Thursday, May 19, 2011

an evening in the Zocalo

One evening I was invited by the resident gringos to go downtown for a movie and a bite to eat.  I was aware that I had not been very sociable and, as this seemed an easy enough way to make amends, I tagged along.
    The feature film was American, dubbed in Spanish with a robust, if limited, vocabulary that I hadn’t heard since I attended the eighth grade in New Mexico.  There were two previews: an American film featuring elaborate and violent special effects and a Mexican film featuring adolescent breasts and buttocks.  If either film had a plot they did not belabor it in the preview.
    Afterward, we walked a few blocks over to the Zocalo for supper and it dawned on me that, though I had been to the square often, that this was the first time I had been there at night.
    The Zocalo was crowded with people  --  Indian and Mexican and tourist  --  moving in and out of pools of light from the scattered street lamps and spilling out from the shops and restaurants.  We took a table inside the arcade where stark, artificial light made everyone look sickly and unpleasant and the loud noise contained by the hard walls made conversation difficult.
    Our fellow diners were scruffy-looking young Europeans and grim-looking Mexicans.  There was a dwarf sitting at the next table.  There were aged and crippled beggars who moved between the tables and a blind musician being led by a little boy.  There was an old man so bent that he could not raise his head above his waist, walking with two broomhandle canes that made a loud click on the tile floor as he shuffled from one table to another, begging.  A shy, bedraggled little girl sold small packets of Chiclets.  She said she was five years old.  A little boy, ten or eleven, standing by the table singing in a voice so soft I could hardly hear, and then asking to be paid.
    I assume the food was good.  I may not have noticed. 
If I found myself downtown in the early evening I would sit a while on one of the cast iron benches in the Zocalo and watch families out for a stroll in the first coolness of the day and lights come on in the arcade and restaurants set up for the evening trade, but otherwise I did not go out again in the evening, but was happier to sit at home with my journal and write about what I had done or thought about that day, or planned to do the next, and watch the shadows creep across the garden below my balcony and wonder if the cat was staying out of trouble.

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