I was extremely bored on Sunday, in Montevideo, and needed to find something to do. I wanted to get out an do some street photography, but I didn’t see anyone in any of the damn streets. This was really crazy because I walked a long distance from far westside all the way as far east as I could. Can’t do street photography without any people around. If you’re ever in that situation, every Sunday, after you’ve prayed to God (of course), if you have nothing else to do in Montevideo, you can make a trip down to the Feria de Tristán Narvaja (Fair of Tristán Narvaja), which is a street/drive/blvd??, which is named after Doctor Tristán Narvaja, a well-educated lawyer, among other things, who was born in Argentina but made his way to Montevideo to live, and helped change the legal landscape of Uruguay, for the better. He ended up being a major voice for civil rights in Uruguay, as well. His legal and policy creative genius, along with the foresight found in many great Forefathers of any country, lead to works which were later used in the unification of Uruguay (after several major armed, internal battles, including a major civil war from 1834 to 1851, and many others that didn’t end until after the 1900s). I just heard so many people referring to this name when I asked where I could buy souvenirs, so I had to eventually see where these people were directing me to go. Originally, I just happened to be passing by the area, checking out the parks and doing some light shopping when a guy told me that if I really wanted to find interesting things, to continue down “18th of July Avenue”. There, he told me that I could find all of my answers, as he smiled joyfully. The pretty interesting answer, so I knew I had to take him up on that. I just wanted to sip some Yerba Mate, which is big down there, but I needed a cup to make it in, and the pipe-spoon siphoning utensil that you need to actually pull the liquids through the tea leaves. Before I even get to the area, I hear what sounds like live music, and people just pouring out of a side street to the avenue. It was very early in the morning, I figured, this had to be the area everyone was talking about. I didn’t know what to expect, but on the other side of town, there was not even a person on the streets, other than a church choir made up of old women. So, when I got to this street, it was a good change of pace to see actual people outside, although it was about 50 degrees that day (US summer is their Winter and vice versa). Clearly, Uruguayans are not going to let cool weather stop them from getting in on a street fair and … to buy junk? Half of time, I didn’t know WTF was going on at Feria de Tristán Narvaja,… and I speak Spanish!
I looked at the things being sold and I started laughing my ass off. I mean people were selling VCR tapes and Edith Piaf (French cabaret)Vinyl, DUDE!!!!!! I stumbled on a goddamn time warp and was zapped back in time, no, you know what this place is? You know how when you were young, your family took you to somewhere to bury some things in a time capsule, which you would be planned to open decades later? Well, that shit you never went back to dig up and claim, all soaked through the soil of the earth, and all ended up on the tables in Montevideo, on the other side of the globe, at this street fair! They were selling things that looked like they belonged to me, in 1990! It was kinda like a string of garage sales in 1 leg of the fair, live music in another, weed, liquor everything was just OUT THERE like WHOA combined with a little WTF?! At first, there weren’t that many people, so I walked the avenue but didn’t go down Narvaja just yet, and when I did, I got about to the start of it, and then was mobbed by all kinds of people in both directions. The streets were filled with people flooding it, its adjacent streets. So, I couldn’t actually see what was being sold until I got within 2 feet of it. You had to really keep your eyes opened for things, besides possible pickpockets, of course. It’s a tight fit in these narrow streets they’ve set up in, so if you come when it’s packed, it’s going to be a rough ride to move about. I guess that’s why people I talked to said it was better to come to this LATE when it’s about to wrap up, and not when it first kicks off. Some people are set up on the street or on the sidewalk to sell things, not just on Feria de Tristán Narvaja, but because they were pressed for space, vendors’ setups were also spilling out to the neighboring roads, wrapping out of Feria de Tristán Narvaja and into the perpendicular avenue July 18th. So I spent more time out there, initially, since it was initially a little chaotic to go down actual Feria de Tristán Narvaja, with all of the “festivities” going on, and me not knowing wtf some of the characters there were up to.
Even just outside of the fair, I got knocked around about for not going fast with the current of people. I tried to take a picture of a family looking at some fish and turtles for sale, on the July 18th Ave, and then a mob of people kind of moved me along and away from my subjects! I thought they were playing with me, but no, that was the crowd picking up for the fair. That made it a little hard to take pics. Lol I tried to get in there to practice a little of street photography, and as soon as I did that, as soon as I stopped to shoot, I got swept up by a mob of people got all in my shot, no consideration. lol When they cleared, I thought I would resume shooting what I was trying to get earlier, but now when the mob passed, I somehow got moved and was now right in front of what was now a woman selling pizzas she wrapped up like DiGiorno, staring hard at me. I wasn’t planning on buying any damn pizza, but she was determined to make me get one. She almost got me to buy a pizza then, she was very convincing but I a couple of things made that impossible: like the fact that I didn’t have an oven, as I was just visiting temporarily, and that I wasn’t going to carry that damn pizza through this crowd for the next 2 hours. I didn’t want to look weird, and I tried to explain that to her, she told me to just carry it above my head through the fair, then told me that I could take it with me on the plane later. I’m not sure she has ever flown on a plane before. She was not laughing, by the way. She was trying to make sales, and had pies to move! I started laughing and she was offended. Cultural mistake #1, Don’t laugh at street vendors, got it!. I waited for a new wave of people to go by and disappeared into their chaos, heading into the actual fair now. In retrospect, carrying that uncooked pizza with me would have been the least odd thing about that fair, and I completely mean all I have said, in a very good way.
