Sand, sea, sky, and so affordable. Right there, we have four things! This has been a difficult blog to create only for the reason I have too much to share. I’ll be breaking it up in episodes I think. Starting this week with 5 favorite observations of the Yucatán Peninsula.
The Local People
The kindness of strangers eclipsed on this journey. I believe this fact is heightened because of
warnings our friends & acquaintances dished out before we left Florida. One example was Mary, an elderly gal I meet up with at the library for “Ask The Tech” sessions. She warned me to “Watch for those pick pockets there.” Woody trounced back with, “You gotta watch for pick pockets everywhere!” She is such a sweet lady, I jumped on Woody for being so defensive, he is hypersensitive to cautioning, by people who probably don’t really know. It was interesting though, because it made Mary think. She then shared a recent situation where a friend had a cellphone picked right from her pocket, not realizing it until she was back in her car. She concurred one should always be careful.
Here are my experiences with the locals: during my visit to the pastelería (pastry & coffee shop) I had unknowingly dropped my camera case. Three little old ladies (seriously) in a big SUV, had driven blocks to track down the “girl in the red dress” to return it. I was on foot, and how they navigated the one way streets to circle around to locate me, was amazingly kind, and
The other story revolves around my cherished water canteen. A multi stop cab ride resulted in an upside down pack and a dropped canteen. The cab driver, Vincente, noticed the bottle when his next passenger called it to his attention. He flagged a school kid, (they are hired to bring groceries to cars,) with instructions to bring it to us. Well, the poor kid didn’t find us, so left the item with his supervisor. We went to the pier the next day to find Vincente to see if by some remote luck the bottle would be there. He said, “you didn’t get it?! Ah, let me make a call.” He calls the grocery store, talks to the supervisor, and tells us it should still be there. And sure enough, it was!
Mexico is an economical place to be a tourist or to vacation. Avoiding the tourist “traps”, and looking for opportunities that are away from the main square is essential. (This is advice from Rick Steves, and it is always spot-on, no matter where you travel.) It’s easy to hop off a cruise ship and stop at Hooters, but it is a much more authentic experience to step outside of that zone.
We have rented a Mexican Ferrari for three and a half days for $50.00 US Dollars. Granted, the ride is pretty darn primitive, but for sentimental reasons, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The exchange rate is about $20 pesos to the US dollar. We can eat heartily for nominal cash – a half a rotisserie chicken, a pint of rice, salsa, sauteed onions and a dozen tortillas for $60.00 pesos ($3.00!)
Granted, there may not be anything phenomenal about rice & chicken, but there is something genuine and heart warming about peasant food. I use this term as a way to describe dishes specific to a particular culture, made from accessible, and inexpensive ingredients. Food is deeply integrated into all cultures, and it’s often the poorest countries who take the most pride in their meals. Food brings people together, and this is very true in Mexican or Maya traditions. It is for this reason Woody & I signed up for a cooking class in Cozumel.
Our chef, his assistant, the market vendors, are passionate about their traditional Mexican and Maya culture. Chef Luiz explained, even those that can afford any food they choose, they would desire the traditional meals with family.
Turquoise seas, with possible visibility as deep as 200 feet, and home to the 2nd largest coral reefs, these warm waters attract travelers and especially divers, from all over the world.
It is nice to see dive shops taking steps to educate divers, and implementing plans to keep the reefs protected. From biodegradable sunscreen requirements, teaching reef etiquette, to implementing “best diving practices.” I haven’t done immeasurable research, so I’m certain there are plenty of areas for improvement, however I see Cozumel developing plans to create sustainable tourism which simultaneously works to protect their reef and its fish.
The Maya were experts in math, architecture and astronomy, and this was before Christ was born! They reached their pinnacle of wealth and influence around 600 BC, and then, mysteriously the entire culture declined, and around 900 A.D., nearly all of their large stone cities had been
abandoned. (We will visit a “stone city” next week.) Today’s experts have a theory that the Maya may have been responsible for their own demise. Their civilization grew large and quickly, and their mass scale deforestation led to multiple complications, including unsustainable farming practices. These fantastic cities were eventually abandoned as people moved to search for the resources they needed to survive.
This history continues to bounce between civil wars and peace until the Spanish Conquest came into the picture. And the Spaniards were a force to contend with between early 1500’s until March 13, 1697 when the last Maya city was finally destroyed.
In addition, were the plundering pirates with the likes of Jean Lafitte. It is speculated Isla Mujeres in the Yucatán may be his final resting spot. But, I also understand there are several contenders for that title, including Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, South Carolina and a few others!
There are countless reasons to visit the Yucatán. I haven’t included their desirable winter weather, or powdery sandy beaches or crazy tourist fun. A little homework can go a long way, find your top interests and explore!