by Robert Miltner
Downtown is laid out like an old linoleum floor—black to white, plaza by plaza, corners meeting in a crucifix. All the local people wear long pants and leather shoes. The colonial facades seem as recognizable as the loaves of French bread and canned fish sold in the mercado. The former palacio is a government office. The orphanage now a museum with its Orozco murals staring down from the ceiling. Despite its age, the hotel remains a hotel and the courtyard within it still holds the afternoon sun.
The Santa-shaped light figures, affixed to the fronts of the four-floor buildings, look like they do in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, only with a Feliz Navidad soundtrack. The old blind woman, the one who sings, her hand resting on her son’s shoulder while he accompanies her on guitar, I feel her watch me pass. Christmas is in five days. All I want in my stocking is a loaf of bread. And a book of poems by Neruda in my walking shoe.