The Hammock Vendor

We retrieved a large folder of watercolors from the back of Josefina’s SUV and proceeded to the Chapala malecón. Being a Sunday, the lakeside promenade was teeming with tapatíos, weekend visitors from Guadalajara. After finding a shaded bench, we began to leaf through Josefina’s impressive work.

In Mexico, as in much of Latin America, roving vendors are common. A busy public area like the Chapala malecón is prime real estate for them to brandish their wares. They can be pesty, but are usually rebuffed with a quick, “No, gracias.”

One such vendor approached us as we sat there on our bench, but stopped a short distance away without a word. He was selling hammocks, and had a colorful array draped over his forearm. On a whim, I held up one of Josefina’s paintings for him to see. A giant smile broke across his broad face. I continued to share the paintings with him as he inched closer and closer. Soon, he was standing right next to us.

From our vantage point, we had a clear view of Los Voladores de Papantla, the Papantla Flyers—those daring men in indigenous dress who twirl from the heights of a tall pole held only by ropes around their feet.

“Do they speak Spanish?” I asked our new friend.

“They all speak Spanish,” he replied. “But they also speak their own language. Náhuatl.”

He went on to tell us that he belonged to the same group as the voladores and that he also spoke Náhuatl. He said they traveled far from their home near Veracruz for the opportunity to earn a living performing.

As the hammock vendor was about to leave, Josefina asked him his name.

“Porfirio,” he replied.

“Please pick one out.”


“Please choose a painting for yourself.”

At first, Porfirio demurred, taken aback by Josefina’s offer, but she insisted, and he finally selected a tropical landscape.

“Muchas gracias,” he said with a smile and left to continue his rounds.

“That was so kind and generous of you, Josefina. An original painting.”

“Did you notice his eyes?” she asked. “They were red. In order to make just one of those hammocks,” she continued, “you have to tie hundreds of tiny knots.”

The playful lilt of the voladores’ fife drifted over us.

 “I’ll come back and find him,” she added. “And when I do, I’ll buy one of those hammocks.”

I assure you she will.

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1 thought on “The Hammock Vendor”

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    Megan McCaslin

    What a sweet moment in time, so evocative of life in a Mexican town. I loved that one artist recognized another and that she will follow through with rewarding him for the hours that reddened his eyes. Very nice piece.

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