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banner - piffle and jottings from the dessicated west during 1934

by George E. Marsh

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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.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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