The Barrio

The sun rises over placid Mexican bay.

Editor’s note: the tireless El Codo poached this promising writer from the tomzap forums. We hope to hear more from Lee in the future.

The Barrio

by Lee Horner

In this neighborhood everything comes to your door. Eventually. Water, gas, reclaimed paint buckets full of beer and ice, children selling bags of Nopal cactus, tamales; the elderly cheese man, his straw basket slung over his shoulder heavy with fresh queso wrapped in dark green leaves. Young boys with slingshots and a skinned iguana.

Roasted chicken is delivered on the back of a motorcycle, an ice cream cart being pushed by hand, a battered pickup truck, its box full of blossoming plants for twenty-five pesos apiece. Vendors walking with armfuls of pillows, wooden shelves and tables, the vegetable lady, her rusted scale tilting on the tailgate, the dengue crew and always a variety of domesticated and feral animals.

I have a very large black iguana that lives in my bodega. We don’t see eye to eye. Although I may ‘own’ the property, this is his domain and he demonstrates his disdain for me by hissing and thrashing about under my pressure tank and in the nether regions of the small room behind boxes and coolers. He leaves me gifts, plenty of them. He taunts the dogs. He scuttles about on the clay tiles of my patio roof and at night ventures through the garden nibbling on the tender shoots of plants. Truth be known, we don’t much like each other, but you don’t often have the luxury of choosing your neighbors, and so we carry on.

Nueva Espana is the name of the main artery that runs through The Barrio. On its paved portion the requisite amount of sleeping policemen (topes) keep the velocity of traffic in check, before becoming a dirt road that passes empty lots, pastureland, the old airstrip and the cemetery. It empties out into a small colony of houses and onto to the highway. It is eclectic in its own right; tiendas and homes, restaurants and schools dot either side of its long stretch.

I ride this route daily, jockeying for space between buses and motos, animals and people. It is not unusual to encounter a cowboy shepherding his cows on this road, nor is it unusual to see a young man on a bicycle carrying a ladder and a large fish. One may have to stop to allow a handful of goats to cross, or steer clear of a burro wreaking havoc in a garbage can. Often a single moto scooter is the transport for an entire family. Today I watched two adults and three children balance and carry a plastic table on a moto – all positioned like pieces of a puzzle.

In the morning the mouthwatering aromas of carnitas and roasted chickens mingle with diesel fumes and the pungent smell of frying chilies and boiling beans. In front of Carneceria Junior two men in the back of a pickup truck are butchering the hind quarters of a cow on a tarp that has been carefully placed in the bed. Music blares from the truck’s speakers. In the evening tacos, churros and pozole are the fare. Or perhaps a bacon wrapped hot dog with fried onions and jalapenos followed by a cold cerveza or a large glass of deep red jamaica water with ice.

Just beyond the junction of Nueva Espana and the main road into town lies the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. From my rooftop I can watch the sunset with its hues of pink and red blanketing the sky, and feel the breeze on my skin. To borrow a common Mexican phrase, “If God wants and the Virgin isn’t angry,” I’ll be here to see another day, because this is a place that, like a cataract coursing over a precipice, flows with a force of its own and constantly inspires and daunts me.