May 27, 2010

Brooms and Mops

Irish saying: A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.

This year we spent nearly our entire six month Mexico trip in the highland interior, including the fine old cities of Queretaro, Mexico City ,Puebla and Oaxaca. We visited Cholula, Cuernavaca, Patzcuaro, and many smaller towns. Everywhere we watched people busily sweeping sidewalks, businesses and public buildings. Frankly, 20 years ago, many Mexican towns were not so tidy as they are today. Now it seems that the central areas of every town, modest or large, is proudly shipshape. It’s no wonder, people of all ages are sweeping and mopping constantly! 

Morning is the usual time for the first good sweep. In Jocotepec, whenever we had our 20-liter water jug filled at La Purisima in the morning, we’d be sure to see a woman sweeping the sidewalk fronting the home across the street.  If a home has a dirt yard in front, it will be raked or swept, too. Offices and public buildings may sweep a little later, but it’s routine to start the day with a broom. This is commonly followed by a soapy mopping. In a cooperative craft store in Oaxaca, we found all the artisans together sweeping up, and mop water flowing out the front door.                                                       

No matter how daunting, everything must be swept. At the Xochicalco ruins, south of Cuernavaca, I had to call out to compliment this guy - the pyramids were spotless!

Sweepers have to choose the proper location to store the broom or mop in case it’s needed it in a hurry. There’s not much sense in placing the broom where it would involve having to walk very far to get it.







Paracho shop -- Mexico City performer – Pueblo’s Cultural Center Poblano.

Oaxaca’s Santo Domingo Plaza – and closeup of broom made from traditional materials that blends well in this setting.






A public storage location can demonstrate diligence. Or maybe, old buildings just don’t have broom closets! Below, Oaxaca Santo Domingo Ex-Convent Museum –- Teotitlan Church made with stones from ancient ruins -– Patzcuaro Once Patios courtyard.

br Patz Once Pations Mop sm







Below, hoping they put the brooms away before the Tzintzuntzan Easter pageant began –- These folks in Jocotepec may simply be proud of their tools –- Who would put a mop in a dark, musty closet, when they dry best in the sun? Oaxaca Casa de la Cultura.

Traveling vendors bring brooms. During Easter in Patzcuaro, sweet tamale makers camp out in makeshift tents in Plaza San Francisco, where they steam the corn husk-wrapped treats over wood fires day and night. There they are in rows on the yellow tablecloth! -- A pottery display in Jocotepec.Patz Easter SF Tamales Tent Broom 







Brooms and mops wear out. Fortunately, they’re sold everywhere in stylish bright colors, perfect for any location.







At the tienda near the toys –- 0n the street next to the avocados -– At the stationery/crafts store,next to their own handy green broom –- In kid sizes at the plaza – At the hardware store with the biggest selection –- And, handmade brooms on the street in Ajijic.








And, to make the picture complete:

                                                             Our own handy broom.

 “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist, 1749-1832)


Bob Mrotek said...

Sweeping the street is an old custom in Mexico. When Hernán Cortez and his men arrived in Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) they found clean streets and noted that out of a population of about 200,000 at least 1000 people were employed in sweeping the streets. Later on it became the law in many places in Mexico that a home or business owner is responsible for sweeping the street in front of their home or establishment on their side up to the dividing line every day. My father-in-law is 85 and he goes out early to sweep his side of the street every morning.

C and G Taylor said...

Thanks, Bob! I just love these sorts of cultural or historical's one thing I like so much about your blog.

Anonymous said...

gigi, everytime i drive by the women throwing out the water in joco i think "i should really ask them to just throw it on my windshield and hood!" stormy the truck is SO dirty from sitting under the tree at the front of my house and having the birds above him.

but, as always, there's an upside to that. probably nobody would ever want to steal this truck and the cops barely notice it....just looks like a farm truck.

barb in san cristobal

Anonymous said...

I really liked this blog, Gigi. Kinda swept me off my feet, so to speak.... :o)


vvsjon said...

"i should really ask them to just throw it on my windshield and hood!" stormy the truck is SO dirty from sitting under the tree at the front of my house and having the birds above him.

brooms and mops