A hand-woven cotton and wool blanket hangs on the wall in my husband’s office. Bold yellow, rich red, vibrant green with contrasts of black make it an eye-catcher with a distinct Mexican look.
I am happy that the blanket is on display, because I bought it for my husband several years ago. It is a prized souvenir, even more so now that the market I bought it at has likely succumbed to violence and drug wars.
In 2003, I travelled to El Paso, Texas to do volunteer work in the border town of Cuidad Jaurez, Mexico. With a crew of youth, we helped paint an orphanage, a medical clinic, and housing for retired ministers who had little to no income.
We stayed behind the locked gates (vehicles and all) of a locked compound, where we played basketball and chess, slept and ate. Towards the end of our stay, a few of us went for a walk and discovered the Juarez “Mercado”.
Picture a busy Farmer’s Market with permanent stalls packed in narrow stalls under a high roof. Everything that could possibly be a souvenir was sold there, given its proximity to the border. Silver bracelets, barrels of hot red peppers, knives, traditional Mexican dresses, pure vanilla, and cactus were some of the items sold. Or should I say- items that could be dickered for. A native Mexican at the compound had told us we should pay less than half price than what was posted. He also told us that we should not let our emotion show.
I did fairly well getting souvenirs for my children and other family members. I never paid more than half price, and I even walked away from some vendors who would not back down.
But I hadn’t found a gift for my husband, and we were leaving the Mercado soon. We rounded the corner, and I think I audibly gasped because there was a beautiful Mexican blanket hanging on the wall. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, the vendor saw my full emotion and pleasure, and was all over me with salesman pitch in broken English. I attempted to dicker for the blanket, but in the end I paid many more pesos for the blanket than our Mexican friend had recommended.
And you know, I don’t regret it. I had dickered for everything else, and so had the money to buy the blanket. I probably made the guy’s day. And it is a great one-of-a-kind souvenir that my husband and I will always enjoy.