By Carla White
In winter, it can be chilly under the large shade trees that surround this quaint, authentic plaza in Parque Hidalgo, Tecate; so, why not enjoy it by going to Lalo’s restaurant and getting a steaming hot coffee or chocolate drink? In spring, summer and autumn, this small zocalo buzzes with activity and life, and these are the best times to settle under an umbrella at an outdoor café and observe life as it strolls, bounces, or skateboards by.
The plaza is the central part of town and, no matter which direction you are coming from, it is hard to miss. The tourism office is located on this main square (near Lalo’s) and there you can pick up all kinds of brochures and information about local activities.
From your special vantage point, you can watch as the famous Balloon Man strolls through the square (usually with a pack of children trailing after him), calling out his balloon song. You can surreptitiously observe the comings and goings at the Bar Turistico Diana—better yet, why not slink into the dark little tavern and check out the bawdy babe who is ensconced in Bar Diana’s interesting art collection? With a shot of tequila to warm you, you can return to the town square and perhaps be lucky enough to stumble across the also-famous Doughnut Man, who sells hot and tasty churros. You might even try joining in on one of the boisterous games of dominoes that are always part of mainstream life at Tecate’s plaza.
Perhaps one of Tecate’s greatest charms is its friendliness and, for those (especially Americans) who are reticent about chatting up the locals, the plaza is a welcoming relief. Learn a few words of Spanish (Hola – Hi, Buenos dias – Good morning, Buen Provecho – sort of like saying ‘enjoy your meal’ but it is something that Mexicans always say as they are leaving a restaurant) and you will make friends. The dominoes gang is particularly effusive and the guys especially enjoy tipping a tile to the ladies.
Sunday is the best day of the week to visit the zocalo. The rich smell of carne asada tacos perfumes the air. Markets pop up and there are often community events occurring. Mariachis stroll the plaza. Sometimes, even children’s choirs sing there, and how magical the tinkle of little voices is when they blend with the calls of vendors and the sounds that emanate from booths and tables throughout the square.
What is the word: Colorful? Exhilarating? Authentic? Traditional? The experience of Tecate Plaza can be any of these things, but above all, it is fun.
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