I’ve been going to Mexico since before I could form memories. Which is saying something considering my memory goes back surprisingly far, much to the annoyance and convenience of my family depending on the situation. One of the things that has always stood out in my mind was how unnecessary a car is, at least where my family is from. I can’t say that’s the same elsewhere, like in the city, but that has always been my experience. When we’re in Mexico a car is only for getting to and from the airport, and an occasional day trip. Otherwise we’re on foot the whole day.
Like I said, this could just be because the town my family is from, Tangancicuaro, is relatively small compared to other places, and both sets of grandparents conveniently lived in walking distance to the center of town. So using a car was a bit of a waste, and according to my parents took away from the experience of being in Mexico. As a kid that statement was suspect, but now as an adult I relish the walks to and from my destinations. So maybe it’s all a matter of age and perspective.
The main walks of the day were always with the end goal of getting to the plaza. The plaza is the hub of Tangancicuaro, where the church is, city hall, banks, restaurants, the market, food stalls, etc. It’s the quite literally the heart of the town, everyone gravitates toward it for one reason or another. there are benches along the edge of the square and along the middle of it for people to sit and chat. At night people go to have dinner at one of the many food stands and then they “van a dar la vuelta”, take a turn around the square to walk off their meal. The plaza isn’t very big so you end up walking it for three or four laps until either you find an empty spot on a bench or you run across some acquaintance and start to chat. My parents say in their youth that when you were looking to find yourself a boyfriend or girlfriend, then the plaza was the place to be on a Sunday night. Boys would line up with bags of confetti around the edge while girls walked in circles. If a boy liked a girl and wanted to ask her out out he’d throw confetti on her to let her know. It’s a tradition that has gone out with the rise of the internet and hopefully confidence to just talk to people? Getting confetti out of your hair is a nightmare, anyone who has been victim to a confetti egg at Easter will tell you that.
As a kid having to walk around the plaza always felt like a chore, mostly because I would get bored going in circles and then having to wait for my parents to finish their conversations. Now I don’t mind, it’s a good way to get lost in my thoughts and relax. There’s something really soothing about strolling along at a leisurely pace with no purpose other than the act of moving. I look out at scenery that has changed very little since I was a kid, and there’s comfort in that too.
Just thinking the word “tianguis” sends a thrill of excitement through me. A Tianguis is an outdoor market, like a flea market, that happens just once a week. For us it’s always been on a Tuesday, just a block over from my maternal grandparent’s house. We always stayed with my paternal grandparents (it has to be a patriarchal thing), so we would walk from their house over to my maternal grandparents house to meet up with any other cousins or aunts and uncles that also wanted to go. Then s a group we would all go over to the tianguis and walk up and down looking at everything that was being sold. We’d find random things, sunglasses, toys, CDs, souvenirs that we would gleefully haggle for and purchase. When we were done we’d walk down to the plaza with our treasures to get a snack (I always got a potato with salt, chile, and lime) and an horchata while we admired and showed off what we had gotten. I don’t know man, the tianguis in Mexico just hits different than a flea market in the US. Even as an adult I’m still excited to walk around the tianguis more than I ever am any kind of market here, even if I don’t buy anything.
Going to Camecuaro was one of the few times we would use a car while we were in Mexico. El Lago de Camecuaro is a lake that’s located next to Tangancicuaro, that’s just far enough that my parents didn’t want to deal with trying to get three kids to walk it. The lake itself is beautiful, it’s surrounded by giant trees with roots that make up the shore and extend out into the water. It’s a popular place to have a party if you’re local, though more and more people have started to visit the lake from further away. There are small boats called lanchas that you can ride out onto the lake in, not that I ever have because I’m afraid of boats and drowning (thanks Titanic). My family would also be the type to literally rock the boat just to freak me out, so I can’t trust them. So instead I walk all around the park visiting the different vendors or just looking out onto the lake. The last time we went we sat at a table right at the edge of the lake and had one of the food vendors bringing us food and drinks while we just looked out at the lake. It was the best.
Strolling through Mexico
So maybe calling this article “Strolling through Mexico” is a bit of a stretch, considering I’m just talking about strolling through a small part of it. But for me, this is the most important and beloved part of Mexico.