Beach Vendors Offer Colorful Treats from the Tropics

February 3, 2011

The dark-skinned vendors gather on the beach roasting day after day surrounded by the relentless sun reflecting both off the glittering sea water and the warm granular sand. No sunscreen bottles in evidence here. Some have tables to display their wares and others continuously stroll carrying a variety of offerings. It is fun to see the colors, clothing, house wares, jewelry and other handcrafts. Some are locally fabricated and others come from different regions of Mexico while other items arrive from across the planet from places like Indonesia and China. It’s interesting what sells. It’s interesting what people will buy and why – and the vendors know.
Some feign a lack of English while others genuinely do not speak the language and try very hard to negotiate their business with their prospective customers. Some boldly call out in perfect English and even assist their compatriots to communicate as required to help close a deal.
It is partly friendly and partly competitive. It seems tireless the way they repeat their mantras and vocal sales pitches – and their personalities read through the crush of it all. A really nice young guy took a second glance at me yesterday and said “Hey” in a way that suggested that he recognized me. I didn’t get the connection at first, but a little later when we passed again, he stopped and said “I remember you from the cuchillos.” I tried not to look blank as my mind struggled to race through my memories to recall about what he must be referring.  I smiled and said “Oh yes.” He continued to chat asking me how I had been and I returned the inquiry. And as we visited with small talk it hit me “cuhillos” from last year when this really nice young man assisted me in locating the woman who sold the hand-carved wooden spoons! He reminded me his name when I asked and of course it was all coming back to me – Benjamin! He was not trying to sell me anything – how rare among these myriad vendors along the beach – rather, he genuinely enjoyed making the connection and just wanted to say “Hi, how have you been?” We then discussed that the wood carvers were not on the beach this year – the wood was getting increasingly hard to obtain – that was part of the difficulty last year.  We talked about the fact that he marketed woven wrist bands that he made himself sporting NFL teams and people’s names – colorful and fun to watch him and other vendors weave with thread as you witnessed the designs and letters materialize. But he knew without questioning that I was not in the market for this handcraft. While others will even approach me with henna tattoo presentations – “thank you, no” – but you can’t blame them for trying – you never know, I might get a wild hair after a few shots!
This year it was about the straw basket vendor. A towering guy encircled with a variety of colorful baskets, handbags and hats, he balanced this extraordinary collection about his person and was a fantastic sight to behold. I was enchanted with the colors and fine workmanship. I particularly focused on the smaller sized handbags – entirely of colored straw without metal or plastic detailing like some sported – these were purely organic and quite lovely. I selected colors that I preferred and he returned the next day with the perfect collection to fill my order. His family makes them and he is their salesman “on the road.” I bought 10 and will be bringing them back to the shop for another treat from the tropics!
Straw handbags on th beach

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