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Out with the people

The Zocalo is a magnet in Mexican cities. That’s the main square, cathedral on one side and a generous space in front, making one full block around. The zocalo in Mexico City is immense – how did they ever figure to leave that much space back in 1530 or whenever it was that city was planned? Course they used it for a lot of events – bullfights, theatre, hangings. A bit different from the paved arboretum, seasonal celebration and social meeting ground the zocalo in Puebla is now… There is an immense white Xmas tree newly in the midst of a throng with wads of red/yellow/violet/green balloons anchored by vendors bobbing around overtop.

Here the folks are out, but then, they would be. So many parameters are changed here. People do live outside, maybe because they can. Staying at a modest dwelling is not on when you can be outside, visiting and circulating. In the warmth – although it’s cold here. 20C means puffy vests and ski jackets for the Poblanos.

So, this holiday time, there are tons of people walking and “shopping”. I mean by that they look but don’t generally buy, unless trinkets and snacks. Nonetheless, the number of shoe stores and dress shops is staggering. Then you’ll pass a stack of storefronts devoted to baptismal wear for young girls. Next a gaggle of papelerías – stores full of napkins, signs and anything made of paper. Specialty stores are the rule. I saw one just devoted to chili peppers! All interspersed with outlets for ice cream and churros – the sugar encrusted swirling baked confection.

Little urban surprises abound. We take a turn a la izquierda and are roofed over by stained glass 4 stories up in a charmed paseo, not unlike the galleria in Milan! Later, we venture down a little angled plaza stuffed with “antiques”: odd collections of miscellany that would interesting in a still life on offer from vendors who’ve set up for the day.

The category killers haven’t overwhelmed here yet. There are still enough folks in this town of 4 million who want to come downtown and be about. Particularly as the kids are out of school.
We’re not used to it. The press of people. On the thin sidewalks, you’re often pausing to let a laughing family pass or sidestepping momentarily into the calle.

There is absolutely no sense of menace – everyone greets you with “Buenas Dias”! Much better than our “game face” tough guy presentation which seems to say to the oncoming; “Who are you to me?”. People here are patient – with all who come by. That includes the everpresent street vendors who circle the square with pathetic offerings – nothing more than invitations for a spiff. At least I though so, until i saw one fellow with paper cones of topopos [natcho chips] being anointed with hot sauce for a waiting citizen.

But no-one is curt with poor folks – seeming to acknowledge them as worthy of their time and consideration, even if not purchasing or giving. And they in turn accept your “no, gracias” amd move to the next. How they live is beyond me – but they do…and are entitled to their own pride.

So, a diet of interruption and a much higher level of social noise accompanies life here. More are outside, so more will be met. It’s a different equation from our reluctant purposeful and insular car-bourne visits to shopping centers. Much more fun…


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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