Friday, May 31, 2013

Spreading her wings – a Quinceaños

Mindy entering the church for a mass to give thanks
As the sun slid below the horizon a gorgeous young woman confidently made her way down the flower-draped church aisle.  

Leading her procession were a dozen young altar boys wearing sparkling white surplices over red vestments, hands clasped in prayer, trying hard to suppress their natural exuberance. 

Padre Sanchez Alonzo, in his gleaming white surplice with intricate embroidery, strode solemnly behind the altar boys.

Altar boys leading the procession 
Her beaming parents followed behind, walking just in front of the young men who formed her traditional court of honor.  The year-long planning, the rehearsals, and the attention to details were about to be put into action.  

Mindy Lizeth Poot Hau’s Quinceañera celebrations commenced with a mass, giving thanks that the young woman and the family were to be able to enjoy this occasion together.

Traditionally, the Quinceaños is the first time a young lady could wear makeup, high heels, and dance in public.  This is no longer the case for most young ladies. 

Tony, Mindy and Fredy Jr.
However, it is still a very special time for families to celebrate with their daughters, family, the daughter’s godparents, and friends. This celebration was an amazing production from start to finish. 

Shortly after ten in the evening the majority of the guests had arrived for the second part of the Quinceaños held at the Taxi Syndicate’s event hall. Mindy was formally escorted in by her two beaming brothers, Tony and Fredy Jr.  They proudly circled the dance floor giving everyone a chance to see their beautiful sister and then stood with family, including Mindy’s married sister Jeanie Gissell, while the toasts and speeches were made.  

The traditional first waltz with her papa was sweetly emotional.  You could see that Fredy was struggling a bit with the concept of his baby girl being all grown up.

First dance is with papa
Then Mindy and her six chambelans performed several complex dance routines.  Each dance entailed a costume change – from a gorgeous blue and silver ball gown, to short ruffled dress, to form fitting leotard, and back to the ball gown.  At midnight a full sit-down dinner was served.  

Around one o’clock in the morning the dancing switched to a nightclub atmosphere, with pounding music, flashing lights, roving boom camera, and party-favours of flashing trinkets for everyone to wear.   

Two entertainers, perched precariously on stilts, hovered over the crowd, encouraging everyone to join the fun.

Mindy and her escorts -  dance routines

By two o’clock on Sunday morning we, and most of our friends, had slunk away yawning and sleepy-eyed.  

We never seem to last long enough to share in the many yummy cakes that are traditionally baked for a Quinceaños.

Dancing on stilts 

The hardier, experienced guests partied on until five in the morning, dancing, dancing, and dancing. 

When the last celebrant had departed from the festivities Fredy, Ana and family members had the arduous task of removing decorations, and cleaning up the hall.  It had been rented for another event later that same day.   

I can’t imagine how tired they must have been when they returned home, close to noon on Sunday. 

Ana, Mindy and Fredy 
We can't stay awake for the cake!

In a recent email a friend said: “Laugh, dance, drink, and dance some more.  And please give our best wishes to the Poot family.

We did!  All of it!

Our best wishes to Mindy for her next adventure.  

And thank you so much to the Poot Family for including us in their family celebration.

Hasta Luego          

Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, May 24, 2013

Coconut, grape, lime? It’s hard to decide

Lip-smacking flavours of grape, strawberry, lime
Ting, ting, ting.  

That distinctive sound announces the Tuggui salesman is passing by, selling an assortment of ice-pops, frozen treats or as they are known in Mexico, paletas.  

The vendors’ mobile cold-storage carts are refilled daily with a fresh supply of frozen concoctions in a rainbow of colours – white, cream, chocolate, green, pink, purple, and bright yellow; lip-smacking flavours of coconut, arroz con leche (rice pudding), coco-crisps, lime, strawberry, grape, pineapple, plus chocolate and vanilla.

Manual "Tuggui" and Jorge
A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a Tuggui Paleta cart being man-handled across the soft sands of North Beach by a slim, sinewy vendor.  That photo prompted our friend Kay Cole to introduce us to her neighbours, the Borges.  

Manuel “Tuggui” Borges is the second generation of paleta-makers.  His dad Benjamin Borges started the business twenty-two years ago. 

Señor Borges purchased the paleta making machinery in Guadalajara, along with four of the original carts.  Over the years he hand-built another three carts to augment the business. 

Loading up supplies for the day
Early in the morning the salesmen trundle the heavy carts to their designated routes, and trundle the hopefully empty unit back to the outlet around sundown. 

Their starting point is approximately mid-point on the island, across the street from Deysi and Raul’s El Charco Restaurante on the Paseo de la Aves

While I was taking photos of the Tuggui Paleta factory I inadvertently activated their very efficient alarm system.  The alarm is a fifteen-year-old goose named Pequeño or sometimes Pequeña. 

Pequeño or sometimes Pequeña
None of the family members know for certain if the goose is male or female.  The goose doesn’t seem to mind the name confusion.  Either way, it can effectively rouse their napping pit-bull with one loud annoyed hoon-onk!

By the time I had returned home from visiting the paleta factory, had a second cup of coffee, and downloaded my photos I could hear the ting, ting, ting sound coming down our street.  The gentleman who let me take his photo while he was reloading his cart was now passing our house.  

Vendor an hour later walking his route
He had been walking for nearly an hour by the time I saw him.  He walked from the factory to the high school to catch the morning shift of the students. Next he would buzz around to the other schools and return to the high school for the afternoon shift.  

It’s a long day in a hot and humid climate, pushing a heavy cart.

2009 Manual, a favourite photo

When we first moved to Isla, we occasionally purchased coconut or lime paletas from one of the vendors, Manual, as he passed by our house.

One morning I asked: “Por favor, una foto?”  He nodded, smiled shyly at the camera, and continued on his way.  It is one of my favourite people photos.  

It always amazes me when island friends see the photo they immediately recognize him as the popsicle man

We haven’t seen him in recent years, hopefully he is doing well.

My current favourite flavour is coconut!
The next time you see the Tuggui vendors passing by with their carts, or struggling through the soft north beach sand, try one of the paletas.  

They are a tasty treat! 

I think my current favourite flavour is coconut.  But, I might have to re-sample the other flavours, for research purposes.

Hasta Luego          

Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lights, Camera, Action!

Enthusiastic supporters
Beep!  Honk!  Rat-a-tat-rat ….and we’re off, headed into eight weeks of political campaigning for local elections in many areas of the state of Quintana Roo.  The campaigns officially started at one minute after midnight on May 12th and will culminate on Sunday July 7th with the election of a new mayor (Presidente) for Isla Mujeres.  

In the dark hours of the night, and into early dawn crews feverishly mounted huge posters on every available electrical pole from the Navy base south to the tip of the island.  Ladders were hurriedly propped against the posts, and intrepid supporters laced wire around the dubious concrete pillars to secure the placard of their candidates. 

Agapito Magaña Sanchez
There are several basic problems in the previous sentence; the concrete poles have metal rebar breaking through to the exterior, the electrical wires criss-crossing above are live, and the ladders are merely propped against the poles.  It’s enough to make a grown person wince with fear.  !Ay caramba!

In this current island election the PAN candidate is Alicia Ricalde Concepción Magaña.  Sra. Ricalde Magaña was Presidente on Isla Mujeres from April 2008 to April 2010. Under Mexican law a politician may only serve one term before vacating the office, for at least one more term.  The new PRI candidate is Agapito Magaña Sanchez.   According to local friends, the two main candidates are cousins.  I don’t think they’re first cousins, but are cousins just the same.  It must make for interesting conversations at family re-unions.

Alicia Ricalde Concepción Magaña
The next several weeks will feature a number of parades, gatherings, and house to house campaigning.  There are several trucks mounted with huge speaker systems cranked up to full volume that cruise the various neighbourhoods.  The high-energy advertisements extoll the virtues and campaign promises of their particular candidate.  

First parade of the 2013 Elections
It’s enough to scare the bejeesus out of my cats, who dash panic-stricken for the closest hiding place.  You would think that they would become accustomed to the noise, but apparently a cat’s long-term memory does not extend from one election to the next.  Every time it is a new and terrifying experience for them.   (Similar to what many voter’s experience at election time?)

Some of the drummers for the parade
In Canada, our previous home of British Columbia, the provincial elections just wrapped up with a surprise comeback win for the in-power Liberals and the new Premier Christy Clark.  Our Canadian elections aren’t nearly as much fun as here in Mexico.  In Canada, we never experienced a loud, boisterous parade of decorated motorcycles, golf carts, and personal vehicles being led by a group of teenagers with an assortment of drums and bugles.  

 Elections are a lot more fun here!

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sun, sand and Sol (Sol, arena y Sol)

Sol, arena y Sol   (Sun, sand and Sol beer)
A mischievous grin lighting his face our friend Chuck recently asked: “Do you even know where North Beach is?”  Okay, I get it.  We are not beach people.  We like sitting in the shade, by our own pool, with our own refrigerator close at hand for a supply of snacks and cold drinks.  Boring, but true. 

So, imagine my surprise when Lawrie asked me if I wanted to go to the beach.  “The beach?  Really, the beach?  Okay.”  Then there was a long pause while I thought about it some more, adding: “I guess.”

Surfer with blue and white kite twenty feet in air
We packed up our swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, and sunglasses then hopped in the golf cart.  Parking in front of the Na Balam Hotel we sauntered through the gardens headed to the beach.  We greeted a couple of the staff members that we knew and paid for a double lounger partially shaded by a palm tree.  

