Meet my new friend, Gabriela. Nine years old and the youngest of eleven children, Gabriela helps support her family by selling dolls and other crafts on the streets of San Miguel de Allende.
I may be Gabriela's best customer. One of the large closet drawers in my casita is now overflowing with colorful dolls in many different sizes. I may even need to buy an extra suitcase to get the dolls home when I return in September!
When I first visited San Miguel in 2008, I saw only a handful of women selling dolls in the jardin and a few children selling nopales cactus. And, I recall being surprised to see only two or three elderly women beggars on the sidewalk. Now, just one year later, the number of beggars and street peddlers in this city has increased dramatically.
The global economic recession, drug-related violence along the U.S./Mexican border and fears of the H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu) have had a devastating impact on Mexico. The Mexican economy shrank by 8.2% during the first three months of 2009 and figures for the second quarter of 2009 show a decline in tourism of 45%! Tourism is Mexico's third-largest source of revenue, so you can imagine how hard they are struggling to recover.
Some of the shopkeepers and waiters in town have told me that business seems to be picking up a bit lately. As for me, I am trying to do my part. My holiday shopping is finished. Everyone's getting dolls this year!