One of the most characteristic trades of Mexico City during the 20th century was, without a doubt, the camotero. And although today we can still hear that particular whistle that, like a steam engine, announces the sweet potatoes when passing through some streets of the city. The truth is that it is less and less frequent to find them.
In addition to purple-skinned sweet potatoes and white flesh, sweet potato drivers also often offer baked ripe bananas. This traditional dessert is usually served cooked and hot, accompanied by condensed milk, cinnamon and sugar. Camoteros walk the streets generally in the afternoon and at night.
The popularity of this trade has decreased significantly, most of the camoteros that we find today, learned the trade from their father, or from a relative, but many did not continue with the tradition. This is because traditional desserts lost ground to the wide variety of snacks, desserts and fast food that we can find today.
Check this out: “Traveling photographer, witness of the past”
The little car
In addition to the sound, what most distinguishes the camoteros is their particular cart. The cylindrical vehicle weighs between 100 and 300 kilograms, and although it is normal now to find small cars with 50-liter drums, the average of years ago was 200 liters. Its cost ranges between 8 and 12 thousand pesos.
They are made of galvanized sheet and use three wheels to get around. In addition to two small front wheels for stability and a rear one to control your mobility. At the front of the vehicle, a thick tube stands tall. Also known as a chimney, whose function is to exhaust smoke to prevent the product from smoking.
Surely you will wonder what up with the whistle, it is worth mentioning that not all sweet potato cars have this peculiar device integrated. The particular sound is produced through an escape of pressurized water vapor. It consists of a water tank placed on top of the vehicle that supports a vertical tube that has a stopcock. This allows the chauffeur to release steam under pressure and announce his arrival.
Camotero, trade in danger of extinction
Although there are towns like San Lorenzo Malacota, in the State of Mexico, where a large part of the adult men are camotero. Today it is considered a trade in danger of extinction. But the picturesqueness of this work has given us and continues to give much life to the streets of our country. If you pay attention, you may still be able to hear the melancholic whistle of the chauffeur.
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