By Freda Rumford from the February 2012 Edition
Each year in January, the northern Wal-Mart parking lot becomes a galaxy of brilliant colours as artisans and vendors from all over Mexico descend upon Manzanillo with their travelling fair. Here for two weeks only. At the end of their stay, they head north to Puerto Vallarta and onwards from there.
It is a shopper’s paradise for tourists and local inhabitants alike. There are incredible embroidered blouses, dresses and tablecloths, painted animal figurines from Oaxaca, moles from Pueblo, furniture from Morelia and ice creams from Michoacán that stand side by side for both tasting and viewing pleasure. Amongst all of the glittering bead and silver jewellery, the unique fashions and accessories are the more mundane candies and honey based beauty products. Let us not forget the Ponche (pomegranate based) and other exotic liquids for spicing up the many different (available elsewhere) tequilas.
The Mole Vendors are very pleased to tell of the fifteen different flavours available and tiny spoons for tasting are readily produced. Having bought some in the past, I was delighted to try a couple of different flavours and ended up purchasing both a spicy and a fruity mole to experiment with one evening. Not knowing how to cook it, last year I merely heated some in a pan very gently then added a little chicken stock. It worked perfectly well but this year, there is a recipe label on the bag so probably that is how I will treat it this year. Mole, pronounced mō-lay, is a very different and well known ingredient from Mexico, made with a chocolate base and mostly used with chicken. As chocolate is a vegetable that sounds good enough for me!
The ice cream that they are offering, tastes a bit too icy for my taste, but the buns and breads available at two or three of the other stalls looked very inviting. The problem is what to buy?? To me, most of the baked goods all taste the same. But they do look interesting as a group. Usually these sweet breads are served with breakfast and either coffee or hot chocolate. Yum, more chocolate!
The embroidered clothing is absolutely incredible; bright and cheerful, a wonderful souvenir of a holiday in this exciting land. I walked by with eyes averted trying desperately not to look. They are just not in my budget this year but oh how I wished that two or three were. I could just see myself in the purple one with cascading flowers or the black dress with gorgeous yellow and orange roses. Oh! I promised I wouldn’t look. Darn! But that pretty blouse with Oaxacan embroidery was almost too much to resist.
Shoes and sandals of all shapes and sizes abound and are next to lovely, lacy jewellery which the store holder is making as I walk by. This year I note that the wooden beach chairs are available again, as are those made with coloured strings. Hammocks, pots, wall hangings and tablecloths that will surely fit in with any decor are everywhere and placed between booths selling foot fungus cream and knitted ski hats and sweaters.
The only items which bothered me were those which said clearly underneath – made in China! Now come on guys, so far as I know, there is not a town in Mexico named China! It is probably a good idea to look for that name when making your memorable purchase.
Unfortunately, the fair will be over before this article is available but it will return next year, so do be ready! It is not necessary to travel for miles and miles to be able to buy the most beautiful regional treasures.