I have dozens, no, make that hundreds, of photographs that capture the beginning and the end of the day; photos depicting the rapid change from blue and yellow to hues of red, orange, pink, and purple. Sunrise or sunset – it’s a reflective time of day.
But the one sunrise I have never captured is the first one of the year. At the Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres is the Cliff of Dawn, the eastern-most point in all of Mexico. This is the first location in Mexico to be touched by the morning sun.
|Sign marking the Cliff of the Dawn at Punta Sur|
Many New Year’s Eve revelers dressed in their party clothes and fancy shoes will trek to the tip of the island to toast the sunrise on January 1st before heading for home. Making their way from the parking lot, along gravel pathways, and down several flights of stairs carved into the sand and coral cliffs this is a pilgrimage of renewal.
It’s a way of celebrating that all is well in their world as they begin another year.
|Photo from Sue Lo's collection|
This year on New Year’s Eve the weather was perfect, clear skies and gentle breezes. We admired the diamond bright stars scattered overhead, contrasting with the velvety blackness of the night. Around eleven-thirty in the evening we and a few friends walked into Centro to join the celebrations.
We arrived as the midnight fireworks began cascading from the roof the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) on to the celebrants. Heads tilted back to admire the show no one seems to notice the burning embers and falling debris. "¡Feliz año nuevo!" It’s time to party and celebrate until dawn!
We slowly circulated around the mob of party-goes, stopping to hug, and kiss, and wish Happy New Year to hundreds of island friends. The live band pounded out a thumping salsa rhythm. People swayed, shuffled and boogied to the beat. It’s an infectious sound that will blast the downtown core until dawn. No one expects to sleep. A little closer to the eastern sea-walk the food vendor’s stalls are jammed with hungry patrons. Kids shriek with laughter running in gangs of six or seven between tables and parents.
|From Day Grey's photo collection|
Some are in possession of handheld fireworks; an invitation to disaster. A huddle of five small boys has gathered, scheming to set off their fire crackers near the Port-a-Potties (baños). They giggle and cast furtive glances over a shoulder, checking for a disapproving parent. A nearby policeman cocks an eyebrow and the boys disappear to create mischief elsewhere.
Two hours later we are tired and looking forward to bed. We are happy to let the celebrations rage on without us.
As we walk the narrow streets past the Navy base towards home we occasionally catch a glimpse of a private dinner party. Champagne, and food, and laughter.
One enthusiastic woman wishes me happy birthday in English. “No, no. I meant Happy New Year.” She says, laughing at her mistake.
I casually wonder if they are celebrating the tradition of the twelve grapes.
Each grape has special significance – wishes for prosperity, luck, love, wealth and good health. The twelve grapes must be consumed in the twelve seconds leading up to midnight to bring the good luck.
We don’t how to ask if they practice this tradition, so we wish them "¡Feliz año nuevo!" and continue walking home.
Sporadically during the night we were woken by the popping of nearby fireworks - neighbours in the colonias who were determined to celebrate all night. Around dawn we hear an increase in traffic passing our house as some of the celebrants find their way home. By eight in the morning the traffic has all but ceased, and the streets will remain quiet until early in the afternoon. Many stores and restaurants are closed for the day. There are few employees able to work after an all-night celebration.
Sipping my morning coffee I remark to Lawrie, that in two years I can officially retire. He looks at me quizzically. “What?” I laugh, and explain that I remember sitting in my grade-ten history class, calculating what year I would turn sixty-five and be able to retire. How odd for a fifteen-year-old to be thinking of that, and even stranger that I would remember the occurrence forty-eight years later. As it turns out we retired six years ago, much sooner than I anticipated, to this exceptional little Caribbean island.
|Best wishes for a wonderful 2014|
It’s a great place to wake up to the first sunrise of the New Year. Maybe we didn’t make the trek to actually see the sun strike the eastern-most place in Mexico, but our hearts were there in place of our corporal beings.
Okay, that’s just a fancy way of saying: I was too tired to even think about it!
Happy New Year to Everyone
Lynda & Lawrie