The years of living in México as a child are a rich, loamy
compost in the subsoil of my life. When I travel in
Latin America especially, but also in Spain, it is like I re-enter a familiar place filled with sights, sounds and smells lingering just beyond the reach of my conscious life.
The smell of exhaust fumes hiccuping from the buses lined up along the side of the plaza. The stacatto, stylized cadence of voices calling out the destination of the departing buses. Like hot dog or beer vendors at a baseball game–there is a hypnotic effect that lulls me into a trance–“MO–chis… MO–chis….AHOME…A–HOOO–MEEE.”
From the shady spot on the park bench, I watch and listen to the people. A campesino woman carries her plastic mesh bags from market with children in tow. Laughter bubbles over from a pack of uniformed school children as they leisurely meander home from the escuela secundaria down the street. A couple backpacking Europeans sit under the shade of a nearby mango tree and chew on a cool raspado–tamarindo flavor. They consult a Lonely Planet guidebook for the departure times of the next train from Los Mochis to the Copper Canyon. The khaki shorts, the typical indigenous chompa, the well-worn hiking boots…all are a typical kit for the Western adventurers one sees trekking through Mexico and Central America.
The scent of fresh mangos, papayas, and jícama doused with limón and chile pepper awakens my appetite for an afternoon snack. Or will it be a Gansito and a Coca-cola from the tienda on the corner of the plaza. How can I fill in the rest of the scene? The ranchero music filters out of the cantina. A slight breeze carries the scent of fresh tortillas from the nearby tortillerilla. There is all of this and more under the hot Sinaloa sun.
Among this scene one can usually find several young shoe shine boys. Their polish darkened hands indicate that business has been good. I always look with admiration upon these young entrepreneurs. The importance of their job to their businessmen customers and to their humble families. They apply the black or brown polish to the leather shoes. The shoe shine boys themselves are often barefoot or wear the leather sandalias of the campesino.
Their overhead is very low, carrying all they need in a wooden box hanging from a strap that doubles as the prop for the shoes they shine. An assortment of needed polish and wax, brushes and rags ready at a moments notice. On Sunday mornings, my dad would sometimes let me shine his good shoes using our own Fuller Brush shoe shine kit. I imagined myself to be like my Mexican counterparts out on the plaza, earning a few extra pesos…shining shoes.