Worlds Apart in the Zocalo

I wrote this short piece, set in Oaxaca’s zocalo, or downtown square, for a lesson on expressing varied character emotion in one setting.  The zocalo is one of the my favorite places in the world.


By the time he made it to the bustling zocalo, nineteen year old Juan was already sweating in the late afternoon sun. Pushing the heavy vendor’s cart to it’s usual spot, he cursed under his breath as he set out the supplies and ingredients. Wiping the sweat of his brow with his sleeve, he vowed revenge on the men—whoever or wherever they were—that had fathered him and his younger siblings, for whom he now had to provide by washing cars in the morning and selling esquite* one lousy cup at a time in the evening.

His thoughts were interrupted by the young americano couple on the bench looking his way, pointing. They obviously wanted to try what he was selling. He’ll be sure to make it especially spicy. He glared disgustingly as the guy stood and plopped a juicy kiss on the light-haired beauty before standing up and walking his way.


A smile escaped and she didn’t care who saw as she waggled her left hand, allowing the half carat diamond to glitter in the afternoon sun. Was this a dream or was it really three days ago that she shook with happy nervousness as she walked down the aisle to where her prince waited to place that very ring on her finger?

Now, half a world away, sitting on a green wrought iron bench in the colonial downtown square graced with majestic trees, colorful flowers, and numerous pigeons, she dreamily looked around at the large stone cathedral, the indian ladies selling their crafts, and the two-story buildings framing the block that housed the coffee shops and restaurants which beckoned passers-by to a relaxing respite under colorful umbrellas.

Humming softly, the honeymooner let herself fall gently against the back of the bench in time to adoringly watch her husband as he returned with a broad smile on his handsome face and two cups of esquite, a local favorite, in his hands.


Touching his belly under the stained shirt that covered his dirty body, six year old Pablito moved closer to where the aroma was. He licked his lips and swallowed the saliva filling his mouth as he watched the young gringo couple on the bench lift the spoons to their mouth. He squeezed his aching stomach, his tongue craving even a taste.

His indian mother, wearing her long red huipil, a traditional embroidered dress, still hadn’t sold enough of her goods to be able to go home or buy him something to eat. He watched her bend over and reach near her chest to untie a large knot in the material that slung around her back carrying his baby brother, who was now feebly crying.

Standing behind a tree, he turned his attention back to the couple from where the smell of delicious esquite was wafting, and waited for his chance. From the look on their faces, he figured this taste was new for them. He was in luck, for this meant they probably wouldn’t eat it all.

Finally, the couple stood, leaving the esquite cups on the ground. Pablito hurried closer, hoping to beat the pigeons to claim whatever may have been left uneaten.


*esquite (es-KEE-taye) is hot corn served in a cup with a variety of ingredients mixed into it’s juice, such as mayonaiise, lemon juice, dry crumbled cheese, and chile powder.

© I.K.Hadinger 2011 – All rights reserved

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