Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Frankincense, Myrrh, and Barbies

"Get your Super Heroes! Cheap superheroes here! Muy barato! Three for ten pesos!” A woman holds up a plastic Superman, Spiderman and Batman in one hand, waving them at the crowd that squeezes by her towards row after row of booths selling toys: Pink baby dolls, Tonka trucks and tricycles, scooters and teddy bears. Games, puzzles, soccer balls. A virtual orgy of plastic and color. Things that beep and whir and spin and flash. Dolls in every shape and size, each with it’s own wardrobe.

“Hey, this doll only has one shoe!” one woman cries, holding it up to the weary seller. “What will my kid think, that those pinche reyes brought me a doll with a missing shoe?” Everyone around her laughs. It's late, and the mood is joyful and fun here at the all night toy market on the eve of the day of The Three Kings. For in Mexico it is they, not Santa Claus, who deliver the goods to children all over the country.

In the plaza the three kings themselves arrive on mounted horses sporting turbans and cardboard crowns, trailing their gold lame capes behind them, surrounded by costumed dancers in clown masks. Helium balloons are handed out to all of the children tie pieces of paper with their wishes on them to send up to the sky, asking Los Reyes Magos for what they want the most. Then it is off to the all night toy market with their families, where the dizzying array of offerings await. Vendors sell tamales and atole and steamed corn to the hungry shoppers. Kids squeal and point and plead after shiny new bicycles and dolls that wiggle and roll their eyes.

Off to the side a woman in a shawl sits on the pavement, holding out her hand to the passersby. Her young daughter lies asleep in her lap. When I stoop down to offer her some coins I see that someone has placed a brand new pink Barbie doll wrapped in cellophane on the girl’s chest. It is a surreal sight, touching and sad, yet I can't help but smile. It is still a gift given with humble generosity. And as in the giving of any gift, ultimately it’s the thought that counts.



Anonymous said...

Write more, Susana!! It puts me back there, & very easy to read.
I'll be away in Feb, catch up with you after that. love Anie

Lisa Garrigues said...

Hey Susie D--

This is terrific stuff, photo and text! I'm almost envious that you're in Mexico, except that I keep falling back in love with the Bay Area.

Lisa G