by George E. Marsh
The Evening in Juarez
It happened on the last day in El Paso, the one that cost me
24 cents in 3 cent tolls. After dining late in a Mexican restaurant
on native dishes that came to much less than I expected and
made me wish I had ordered a more elaborate menu, I roamed thru
back streets, watched street-vendors fry flat cakes in skillets
of smoking fat over wee charcoal fires, ogled thru open doors
of shops, saloons, and down passage-ways that lead to patios
with plants and benches on which the leisure-loving folk were
passing the time to the music of a guitar.
Turning a corner I plumped into a street lined on both sides
with dingy whitewashed adobe dwellings. The doors were open,
windows up, and leaning out over the sidewalk, with arms resting
on ornate pillows, were the baiters for gold. As I strolled
and noted the atmosphere, I heard the overtures, saw the seductive
glances, and the beckoning nods. Ah, Senorita, it is too bad
I have no time. The hell it is!
I came to the Market, the largest and most ornate building in
town. Small booths filled the interior; they were separated
by high partitions. The wares were all so tawdry. Many stalls
had identically the same sort of rubbish; some were piled high
with crude clay products painted bright, dark blues; others
had straw baskets in array. Few people were about and no one
was buying. I wondered to whom the junk appealed.
I went outside and passed along the stands that lined the sidewalk.
Fruits and vegetables, beans mostly, were the usual commodity.
You’ve never seen beans until you come to Mexico. Down
here you may buy peanuts by the tiny cupful and get about a
dozen pygmy ones for a Mexican sou. I only recall that I saw
no vegetables new to me. They were our most common ones and
looked so frightfully poor, runty in fact.
I became more interested in the fruits for there were many strange
ones. No success came from my attempts to learn the names of
any; there seemed to be a no savvie wherever I stopped. After
making the rounds, I returned to a stand, whose owner’s
face was somewhat more kindly than the rest, and after a great
deal of talking on his part, questions on my part, and no understanding
too I came away with four exotic fruits, each wrapped in a cone
rolled from a page of Collier’s. I vaguely gathered that
I had some guavas and mangoes. I had spent 20 cents and was
in somewhat high spirits at sampling four Mexican fruits when
I got to camp. I am too good a raccoon to eat them without washing
and so had to wait.
In passing the custom’s officer on the International Bridge,
late that evening, he said “Got anything dutiable?”
“No”, I replied, “all I got is some fruit.”
“Let me see it.” From one of my pockets I pulled
out two of the small cornucopias and handed them over. On opening
the tops, he said “You can’t bring these in, its
against the plant quarantine laws.” “Very well,
officer,” meek as Moses, said I, but mad within.
Arriving at camp, I lost no time taking the other two cones
out of my pocket, washing the fruit, and coming to the definite
conclusion that the Mexican is welcome to them. The c.o. doubtless
enjoyed his fruit thru his acquired taste for foreign flavors.