Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Midnight Tacos

The hotel I picked in Veracruz was right on the Zocalo and was founded in 1794 (they say it's the first hotel in America). It has an elevator with a plaque that states it was the first elevator in Latin America (the plaque has one of the worst english translations I have ever read). The girl at the counter had a very soft voice and laughed a lot. I was just never sure what she was laughing at. I asked her if I could get a room with a view to the Zocalo and she said it was more expensive than the regular one. Meanwhile, I had started feeling a weird itch on my legs, close to my ankles. I was wearing shorts and I realized I had been scratching my ankles with my shoes. I told her I would take the room with no view, wondering if it was the right decision. The itching was getting worse, so I couldn't even think straight. Plus the room with the view might be very loud.

I take a shower and notice red marks on my legs. It must be mosquitoes. I started walking around the city. It was very hot and I was hungry. I wanted to go to the mercado to find something to eat (I just love going to mercados). I asked a police man and he gave me a super detailed explanation on how to get there. I find him very friendly and thank him for his time. His directions were perfect, I got there no problem. As I get close to the mercado, I pass another plaza, this one a lot less touristy than the main one.

The mercado seemed to be endless. I walk around the food area once to get a feel and sit at a place that sells shrimp cocktails. They have cocteles for 15 pesos and they say they come with two shrimp. I think they mean two kinds of shrimp, but at that price I have to wonder if it's just two individual shrimps. There were plenty of shrimp in the coctel, thankfully. I also ordered a Pepsi (pronounced Pecsi by the guy taking my order). They were playing some salsa song that kept on repeating "hazme olvidarla, hazme olvidarla..." (make me forget her). The sounds of salsa music made perfect sense there. I was humming that tune all day long.

I walk around some shops outside the mercado and get some t-shirts. I was able to find shirts that were my size, thankfully. There were stands and shops everywhere, you could get lost shopping there. I also stop at a guayabera store to buy a guayabera (got a strange look from the man when I told him I wanted to buy a shirt, not a guayabera). I continue walking around the city and head to the zocalo. By this time it's starting to get dark. There's a live band at the zocalo and it's packed. There are many couples dancing danzon, old and young, so I stay there for a while. It's still very hot and humid. Now I understand why women are always holding a hand fan while dancing danzon.

Later that night I walk around and look for bars that I had listed down. Most of them were closed or no longer existing. Great. It was Thursday night, and the bar I did find open was pretty empty. The bartender told me that Friday was a better day for the bar. Not a problem, since I was staying until Saturday. There was a guy next to me, and he paid no attention to me while I was there.

I have a couple of beers, then walk out looking for a different bar. It's close to midnight. It's really nice outside, so I decide to hang out and leave the bars for the next day. I look for some tacos and find a place right away. It was a stand on a busy corner, although at this time it was pretty slow. I order some cochinita pibil tacos. The tacos are in a rolled tortilla and you eat them with a spoon (I didn't know that until he handed me the spoon). Then I notice a guy eating there, with tattoos all over his face and arms. He looks very menacing, but his conversation sounds like nothing out of the ordinary. I sit there, both afraid and excited, to be eating next to such a character. I wonder if he's part of the Mara Salvatruchas.

Once he left I ask the guy in charge of the tacos what those tattoos on the face meant. Just to see what he would say. He looks at me and tells me they don't mean anything and that the youth today don't value anything anymore. He goes on to tell me he was crazy during his youth and almost got a tattoo, and that he used to sleep in the jungle by the rivers and all sorts of crazy things. The story went on and on. I should have kept my mouth shut. Meanwhile, the guy that was next to me at the bar was now having some tacos and kept on looking at me, obviously interested in me now. It almost made me uncomfortable, but I kept on acting like I was into the conversation.

I went home after all that and went to bed, excited to have a full day of Veracruz ahead of me. I had been wanting to go to Veracruz for so many years. It was great to finally be there.

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