Saturday, October 27, 2012

S is for Saturday

Tourist for the Afternoon
A few weeks ago I realized that I would have a few hours of free time on the third Saturday of October.  My wife is going to volunteer at the College Café near downtown San Antonio for the afternoon.  An organization that she is a member of is hosting a program for teens and college students on how to make videos promoting socially sensitive issues.

I suggested to Iris that we enjoy a late breakfast or early lunch together before I drive her to the College Café.  Then I would remain downtown and pretend I was a photographer, blogger, writer, and tourist and spend my afternoon meandering around the nearby El Mercado, also known as Market Square.  El Mercado has been a focal point of community activity in San Antonio since the 1820s.  Market Square is a thriving tourist attraction today with several unique restaurants, shopping venues, and is an entertainment attraction that is enjoyed by tourists and locals.  Located in downtown San Antonio El Mercado is easy to get to and enjoy.  I might find a sidewalk café, order a Margarita and let the world stroll by.  If I am fortunate there will be outdoor entertainment to enjoy.

Iris and I have spent the past several Saturday afternoons on shopping errands and not much else.  Those weekends have been hum drum and boring; a change of pace would be welcomed.

She liked my plan.  Iris doesn’t like to drive downtown to places she hasn’t been to previously.  We plan to find a nearby restaurant for a leisurely meal together and then I would be free to wander until her program finishes.  Sometimes Iris thinks someone will object to me photographing them, see my Faces webpage, or she doesn’t like a locale I have chosen to photograph, see my Public Art webpage.  She may be right, but I wouldn’t tell her that.  But El Mercado is a safe place and at the same time a vibrant locale to photograph and write about.  If I don’t have a Margarita I’ll enjoy a large coffee and a pan dulce. 

Report on Saturday
Another couple joined us at a near-downtown restaurant around 11:15 am.  It was one that I used to frequent when I worked in that area many years ago.  The meal was inexpensive, good and plentiful.  Local neighborhood Mexican food usually hits the mark on all three points, and our Saturday morning enchiladas made good grades on all three points. 
We went our separate ways after lunch.  The other husband went home; my wife and her friend went to the College Café for afternoon.  I was on my own and off I went with my camera and carefree attitude.  For the next two hours I wandered around Market Square with no schedule, no real plan and no sense of urgency.  
La Margarita with Mariachi Musicians approaching
La Margarita sidewalk cafe facing main area of EL Mercado
Probably a Pina Colada variation of a Margarita, behind is a cerviche
El Mercado’s south side houses a bar, several souvenir shops and two well known restaurants.  La Margarita and Mi Tierra offer similar but different variations of Mexican food that attract tourists and San Antonio residents in great numbers.  Both establishments serve excellent food, drinks and atmosphere.  La Margarita is more expensive and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
A San Antonio establishment since 1941
Mi Tierra's bakery counter
Mi Tierra main restaurant, with Christmas decorations all year round

Mi Tierra is one of the first Mexican restaurants we frequented when we moved to San Antonio in 1977 and offers the more traditional Tex-Mex assortment.   

The north side of El Mercado houses about 50 vendors selling a variety of crafts, clothing, souvenirs and leather goods, some unique and many just ordinary but all with the feel of being in a market in Mexico.  It has the feel of the Mexican heritage of south Texas.

Main plaza of El Mercado looking west
Mi Tierra on right, outdoor vendors on left

An open air area between the two sides is filled with vendors selling a small variety of food, drinks and more inexpensive souvenirs.  The west end houses a second indoor market with more shops and a few quick serve food vendors.  Between the open area and the westside market is an outdoor stage (in a street closed to Saturday traffic) with local musicians performing and a few people dancing in the warm afternoon sun.
My Fruit Cup!

El Mercado Fruteria vendor

I wandered back and forth several times and managed to shoot a number of pictures (bless you digital camera) that are featured in this blog.  Hopefully, the photos and their captions will elicit the nature of my afternoon.  I thought I might enjoy a Margarita but instead I devoured a delicous fruit cup.  The fruteria is a unique experience to Latin America and from Texas west to California in Hispanic neighborhoods.  The fruit stand offered a refreshing treat and a more photogenic opportunity.

Fruteria display

One of my Public Art pages highlights the artwork of a local fruteria but not the actual fruit.  My fruit cup was sweet, spicy (chili powder optional) and refreshing; if you ever visit the US southwest, Mexico or numerous other Latin American countries you might want to try a fruit cup at the local fruteria instead of a high calorie latte or a pan dulce (pastry). 

A side entrance to El Mercado was guarded by a sculpture in a state of disrepair.  Entertainment was provided by a veterans group, San Antonio also carries the nick name of Military City USA.
Veterans music group performing at El Mercado playing Conjunto music
Statue showing some wear and tear

Only one set of photographs will require some explanation.  But then I really can’t explain it other than to stay that I think the Elvis impersonator shown was either a sidewalk entertainer hampered by regulations (no tip jar visible) or a man in need of serious mental health treatment.  Saturday ended with a strange man dancing in El Mercado.  My wife called moments after I encountered Elvis and I was done being tourist for an afternoon.
Elvis impersonator leaving Mi Tierra, as soon as he saw me with my camera he struck a pose with his cardboard guitar.

Elvis impersonator in the main plaza.  I had to tilt the camera because he made me dizzy.

Elvis impersonator making his moves

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  1. Warren, I enjoyed a very colourful wander around El Mercado. I do fancy one of those fruit cups.

  2. Various neighborhoods of San Antonio reflect the Hispanic culture, especially with brightly colored buildings and homes.

  3. You should see if El Mercado has a website so they can publish this...pretty cool pics and informative.

  4. That Elvis is bad ass!