day before the Day of the Dead at La Surtidora, overlooking Patzcuaro’s Plaza Grande, I thought aloud “I get to wake up in Michoacán 365 days a year, and I’m thankful for that. Look at these tourists, the poor souls, who only get to do so a few days here and there.” Telling myself that I wasn’t going to buy any artesania this year, partly because I’ve collected enough and mostly because money is in short supply, in less than thirty minutes, I broke my pledge in the Ocumicho aisle where an embroidered velvet apron just had my name on it. Deploying my new routine of offering 60% of the asked price and just once, I let the fates decide whether it would go home with me or not. Within minutes, the vendor found me and accepted my price.
No, I’m not going to wear the apron. It will find itself displayed on a mannequin someplace in the rose museum of arts and treasures. Definitely next to the Santiago Apostol on the green-eyed horse. And, of course, my two-hundred year-old cannonball.
Unlike last year, shoppers in Patzcuaro were out in full force. I saw no non-local Estadounidenses, but maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. The atmosphere in Patzcuaro has changed palpably over years past, merchants actually acting as if they appreciated visitors instead of treating potential shoppers as if they were little more than annoying intruders. Morelia-based candy purveyor La Estrella set up shop over near where the Oasis once was, and the woman running the store greeted us warmly, refusing to let us leave the store until we’d tasted nearly everything for sale.
Maybe that year of hitting rock bottom was a much-needed wake-up call that Patzcuaro needed.