A PERFECT DEMONSTRATION

Fans of folk who like to voice their opinions can’t go wrong in Mexico. I mean, barely a day goes by without some demonstration or protest taking to the streets, and those in its favour tend to come out in such force that it’s only a matter of time before the ‘rally’ passes you by. You certainly don’t need to make the effort to seek out such rallies most of the time because they usually come to you, just like one did when I was staying in Puebla.Having failed to find a hostel in the city, I’d had no choice but to book into a hotel: the cheap but cheerful Victoria on 3 Poniente. Incredibly, it was cheaper to stay there than in any hostel that I’d so far patronaged in Mexico.
Requiring no wake-up call to rouse me, a stampede of demonstrators did the job perfectly as they pounded the otherwise quiet street directly below my first-floor window. What exactly all the commotion was about I had scant idea.Naturally curious, I sprang out of bed and descended to the lobby in order to ask the proprietor what was afoot, just as a squadron of almost thirty bright yellow tow-trucks passed the hotel’s door, honking their horns to further assault sensitive eardrums.
It transpired that the demo was protesting against an unfortunate soul who had unwittingly become a political prisoner. Fired up by the passion of all the protesters involved, I hit the sidewalk and pursued them along the road, before the procession of people and vehicles swung around the edge of Puebla’s truly beautiful Zocalo and ceremoniously ground to a halt directly outside the Municipal Palace.A man on the back of one of the trucks proceeded to rally the masses with a long-winded speech that was evidently causing members of the Federal Police force stationed in front of the building to literally shake in their standard-issue boots, but the protest thankfully remained a peaceful one, and it eventually moved on, further across the city.
I did intend to keep pace with it, but a more pressing engagement forced me to slip away from the crowd, into a back-street cantina. Scanning the menu board, I didn’t know what I fancied for breakfast until I saw three heart-stirring words: cereal con fruta.Somewhat ashamed of the fact that I’d become a full-blown taco junkie in just two weeks, I both wanted and needed a simple bowl of cereal with fruit like nothing else. To be fair, a bowl of cornflakes topped with slices of banana and strawberries had never tasted so divine.
Afterwards, I continued to explore Puebla, a remarkable city first and foremost because it is reputed to have 365 churches: one for every day of the year. As I sauntered around the city centre, prior to heading into some of the neighbourhoods further away from The Zocalo, I counted over one hundred places of worship in a three-hour period.It’s just a shame that the streets serving Puebla are so packed with traffic, a bewildering one-way system making the task of trying to work out from which direction vehicles are likely to strike an absolute nightmare.
While not quite as crazy as the mean streets of Mexico City, it’s nonetheless essential that when crossing those in Puebla, eye contact with any drivers speeding your way is established as you attempt to get from one side to the other should no pedestrian crossings be in sight to aid your passage.
Crucially, such eye contact must be maintained until you are safely on the pavement at the far side. On multiple occasions, I foolishly took my life into my own hands as I dashed in front of cars… yet it’s often essential that risks of such downright dangerous proportions are taken, otherwise you might literally be waiting all day.Alternatively, you could cop-out and just take the bus tour around the city should you really value your life. But where’s the fun in being stuck on a bus when the intoxicating sights, sounds and smells of a place can only ever convincingly confront you at ground level?
Eschewing the temptation to pay my dues and hop on the nearest sight-seeing double-decker, I simply sucked in a deep breath at every road I came to. And ran.

(Steve Rudd)

Pulse, Steve’s best-selling debut book is now available in paperback and for the Kindle. Click here for more details.

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