Friday, October 27, 2017

Día de los Muertos on Isla Mujeres


Inside the two Isla Mujeres cemeteries freshly cleaned and painted tombs are adorned with bright flowers, plus flickering candles, favourite foods, personal possessions, and photographs.

It’s time to celebrate, to share a graveside meal, and to remember the departed.

The Day of the Dead (People) begins on October 31st. It includes November 1st, the Day of the Dead for children and November 2nd the Day of the Dead for adults. Hanal Pixán, as the Mayas call it, translates as ‘food of the souls’. It is a 3000 year-old Mayan tradition that was integrated into the Catholic Church rituals as the La Día de los Muertos in the mid 1500’s. 

San Miguel de Allende 
 La Día de los Muertos is normally a private family celebration, but more recently it has become a public event drawing a huge number of visitors to nearby Mérida and other cities such as San Miguel de Allende.

A Facebook friend recently asked if there were any activities planned on Isla for the Día de los Muertos. I had to reply “I don’t know.” City organized events tend to be advertised very last minute, so maybe or maybe not.

 Although last year for the first time the Jean Piaget private school sponsored a silent parade, the Festival de los Animas. It was fascinating to see the students and public figures beautifully dressed as dignified dead people.

They silently walked the length of the busy Hidalgo Avenue past bustling restaurants and bars, culminating at the Casa de Cultura with a public display of altars or ofrendas.
Festival de las Animas


We put up an altar at our house in remembrance of our parents; Lawrie’s and his sister Linda’s, brother-in-law Richard Grierson’s, plus my parents.

A few years ago we had a neighbourhood gathering to celebrate our friends’ parents as well. The years have flown past so quickly and now many of us unfortunately find ourselves representing the oldest generation in our families.


One of our 'ofrendas' - the food was added later


There are no set in stone rules for building a La Día de los Muertos altar, but it should at least incorporate the basics. If you can, include an archway to represent the passage between life and death. The archway can be made of something light and flexible and covered with flowers.

Then add candles to light the way. Marigold flowers, to attract the souls of your loved-ones. A glass of water to quench the thirst of the spirits (although beer or tequila seems to be an acceptable option). A few personal trinkets, toys and chocolate for children plus photos of the people you are honoring. If you live in Mexico don’t forget to include the pan de Muertos a special bread available at most grocery stories and bakeries at this time of the year. Add other favourite foods to feed the hungry souls, and burn incense to chase away bad spirits.

Yani Medina - traditional Mayan meal for the celebration.

The altars are traditionally set up in three levels by using a series of empty boxes and crates covered over with a large table cloth or material. The number of levels depends on the personal beliefs of the altar designer. Two levels might symbolize heaven and earth, while three would represent heaven, purgatory and earth. Some altars include seven levels to represent the seven steps to Heaven.

Whatever your personal beliefs the basic idea is to create display that celebrates your loved ones.

Until next week,
Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie






Now available in paperback on Amazon!




Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series


By CA reviews on September 26, 2017

Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Yazmin, resiliency and determination

Sean Petty and Yazmin Aguirre - photo from her FB page.  
It’s the smile that catches your attention then her upbeat personality pulls you in to her orbit - Yazmin Aguirre Rivera.