The crowd was starting to pick up again, I wanted to get off a few more pictures before being swallowed up by the masses, this guy with an Anonymous/Guy Fawkes mask starts looking at me, and everywhere I went, was looking in my direction. People were being really weird. I tunneled through the people and stopped to see some kind of plants, or trees were being debated by a few ladies, possibly teachers. They seemed like they were going to get into a fist fight over the types of plants or costs or both. I didn’t want to further agitate the situation, by being caught taking pictures of them, but it was funny, so I just looked over these interesting plants that the seller clearly plucked out of her own backyard, and brought to this place to sell off. Now it was clear, you can sell just about anything and anything you can get your hands on here.
So now I had the idea that this place is not just a street fair, people are selling things like they would at a garage or junk sale. Seriously, I finished failing to get the pictures of the people ready to come to blows over the damn plants there, and I walk a block down to find someone is actually selling plants, but also these popular ROCKS, these huge rocks, they were on sale, for some reason or another, at this fair. There was a guy looking at the rocks, I am sure he was serious about purchasing one of these rocks… then I smelled something interesting in the air… hmmm was that Cannabis being smoked???? Yes, it was, and it was strong as hell. Who was smoking it? THAT GUY, no one else but THAT GUY. Lol Ok now, this was getting really interesting. I look at his hands to see where that spliff was and sure enough, he had it right in his hand, smoking freely, and not even 1 soul questioned what he was doing. No one batted an eye, no one covered their faces in disgust, nope, like nothing wrong was going on.
Nothing in this fair seemed to match anything placed to the left or right of it, I didn’t understand what the hell was going on around me. All I was thinking was “God, please don’t tell me I somehow got high from being next to this guy who was smoking all that sticky icky!” Strange thing though, I was suddenly drawn to another thing that was odd, some Chinese lady selling all kinds of cooked goods that I’ve never seen anywhere previously (note: yes I asked if she was Chinese, because I asked what type of food it was first- so shut up liberal moron looking for racial offenses everywhere possible). No one wanted to eat these treats from here, the table was empty, people walked around it, so I decided I was going to do be the first customer, and live life like a local. No sooner than 2 minutes after, NOW had seen me buying and eating a bunch of things, then with mob mentality, they mindlessly followed my actions, and now they were buying up everything after watching me eat it, and give my feedback (overselling it of course).
Now I was on my street photography game, but it wasn’t quite complete. I needed a local beer. I bought the guy who was hooking me up with things, a beer, and we split. I threw it in my thermos and hit the streets again. People in Montevideo are very friendly. He took me to a guy to give me a good discount on a top qualify Yerba Matte cup.
The whole way I kept smelling weed, weed and more weed. I thought the guy, who looked like he was going to buy a rock, was possibly following me, maybe hoping to smash my head in with that rocks and rob me? You never know when drugs are involved. But no, it was not this, it was EVERY OTHER GUY (and GIRL) passing through the streets! Everyone was smoking weed all over the place, they’re not that open in Denver or Portland, USA! I stopped to take a picture, and one guy wasn’t trying to sell me the junk he had on the table, he was trying to get me to smoke some of that shit with him. I had to decline the offer, of course, not my thing. Then some of his buddies, who were selling things nearby, came over and took some of that puffing action. They were baked to the gills. Then the guy told me that I must take a picture to take back to the USA, of him, and what he sells. So, I did, and he explained to me that he makes the things that he sold on the table. Actually, he explained a lot of the craziness happening there. People make things and bring them there to sell! That finally explained the craziness I saw on each of the tables, it wasn’t just crap laying around their houses they were selling. This particular vendor was selling things that were associated with WEED- no surprise. Lol He also explained that so many people were there smoking weed openly because it was legal down there.
Finally, I had come upon the source of the jams I heard about a half an hour earlier, when dealing with the pizza lady, there was a collection of musicians rocking out. They were rocking the whole area too! Very good music. I finished my drink while watching these guys command the crowd, while people danced about. Then one guy stepped out, another guy stepped in, they started jamming without even pausing, no break in the music, nor the festivities, these guys were trying to run a marathon band. I stayed the whole time to watch them jam because it was really good music.
And even as that happened, there were other side-bands going around, competing for crowd control. I stepped to the middle of the fair to buy some a Yerba Mate cup, some souvenirs, and then when I turned around by the crowds when I tried to get more pics, and yet AGAIN I was swept up into the crowd!!! This time I got swept literally in the middle a drum circle, created by some older dudes who were partying out, blowing whistles, drumming with real drums and one dude had a HUGE ass Reggae-flag-colored congo! Actually, the dude with the congos came color coordinated, like a playa, with his Derek Rose Chicago Bulls “Revolution” Jersey. lol These guys were dressed ready to party, and they were clearly baked out of their minds. Now that was the highlight for me, they were wildly animated! They walked all up in my face as if I was supposed to join in the dancing,… so I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. That beer was taking its toll on me, or a contact high was upon me, I dunno but damn was I having fun! So, we did that for a good 20 minutes bugging out. When I looked up, the next thing I knew, I was back in the same exact location I was when I first started the exploration of the fair. That was not a bad way to spend a Sunday in a foreign country, where you ditch punks who were scared to explore a new country, while they stayed at the hotel every day, MILES away from the fun, and their families! Not me! I’m already ready for the fiesta! And yeah, I ended up right in front of the lady selling the pizzas, and it didn’t look like she was selling that day, so I took 2 and passed them out to people at the park, nearby. Did I have to? No! But you give as good as you get, and that 1-hour slice of time was very unexpected fun! Muchisima Gracias, Montevideo.
As always, the finished products can be found on the main site of www.drunkphotography.com.