Seventy-three Wristbands

Cabo shopping

When Americans stroll through markets or along shop-filled streets in areas of Mexico that cater to tourists, the local vendors are ready and waiting to make an offer you can’t refuse. The pitch usually begins with a, “Good morning, afternoon, evening!” that can’t be ignored. Look American, and even if you and your companion are conversing in fluent Spanish, likely as not, the “Good mornings, afternoons, evenings,” will still be tossed along your path.

Our second morning in Cabo, my husband and I were fording the river of “Good mornings,” and “Can I help yous?” when we were stopped short by two large boards that held hundreds of colorful woven name wristbands. Ironically, there was no sidewalk vendor. I poked my head inside the store and interrupted two men in conversation.

Ramirez's bracelets“You make custom wristbands?” I ask in Spanish.  

“Absolutely! What name?” the shorter man says, hurrying outside.

“Holiday Mountain.”

“Holiday what?”

“Holiday Mountain.”

“Can you write that out?”

We agree on three wristbands, seven dollars each, yellow lettering on black. The man’s fingers and the long strands of thread are already flying. The effect is hypnotic. My husband and I watch the bright yellow “H” appear, marveling at its perfection. The curves on the “O” are flawless. “How did you learn to do this?” my husband asks.

“My grandfather,” the artisan replies, never breaking his pace.

I snap a photo. “Only one problem. Your fingers move so fast the picture’s blurred.”     

Wristband artisan Eligio Ramírez Arcos

Wristband artisan Eligio Ramírez Arcos

By the second wristband, we learn that Eligio Ramírez Arcos is thirty-six and a native of Guerrero state. He weaves all sorts of things, including several hammocks hanging around us. He grew up speaking Spanish and Nahuatl but didn’t finish elementary school. Two of his four children have learned to make wristbands. He speaks with pride of his oldest, now seventeen, who will graduate from high school this summer.

By the third wristband, Ramírez is picking up speed since he no longer needs to refer to the paper for proper spelling, and I’ve filmed the video that’s at the end of this post. Ramírez has my card, and we’re working out a deal. It all hinges on getting hold of my daughter, frontwoman for Holiday Mountain band. For the third time, we watch as Ramírez flicks a lighter and holds it to the bracelet at certain points to finish off his work.

The next morning, I get Holiday Mountain’s go-ahead shortly before I leave to meet René Pinal (see February 17 post). I grab a taxi and head for Ramírez’s store.

Holiday Mountain bracelets“Fifty wristbands,” I announce.

“Only fifty?”

“Okay, sixty. Even seventy, but don’t stay up all night making them.” I explain that the airport shuttle is coming for us at 9:30 the next day.

Six a.m. the next morning: I wake to an email from 9:00 the night before. “I’m José, Eligio’s son. The name of the band is HOLIDAY MAUNTAIN, right?”

Eight ten: The few vendors that have opened good-morning the smattering of early-bird tourists. I walk alone and quickly, clearly on a mission. The vendors ignore me. I arrive at Ramírez’s store which is shuttered. “Eligio hasn’t arrived?” I ask his commercial neighbor.

“The guy who weaves the wristbands?” the man asks, his hands moving in imitation. “Not yet.”

HM BRACELETS

Laura Patiño with Holiday Mountain wristbands in Austin, Texas

Half a block away, I sit on a plaza bench and wait. Twenty minutes later, I’m wrapped up in a book on my iPhone when I hear, “¡Buenos días, señora Leslie!” Ramírez trots toward me. As we walk to the store, I delicately inquire about the spelling. “We got it straight,” Ramírez says. “My son found the band on the internet. He said, ‘Look, Dad, here’s the lady’s daughter performing!’”

In the tiny store, Ramírez counts bracelets aloud, handing each one to me. I make piles of ten until we hit seventy-three. “How late did you stay up?” I ask.

“Not late. All my kids helped,” Ramírez says, with a big smile. I hand over two hundred nineteen dollars and the smile grows. Ramírez throws in five Cabo San Lucas wristbands, then asks, “¿Cómo se dice cocina en inglés?

“Kitchen,” I answer.

“Para su kitchen,” he says, handing me three cheerful ceramic suns.

A half hour later, I’m on the airport shuttle. At home that evening, I pack the wristbands for shipping to Texas and burst out laughing when I spot one that says, “HOLIDAY MAUNTAIN.” If you’re ever in Cabo, find the Giggling Bean and look for the store across the street. Ask for Eligio and tell him Holiday Mountain’s mother sent you.

Comments

  1. Very interesting post, as I always enjoy watching artisans at work. Sr. Eligio is very talented – I hope this increases his business!

Speak Your Mind

*