Originally from Tamaulipas and Nuevo León in the northern part of Mexico her family, mom, dad, and two sisters now live in Mexico City. She moved to the Caribbean side of Mexico about thirteen years ago working in both Cancun and on Isla Mujeres. Many of you will know her as the capable rental manager for Isla Mujeres Vacations, a company created in 2014 by Susan Marchon, of Mundaca Realty, and Yazmin.
Yazmin  Dia De La Independencia! 
We first met Yazmin a few years ago at the monthly Art Fair in the square. She happened to be walking by a display of Catrinas, the fancy-dress Day of the Dead skeletons, that are popular at the end of October and beginning of November. The vendor was one of her friends and Yazmin playfully started to hype the Catrinas creating interest from the crowd and resulting in a few sales. It was all light-hearted fun, smiles and laughter. That’s the Yazmin we know.  
So, about eighteen months ago when I was beginning to write my first novel in the Isla Mujeres Mystery series, I asked Yazmin Aguirre if she would mind me using a name similar to hers, Yasmin Medina, for one of the main characters. The character from my novel has golden streaks through her dark curly hair, and deep green eyes like La Trigueña the young Maya woman whom pirate Fermin Mundaca lusted after in the 1870’s. I wanted the character to have a great smile and curly hair, and the only name that seemed to fit was Yasmin. I tried a dozen other names, and just kept coming back to the same one. But as I said to Yazmin Aguirre, she’s not you. My character is shyer and wrestles with her role as a smart, determined woman in a very macho-society.
Yazmin - from her FB page 
When Yazmin read the first draft of Treasure Isla, she laughed, and said, “Well that could have been me when I was younger and shy.”  
Lawrie and I smiled at that thought. Yazmin shy? We just couldn’t see it. She’s confident, bold, caring and has an amazing energy for helping others. While she was in Mexico City recovering from major surgery for colon cancer, she was also fundraising for the victims of the two major earthquakes and the volcano eruption that was triggered by the earthquakes.
On the island she is an active promoter of the Isla Mujeres Scholarship program, providing financial assistance to students. Yazmin is also deeply involved with the annual Island Time Musical Festival. The proceeds from the six-day event go to the Little Yellow School House, a local facility for children with developmental problems.
Yazmin teaching the kids - Pamela Ballo photo
And for fun she teaches yoga, a combination of Hatha and Vinyasa practices, plus specializing in instructing children. Yazmin recently told me that once she has ‘kicked the cancer’s butt’ she plans to offer free lessons for local kids in Las Glorias as she said, a karma payback.  
Now it Yazmin’s turn to get a helping hand from her many friends and acquaintances. Her medical bills will exceed $60,000.00 USD for her cancer treatments plus the six rounds of chemo therapy. Generous donations are happening hourly but there is still a long way to go.
Yazmin - Andrea Luff photo
One islander came up with an inventive way to raise more money for Yazmin. Laurence Levy otherwise known as the creative owner-chef of Lolo Lorena’s Restaurant on Isla Mujeres was planning to donate $250, but then she had the idea to turn that $250 into $2500 with a 7 course dinner, all proceeds going to Yazmin’s gofundme campaign. And she did, all while confined to a wheelchair the result of her accident several years ago. Islanders continue to amaze us with their resiliency and determination.
So, if you are interested in helping Yazmin ‘kick cancer’s butt’ here’s how:
There is a Go Fund Me account set up on the internet to facilitate donations. The link is added below. https://www.gofundme.com/yazmin-battle-against-cancer
Donations can also be made anytime at Javi’s Cantina on Juarez Avenue on Isla (Javi’s will be closed November 1st to 15th for kitchen renovations.)

And please share this blog post on your social network accounts; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goggle Plus.
That's another good thing about living here, everyone (locals, ex-pats, tourists, and friends) are willing to pitch in and do what they can to help.
Cheers from paradise
Lynda & Lawrie









CA review on September 26, 2017


Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Just in case you missed it!


There's Trouble on Isla, Big Trouble!
  

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

By CA reviews on September 26, 2017

Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.

Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD

Trouble Isla on Amazon


 Treasure Isla 
By CA reviews on September 26, 2017


This was a truly fun in the sun kind of mystery, with an authenticity that was simply captivating. Set on the island called Isla Mujeres, not far from the better-known Mexican resort of Cancun, it follows the misadventures of two girlfriends, who on a drunken binge manage to wander onto the grounds of a cemetery and find a treasure map stuck in a crevice of an old pirate tomb. Jessica, from Canada, and local pal Yasmin both work at a tourist bar/restaurant called the Loco Lobo. Soon their boss Carlos and a handsome attorney named Luis are involved in the girls’ illegal hunt for pirate gold. Toss in a bad dude running from a string of crimes in Key West, and it’s the start of an addictive new mystery series.

