Marquesitas, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cheese.
We just finished a really nice dinner at La Habicheula in downtown Cancún. We had decided before dinner to take a short stroll to the restaurant we had reservations for the following night, and preview the menu. I had already quickly scanned a map of the area earlier, from our Fodor’s tour book. On that particular map, the area was marked with several restaurants of note, and I had memorized the walking route.
So we set out for our stroll, and headed in the general direction of the other restaurant. Not more than two blocks up, the street opened up to a large urban plaza. We first passed a large playground, which was surprisingly crowded for the time of evening, probably 9:30pm?
Next, we walked passed a large semi-circular row of booths, set up with a small shops selling tacos, burritos, clothes, a police substation, ice cream shop, and lots of tables and benches. Past these and the plaza opened up into a large open space, filled with kids driving battery-powered cars, other kids kicking around a soccer ball, and more kids practicing gymnastics and cheer leading on a stage.
We continued walking, past a small crowd was gathered around a comic doing some juggling, and there were lots and lots of people and families all over, enjoying the warm evening, full of wonderful smells and sights. At this point we realize that we are probably the only Caucasians in the crowd.
Finally, we found the source of the delicious smells: a row of small food carts, each no bigger than a barbecue grill, lined up along the back end of the plaza. I struggled to find a street sign, to confirm our bearing. While I looked around, Mimi found a cart with the most delectable smell – Ricky’s Marquesitas. What is a marquesita?
Simply put, it’s a crispy crepe made fresh, then filled with your choice of fruit, chocolate, or in our case, nutella and queso de bola – cheese, of all things! Yummalicious! These were so good that we purposefully returned to the same cart the next night for another round… but I digress.
While she’s waiting in line to order one, and I’m looking around looking for some indication of where we were, I spot two young guys standing over the open back end of an old Beetle (’72? flat windshield) stopped in the middle of the street, talking to another older guy. They’re looking like they’re having problems with the engine, so I look to Mimi and I head over to see if I can help them out. The older guy looks at me and asks “Mechanico?” and I say “Hable Inglese?” and he says yes. He explains he was trying to help these two young guys – made 18, 19 years old – but didn’t know enough about these engines. I poke around, and basically, they had flooded the carberautor. They were missing their idle screw, and I think their air/fuel mix was way off, and at least one of the plugs wasn;t firing right, probably full of crud from running on too rich of a mix… I tell the guy to tell the kids what screw to adjust, clean the plugs, let it sit for a few minutes, and get an idle screw…
I head back to Mimi, where she’s drooling and enjoying her nutella-queso goodness. We decide we have no idea where we are, and we decide to head back the other way. We walk around the side of the market, heading toward another open area, more savory-smelling outdoor restaurants… We come to a praking area, and there in the first space, in a locked car, with the driver’s side window cracked an inch, is a screaming, crying baby, no more than 18 months old, standing in the driver’s seat, holding on to the steering wheel. We look at each other and our first thought was that this had to be a prank, would someone really do this? We’re simply stunned for the first few seconds.
We look around, and several other people have stopped now too to look. Everyone is talking, and pointing, and we’re looking around for a policeman, or someone to do something. I remember we had walked past the police officer around the corner, so we backtrack to tell him. “Hable Inglese?” “No” Mimi tries to explain: “Bambino in automobile?” Fortunately, another guy came with us, and waves us to stop and he explains to the officer the situation, and we all head back to the car.
He checks out the car, and everything seems to be in control. We’re compelled to hang out and watch further, but feel awkward. We can’t speak spanish, what else could we possibly do? We decide to keep moving…
We walk through another small park area, with more booths and tables and carts, but with a distinctly different aim – let’s just say they had a common theme: recreational herbs? We caught sight of a dude and two girls huffing away on a bong, lots of paraphernalia… we walk a few more blocks and catch our bus back to the hotel. It’s getting late, and we’re getting tired. We never found our restaurant.
It’s then, on the bus that I realize what my direction problem was. Looking at the Fodor’s map, I realize the little numbered point for the restaurant was on the wrong side of the street. I had the whole map wrong in my head, I was ‘reading’ it upside down… On the next night, now that I had my bearings, I realize that several other restaurants are marked incorrectly as well.
It was a wonderful night for us to experience a deep slice of life in Cancún during Carnival: the smells and sights, the assurance that the sight of a helpless infant draws people to action, and our confirmation that often the most indulgent pleasures are the simplest ones we don’t expect.similar stories