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Another Englishman out in the mid-day sun

5 May 2007

The English always were a “nation of shopkeepers”. Eddie — who is not shown at left –may be a grumpy conservative Englishman (is there any other kind?), but…

 In an effort to escape to sunnier climes and freer lands, Eddie packs wife and household chattels for the Mexican port city of Tampico. After all, life as a third-world shopkeeper has to be better than as a first-world wage slave.

His Adventures of a Third-World Shopkeeper hails from the (hardly) third-world port of Tampico, which seems to have dropped out of our consciousness, though it was once an important city to us, and even more to the British (they financed a mercenary army during the Revolution to protect “their” oil… 90% of the British fleet ran on Mexican oil during the First World War). It was THE main oil port at one time, and its original housing was floated down from New England.

It’s a fairly “new” city (the Cathedral was financed by that great sinner, Edward Doheny). The Plaza de la Libertad bears some resemblance to the French Quarter … as a slightly run to seed Gulf port, it offers some of the same charms as used to be found in the late New Orleans. Much to the outrage of Eddie’s English sense of propriety, the local politics seems right out of Louisiana, too.

The early scenes in Treasure of the Sierra Madre take place here (there’s a plaque commemorating Humphrey Bogart’s “meeting” with B. Traven on the Plaza — Traven, staying incognito — simply sat in the same restaurant and never introduced himself. That’s the story anyway, and I’m stickin’ to it).

I had to spend about 10 hours once in Tampico waiting for an overnight bus to Houston, and really was just too tired that trip to do any exploring. I rented what was allegedly a hotel room, but was treated quite well… given the “Vicente Fox suite”… which had, besides the basics I required (an unoccupied bed and a toilet) a plush velour high-backed arm chair in the middle of a room painted with what I assume was leftover boat paint (“portugese pink” — a mix of battleship gray, industrial green and rust-inhibiting red) and scratched with the names and dates (and various endowments) of previous tenants. The neighbors were quite considerate… or else I was very tired … keeping the moans to a quiet murmer.

Iin those days, 1970s Ford LTDs and Chevy Impalas served as collectivos. My driver to the bus station, despite the other 6 passengers, insisted that I see at least some of the wonders of the city. He was delighted to show me the Tampiquinos who pay no attention to the “no swimming” signs in the local lagoon. But then, maybe alligators can’t read Spanish.

Next trip, I’ll have to stop ‘n shop at Eddies’… in the meantime, I can always read his posts from the tropical outposts beyond the Empire. 

One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 May 2007 8:58 pm

    Sirs
    Although I am secretly delighted by the free publicity, I am somewhat removed from that comic genius Ronnie Barker in ‘Open All Hours’ (nor do I have a ‘Granville’, for the afficionados).

    English – yes, conservative – you betcha’, outraged by some of the seedier aspects of the local culture – is it ‘cos I is white?

    ‘Eddie Willers’ is, naturally, a nom de plume and although I am a business owner/shopkeeper we do very well – far better than had we stayed in that bastion of Socialism that is Merrie Englande!

    Greetings from the Gulf Coast – it’s hot & sweaty and althought the Tampico-Altamira collectivos are now running LPG powered Ford Crown Victorias (1980’s vintage) most of the routes have switched to the Nissan Laurel/Tsuru GS-1 or that ridiculously cramped ricebox they call the Dodge Atos even though its made by Hyundai in Korea.

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