Mercado Juarez and the Witch doctor
They say first impressions are the most important, do you remember what your first ever impressions of Mexico or Monterrey were? What you did on your first day?
Maybe it was taking a leisurely drive up the Sierra Madre to Chipinque to take in the Vistas, perhaps quietly ambling around Parque Fundidora or even it was a lovely outdoor lunch with a few virginal sips of Tequila at a trendy San Pedro eatery. Would have loved any of those, no mine was being taken to the market Mercado Juarez where I had an egg rubbed all over my body, crotch included by a transvestite fortune teller who was about to sacrifice a chicken in front of me before I had to say stop. I had to, otherwise I would have never eaten KFC again.
They say the first impressions are the ones that stay with you the longest, unfortunately for me. I remember I was jet-lagged after landing late evening the night before, arriving from Europe with my Mexican girlfriend to meet her family for the first time. After 20 hours flying in a compressed metal tube with zero sleep and too many G & T’s under the belt, meeting the new family wasn’t ranking high up on the must do immediately list. Managed 2 hours (so 2 hours sleep out of the last 48) sleep thanks to my brain reminding me all night it was still on Euro time and there we were, cruising down the highway towards downtown Monterrey.
Why Mercado Juarez? No idea maybe the in-law’s didn’t like me, I mean now I think the place is a bit of fun and quite enjoy visiting but walking through the doors back then was like walking into the Twilight Zone. You can buy almost anything here particularly quirky items. It has food stalls with simple local food as well as your fruit and vegetables and various grocery items. What I found particularly interesting were all the potions and elixirs they had for practically everything and I’m not talking about for medicinal purposes either. They have powders and potions for everything imaginable. Money problems? No problem cause they have a potion to fix it. Cant satisfy wifey? Don’t think of it again because there is a tonic there that will make Viagra’s qualities seem like they are on par with a tic tac’s. All according to the vendors of course. If you had an issue with your second cousin’s stepdaughter’s pet rabbit they will magically produce a mysterious powder just for this issue! You get the drift.
I had previously whilst still in Europe perhaps murmured I may be interested (for fun) in having my fortune told in Mexico but did not expect getting trundled off into the family car on my first day to have it done. So in a jet-lagged daze and after paying 200 peso I find myself in a small cordoned off area at the back of a stall with a man obviously trying to look like a woman. There was chicken feet hanging up and weird incense burning and what was first a fun idea was turning into something more serious. These people are for real and really believe in what they sell and what they do.
Thankfully my partner was in there with me for translation purposes and then my fortune was told. I must say to my surprise she/he hits it out of the ballpark on most of what was said. Even shedding light on a bad business dealing I had and who the potential culprit was, it was fascinating stuff. Apparently I needed my aura cleansing as well which would involve an egg. He/she then asks my partner to leave the room so off she went through the curtain leaving us alone. She opens up a drawer and starts rummaging around, I can’t really see what’s in there but I’m thinking the worst, perhaps shrunken human heads and so forth. She/he produces an egg and a longish twig and proceeds to rub the egg all over my body (crotch included) whilst chanting something which sounded completely alien to me. In between chants I would get a light whack with the twig and because of the incense it was getting hard to breath, this is fun I remember thinking. What are we doing in the afternoon? Maybe dangle me off a bridge or try some cleansing electric shock treatment perhaps?
After ten more minutes of uncomfortable egg rubbing and chanting she/he stops and asks me to go out and ask my girlfriend to come back in. She/he then starts explaining that to cleanse me of whatever woes I had the egg wasn’t going to be enough. No I needed a whole LIVE chicken to be sacrificed!! What was wrong with me? A whole chicken? Another 400 peso and could be bought two stalls up. They have a stall selling sacrificial chickens?? At this point it was enough what started off as a joke was not amusing me anymore, I gratefully declined her offer of the chicken sacrifice and said goodbye. She/he did mention that I was partially cleansed for a good while due to the egg rub and special incense so I was thankful for that at least.
I have to say as I walked away from her/his stall I did feel this relief like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, who knows maybe it worked, maybe I should have ordered the live chicken but as a first day in a new Country and city it was certainly memorable. I look back on that day now with amusement and truthfully wouldn’t change a thing if I could do it all over again, because this is Mexico where anything can happen and an adventure lurks on every street corner or behind any vendors stall, if you leave San Pedro that is.