Book #1 Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.

Here are the links:

Treasure Isla on Amazon

Treasure Isla on Smashwords


Treasure Isla on Kobo Books


Treasure Isla on iTunes

Treasure Isla on Barnes and Noble Nook

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Nate – gave us a pass


Boarding up for TS Nate.  
Normally a bit of rough weather doesn’t bother us. We’re Canadian and have experienced snowy blizzards and drenching rain storms. But I confess I’m not a fan of tropical storms that are teetering on the edge of being classified as a hurricane.
I don’t mind wind, but I really don’t like the high velocity winds of a tormenta. Sadly though, when this recent storm, TS Nate, blasted over the mountainous countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua it was the excessive rainfall that caused the deaths of twenty-two people.
Since we live at the edge of the ocean and TS Nate was forecast to pass directly over this flat, little sandbar of an island we obsessively clicked on the NOAA site and several internet weather channels checking predicted rainfall, storm surge, and wind speeds.
On Wednesday it became pretty clear we were going to get hit.
By Thursday morning we had dragged everything inside our little casa; two sun loungers, a small sofa and two chairs, glass topped tables, stacks of big cushions for the two larger sofas, and anything small enough to become an airborne hazard. 
We tied down garden hoses to prevent them whipping around in the wind, and pushed plant pots into tight huddles. 
I made up a couple of dozen sandbags to block the rain from entering under our doors, especially our bedroom door which has an outside entrance onto an open deck.
New house a bit north of ours boarded up.
We had extra bottles of water, gas in the golf cart, easy to prepare food for us and the pets, and cash in case the power was off for a few days making ATM’s useless. (By now we are feeling like the characters in the novel that I am writing, Tormenta Isla, who had to do all the same prep work!)
Then, exactly as our friends Tony Garcia and Isauro Martinez described many boat owners prepared for the storm/hurricane by moving their vessels deep into Laguna Makax. The Caribe line of passenger boats from Cozumel brought their three good-sized vessels to Isla and docked them at the municipal wharf next to the car ferry. Presumably that dock is more sheltered than the ones at Cozumel. Even the car ferry and the Ultramar passenger ferries shut down early.
Caribe Ferry - normally located in Cozumel
It was an eerie feeling driving along the island’s shoreline which normally bustles with boats, islanders and tourists. Every public or private wharf from Velasquez Restaurante, near the north end of the island, to the car ferry were empty and all of the oceanfront restaurants were closed. Every tour, pleasure, or work boat had been moved to Laguna Makax, or dragged high up on the beach and securely tied to nearby palm trees.

