“They smelled the zocalo fire: roasted vanilla beans, coconut milk candies, boiled coffee. The sqaure was packed with couples walking entwined [ . . . ]. The girls wore striped wool skirts, lace blouses, and their narrow-waisted boyfriends” (Kingsolver 8).
Harrison and his mother, Salome, have gone to the zocalo (which is basically the main square of a city) to hear the music on a Saturday night. As the youtube video above shows, the zocalo is a large gathering place for people to dance, enjoy music, and explore their culture. (The youtube video shows the Zocalo in Mexico City. It is unclear if this is the one that Harrison visits, but regardless, the function remains the same.) The girls go out in their traditional clothing, as depicted by the pictures above. Typically, Mexican Indios women would wear long skirts with “lace blouses”. While this passage serves as an excellent mental illustration of Harrison’s experience in Isla Pixol, Mexico, it also creates an important set up that reveals Salome’s racism.
Harrison spends several pages describing the scene and juxtaposes this by describing his mother in between. He lets us see the environment so clearly in order to show how much Salome holds that same environment in contempt. Harrison says that Salome was probably pleased “to be the green-eyed Spaniard among the Indians [. . .] Mexican born but pure nonetheless, with no Indian blood mixed in” (Kingsolver 9). After describing the “Indios” in their clothing and among their traditions, Harrison describes his mother being proud of having no “Indian blood”. Making this juxtaposition shows that Salome would not want to be considered “Indios” and that what she sees around her is not to her liking. As the night goes on, Salome wants to leave and would rather face a potentially dangerous walk home rather than be at the zocalo for any longer. She says she “hate[s] watching these primitives showing off” (Kingsolver 12). The word “primitives” immediately shows that Salome puts herself in a higher position than the “Indios” at the zocalo. The term, one that is widely used in racist or post-colonial contexts, truly reveals her racism. It depicts the “Indios” as unsophisticated and with an underdeveloped culture.