Skirting Bahia Banderas, Puerto Vallarta’s malecon
pulsates with Mexican locals
hawking their wares to turistas,
Canadians and Americans eager for a deal—
the “almost-free” bracelets of 925 silver,
genuine Mexican blankets made in China,
Day of the Dead skulls dangling from wind chimes,
and T-shirts that give you bragging rights
to swallowing the worm in the tequila.
Barefoot five-year-olds sell packages of Chiclets
for fifty centavos. A pre-teen boy in a ragged poncho
promises a gringa his pet iguana won’t bite
or poop on her shoulder,
but will make a fotografia bonita,
will impress her amigas at her machismo.
“Cuesta viente pesos, Señora.”
Toes tucked into gritty, hot sand,
I sip an ice-cold cerveza Pacifico, dip
salty tortilla chips into hotter-than-hades jalapeño salsa,
dazzled by the exchange of pesos for product.
I want to ask the middle-aged man to my left
how he can sit on a bench reading a book,
oblivious to the wheeling and dealing
and the well-practiced hustle
behind not-so-innocent brown eyes.
A beggar woman toting a bambina on her back
shuffles through the sand,
stops in front of the man nose-deep in book,
extends her palm. “Por favor, Señor.”
The gringo ignores her plea for a few coins.
She lifts her faded print dress knee height,
spreads her legs,
readjusts the bambina,
shuffles down the beach.
© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.