The Malecón in Low Season, Puerto Vallarta
“Ahhh, break my heart,” she says to me. Nearly every morning for five or six weeks now, she scans the Malecón offering me and any other gringa she sees a lotion sample. At least I think it’s lotion. In truth, I’ve never accepted her “gift”, which is why I break her heart.
Accepting her gift would undoubtedly mean a conversation about why I must buy her soap or lotion or special skin care remedy, a conversation which would inevitably lead to disappointment for both of us. Yet, after turning her down day after day for all these weeks, she still greets me daily with a smile and a hopeful plea to accept her gift. Her warmth and enthusiasm are infectious.
Lotion Girl is, of course, just one of the many artists, vendors, drivers, hosts and tour resellers along the Malecón in Puerto Vallarta who somehow manage to eek out a living by selling their wares to reluctant tourists.
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They are the players, and we are the played. The players try out a slew of “hooks”, hoping to break through, grab our attention and initiate a conversation. “How many days left?” “Would you like a map?” “Table for two?” “What do you need?” And our personal favorite, “The kids called…they want you to bring home some tequila.”
We, the played, ever vigilant, become adept at maintaining a tricky balance between courtesy, amusement and firm resolve to avoid acquiring a bunch of stuff we don’t need. We try various responses to the “hook”. “No, we have to get to work,” “We are walking today,” “We live here.” And the only thing that seems to work, “Gracias, pero no.”
Their persistence is admirable, if not a bit trying for us. And in many cases a player’s creativity is what separates him or her from the crowd and wins coveted attention from the tourists. The enterprising couple who build rock sculptures from scratch every day. The human statues that cleverly blend in with the sculptures that extend for a mile along the Malecón.
Their task is a difficult one as it’s September now, low season in Vallarta, so sales are down, as can be seen in the bored and concerned faces of our “amigos”. Yet they never fail to be present. To put a smile on their face as they beckon to us. To greet us with warmth and hospitality.
Having made Puerto Vallarta our home now for several months, I only wish we could buy all their jewelry, their scarves, their carvings. That we could accept their massages, their jet ski rides, their tequila tasting. That we could eat and drink at every establishment.
The fact that we can’t truly “breaks my heart”.
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