Hotel shuttered on main floor
Many businesses were closed so that their staff would be safely at home before the predicted late-Friday afternoon arrival of the storm. Doors and windows were covered by pieces of wood or cortinas, the accordion-style hurricane shutters.
A light rain damped the streets and we decided it was time to hunker down with our pets and a good bottle of wine. We read, we sipped wine, we waited, and we checked the internet. The predicted rainfall was for around 95mm or 4 inches although TS Nate had dumped 510 mm or about 20 inches of rain on Central America. The wind-speed was going to touch on a Category 1 Hurricane of 120 kilometers per hour, about 74 miles an hour.
Wharf at Bally Hoo - empty, restaurant closed.
The afternoon turned into evening, and still no rain or wind. 
Then, remarkably we fell asleep for two hours. I usually lay awake during storms listening the sounds of the house; the rattle of the screen on our windows, the creak of the patio doors as the wind pushes against it, and the banging of something not tightly secured.
At ten in the evening both Lawrie and I woke up, to silence. No wind. No rain. Nothing. We checked the internet again. It looked as if the storm now called Hurricane Nate had moved about ten miles east, closer to Cuba. It had passed by us. That was a big relief to everyone. Facebook pages were soon littered with jokes about the over-reaction and the huge amount of prep work for a non-event.
M&J's buttoned up for TS Nate
But as one of our friends said:
“They just don’t understand what it feels like to lose everything and to not have insurance. To have your only vehicle damaged, whether it was a moto or an old car it was still your only transportation. To worry about the lives of your family, your friends, and yourself. To step out of your home and see the damage done to your community and know that it could be days or weeks before everything is back to some type of normal. In the meantime people scramble to make a living and to feed their children. It’s difficult, very difficult. So what if we over-prepared, better that then homeless.”
We’d happily do the same preparations again especially if it works as a lucky charm and keeps the tormenta away. 
Although it seems that when our nearby neighbours Rob and Julie Goth board over their small windows, the ones without the cortinas, we are guaranteed to get a pass from the hurricane.
We’re back to sunny and hot weather and waiting on the return of our various Canadian, American and European neighbours for the busy October to April social season. 
There goes the diet!
Cheers from paradise
Lynda & Lawrie


 ~


Trouble Isla 5.0 out of 5 stars Fast and furious
CA review on September 26, 2017
Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD


 Treasure Isla 
Book #1 Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.


Here are the links:





Friday, October 6, 2017

Local knowledge - an author’s best resource

We love living in a small community. The people are friendly and willing to share their insider knowledge. 

A few days ago while I was working on Tormenta Isla book #3 of the Isla Mujeres Mystery series, I was stuck for an answer.

I popped a message to two of my island friends, Tony Garcia and Isauro Martinez. Within minutes both guys had responded with oodles of intriguing bits information. How great is that? 


Captain Tony Garcia
Captain Tony is a well-known wedding, special-occasion and island-ambiance photographer. 
He is also a tour boat captain, and judging by the photos on his Facebook page, he’s a terrific chef.
Isauro Martinez is the affable and always smiling owner of Indio’s golf cart rentals. 

Indio was his dad’s nickname, and his is Apache. He always has fun stories to tell about growing up on the island.


Isauro Martinez - Indio Golf Cart Rentals
And then there is Freddy Medina who has been a good friend since we moved to the island. 

In the first novel of the series, Treasure Isla Book, I had one of my main characters, Yasmin Medina, jokingly name the crocodile that lives at the Hacienda Mundaca Park after her fictional cousin Freddy. 

The real Freddy owns the El Arrecife Bar in Centro. He and his five sisters have been fabulous a source of island information and personal stories, especially for our weekly blogs.


Freddy and Yadira - after Christmas parade
Many other islanders and ex-pats have big-heartedly answered questions, contributed bits of information, and recounted funny anecdotes. 

It’s all part of the island colour that I try to bring alive in the novels.

My recent questions went something like this:
What happens to the car ferry during a hurricane?  “It normally is used as a breakwater across Laguna Makax to prevent big waves from destroying all the smaller boats stored in the lagoon.”


Chatting while cleaning the day's catch.
Is the lagoon jammed with boats by the time everyone gets their vessel inside the area?   “They are tight around the edges but not in the center. The center is muddy and if you drop anchor there, the boat would move. Berthed at a marina or tied to the trees is much better.”

What’s the name of the bit of water between Puerto Juarez and Isla Mujeres? “Bahia de Mujeres.”

Morning gossip group - I gave them all a copy of this pic.






You just can’t get that type of information from the internet. (Okay, maybe I could have eventually found the name of the bay on Google.)  

You may be wondering why most of my information comes from men and not women. Maybe because the guys like to gossip, to chat, to chew-the-fat? 

I don't know.  What do you think?

Cheers Lynda & Lawrie





Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast and furious

CA review on September 26, 2017

Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.


 Treasure Isla 
Book #1 Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.


Here are the links: