Street vendors lined State Street in Santa Barbara for Fiesta! weekend, but the vending wasn’t like anything I’d seen earlier this month in Mexico City.
In Mexico City, the streets vendors primarily sell food and drink. Vendors set up mini-taco shops with grills on the curb – scooping corn tortilla mix out of a 5 gallon paint bucket with a sand shovel – jalapeño, chorizo, cilantro, cotija cheese, carne asada, pollo fundido, taquitos – you name it, they sell it – most often with an orange soda or a bottle of Coca-Cola.
blue corn tortillas
But in Santa Barbara, California, where food licenses and food handling permits are required, the vendors sell mostly cascarones, which I, before now, knew nothing about.
A cascarón is a confetti egg. With either a pin or a knife, an opening is made in the bottom of an egg, so the egg may be poured out. The inside of the shell is then cleaned and dried, and the outside of the shell is decorated with paint or markers. Then, the inside of the egg is filled with confetti or a small toy, and the hole is sealed with glue and tissue paper. The cascarones are crushed over people’s heads to shower them with confetti. It’s considered good luck to have a cascarón broken over one’s head.
During Fiesta weekend, the downtown Santa Barbara sidewalks are covered with confetti – multi-colored specks of tissue are strewn everywhere – many shops have window signs prohibiting the breaking of confetti eggs inside the businesses, yet somehow it seems no space is without a confetti dusting.
On Saturday morning, we waited on State Street for the Salt Caves to open. The Annual El Desfile de Los Niños (Children’s Parade) was scheduled to begin in a hour, and parade goers were setting up their chairs along the route. The cascarones vendors were open, busy readying for a day of selling their cascarones.
Pink Panthers, Ernies, Berts, emoji faces, Winnie the Poohs, Pirates, Mexican wrestlers, Diamante Azuls, Buzz Lightyears, Chicks, Tony the Tigers, American, Mexican and British flags, flowers, initials – you name it, it’s a confetti egg.
The cascarones vendor who was selling in front of the Salt Caves spoke to us in Spanish. She asked if we were looking for a particular style of cascarón. What do you like, I may have it? I couldn’t answer, so I asked LCP to translate.
“She says it takes 4 families a full year to make the cascarones they sell. She says, they expect their children to work for the project, since they believe in discipline. They don’t want their children in the streets or watching TV or playing video games. Making Cascarones keeps them busy and out of trouble.”
After hearing her story, I reached into my backpack, pulling out a J⁴ Angel. LCP gave the angel to the cascarón vendor, explaining we love her story and we want her to have an angel for the good she is doing in the world.
The vendor took the angel in her hand and lifted it to her lips. She kissed the angel, held it to the sky and then held it to her heart. Gracias, gracias.
The beauty of humanity –
showering down on us like confetti
from a cascarón.