Learning the Ropas at Tianguis
Watch your wallet. Or better still, leave it behind, along with anything else you’d mind losing. What you need is a pocket stuffed with small peso bills and coins. That was Donna’s advice, and she’s been coming to Tianguis to shop for ropas (clothing) for years.
Tuesdays in San Miguel de Allende are Tianguis day. Families go, sweethearts meet up, grannies and gringos, tourists and touts- everyone is there.
Overnight, the dusty deserted lot transforms with tarps and tables into a small city of vendors. There’s not much you can’t get, and cheaply if you’re prepared to bargain.
The first time, I went alone. I came home empty-handed, wide eyed and reeling from sensory overload. Meat frying for tacos, copal incense burning, a loudspeaker lady listing all the ailments cured by her potion, jostling crowds and tables with eye-high mountains of used clothes.
No one is sure where the clothes come from or where they go. They are all washed and the mix changes weekly and with the seasons. But if you lose your luggage, pack for the wrong weather or (in my case) your laundry comes back pink, Tianguis is where you replace your wardrobe.
We started way in the back, at Donna’s favorite booth. The tables start out fairly organized- children’s clothes on one, men’s on another and women’s taking several in the middle.
The process works like this- push yourself into a spot, don’t worry where. Smile and say “Buenos dias” to your new friends. Everyone is shuffling counter-clockwise, so you’ll eventually cover most everything. First use your eyes, and scan the clothing mountain for your colors. Then touch it. If you like the fabric, pull it out. What is it? A skirt, jacket, dress? If it’s not what you want, toss it back on the pile. Slightly to your left, for your neighbor’s consideration. If it’s a possible, hold it up against yourself. This is a chance for everyone around you to weigh in on the decision. Ropas shopping is a team sport.