Ten minutes later a bucket of icy cold Sol cerveza arrived compliments of our friend, Luz.  Alright, maybe I could get to like this beach thing.

Third kite surfer joining the other two
Leaning back on the sunbed we lazily watched as two very fit young guys launched their windsurfing kites into the wind.  They made kite-surfing look ridiculously easy as they skimmed and scooted across the waves, bouncing up a good twenty feet in the air and flipping into a summersault with the awkward board strapped to their feet.  

Sure, we could do that too, if we really wanted to. 

Exercise the hard way!  Popsicle salesman.
Then a third young guy started untangling lines and readying his black and yellow kite.  We silently scoffed.  He couldn’t possibly do nearly as well as the other two.  He was a bit on the chubby side, a spare tire around his waist.  However, once he got the kite airborne he did just fine keeping up with his competition. 

I snapped dozens of photos of the action, all the while staring covetously at another photographer and his very expensive Nikon D4 or maybe it was the Nikon D3X.  Equipped with a humongous telephone len and tripod, I am fairly certain that the kite surfers in his photos were lot more visible than the ones in my photos.  Sigh, only in my dreams.

Regata del Sol al Sol in background with navy ship
Menu in hand our waiter arrived, suggesting that with north wind blowing we might want to eat inside at the restaurant.  He was worried our food might include a side-order of sand.  We decided to stay put on the lounger and enjoyed a tasty lunch, only slightly seasoned with blowing sand, while watching more of the beach action. 

In the distance we could see that the participants of the 45th Regata del Sol al Sol were wrapping up their weeklong visit to the island with the children’s day of sailing.  We watched as a dozen or so sailboats arrived loaded with children.  They circled around a naval cutter, sitting off-shore as a marker for the boats, and returned to the marina.  This part of the Regata del Sol al Sol is hugely popular with boaters and islanders alike, giving local children pleasant life-long memory of this annual event.

Rebuilding the weirs to stabilize the beach
Soon we were drowsy from food, sunshine, and cold beers.  It was time to pack up and head back to our shady little casa.  Time for an afternoon siesta. 

We do know where North Beach is – I have photos to prove it!

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie


Friday, May 3, 2013

Forty-five years and counting

Playmobil arriving at Isla Mujeres 500 nautical mile trip

Sails neatly stowed, as the skipper prepared to berth the Playmobil at the docks, three efficient deck hands secured boat fenders to metal cleats, working quickly and smoothly.  They have done this before – a time or two.  Another sailboat had successfully completed the five hundred nautical-mile Regata del Sol al Sol race. 

Forty-five years ago Past President of Mexico Miguel Aleman Valdez and his good friend Don Jose Jesus de Lima envisioned boosting tourism to the Caribbean side of Mexico by creating several sailing regattas.  

Don Esteban Lima Zuno - organizer
They chose American cities of New Orleans, Pensacola, St. Petersburg and Naples, and Mexican locations of Veracruz, Isla Mujeres, Progresso, and Cozumel.  Valdez and Lima lobbied Cuban President Fidel Castro to allow the American sailboats safe passage through Cuban territorial waters.  

The Regata del Sol al Sol is said to be the longest consecutively run international regatta in sailing history.

The island contingent of the race committee, headed by Don Esteban Lima Zuno and his family members, are instrumental in keeping this regatta fun and lively.  A number of the skippers have participated for upwards of twenty-five years.  One of the committee members is always on hand to greet the arriving participants, and ensure their smooth easy entrance into Mexico.  

Smiling officials greeting arriving boats

At the Ballyhoo docks smiling immigration and customs officials meet the captains, helping with the necessary paperwork, extending a warm island welcome.  

It would seem that the only time there was a problem was in 2012 when the skippers were required to clear customs and immigration in Cancun. 

The winning score: 29 Amigos, 28 Gringos
After dinner on Wednesday night we wandered over to the basketball courts to watch the annual match-up of our island team, the Amigos, versus the crewmembers’ the Gringos.  

It’s a wild, crazy and fun-filled game.  In the dying seconds of the game the Amigos squeaked by with another win: 29 to 28.  

That makes forty-two wins for the Amigos, and only two wins the Gringos.  High-five’s and laughter all around as the players congratulated each other, happily swapping sweaty t-shirts as souvenirs.

Laughter and high-fives for another good game!
But the real highlight for most of the participants is the children’s sailing event on Friday morning.  Stuffed to capacity with island youngsters the boats circumnavigate Isla Mujeres.  Squeals of laughter can be heard floating across the calm seas, creating indelible memories.

The Regata del Sol al Sol was created long before we came to the island, and will hopefully be sailing this course long after we are gone.

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie