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Saturday night in Z-town
29 March 2009 | Zihuatanejo, Gro, MX
We ate our dinner on the boat and decided to head into town (a short row in the dinghy) to see if we could find something going on over a beer or two.
Mandy Minor (see her very own gallery to the right) was left snoozing in the dark alongside the sturdy pangas on the beach. We sauntered slowly along the malecon past bars and restaurants with names such as La Sirena Gorda (The Chubby Mermaid), Café Marina and Coconuts.
As we neared the zocalo and public amphitheatre an expectant crowd of Mexican families were settling themselves into the seating area. A man in a red shirt propping up a lamp post leaned our way and advised us to stay "pocos minutos" as he stated something very special was about to begin that we would like. Say no more guv'nor! We joined the masses to find a place to sit down.
The following video will give you a taste of what we saw. The dances were typical of the states of Guererro, Jalisco, Campeche, Michoacan and Tabasco. Half way through the show the MC who was dressed in the traditional vestidos del campo, pulled out two bottles of Mescal, a kind of tequila and sent them around the crowd with ceramic shot glasses for all over eight years old who wished to try it. Tequilla is made mostly in Jalisco and the intention was that another layer of the culture from Jalisco be poured upon us.Yes!
The Instituto Danza Folklorico en Zihuatantejo is just one of the organizations who participate weekly in the demonstration of Mexican culture for the people of the town. These events are common all across Mexico and are free, you just have to show up and it's yours.
After being soaked with culture, we wandered some more, ate an ice cream and decided to try and find the venue for the final night of Zihua's week long International Guitar festival. We walked through the streets and by 9.30 pm had found the place on the outskirts of town. Half of the programme was over so they let us in for half price, only 150 pesos for both of us or U.S. $10.00.
The town has hosted this event for six years with all the proceeds going to yet more cultural enrichment for the people. The next video shows three clips from the final performances. Guitar heroes came from Canada, U.S. Spain, Mexico, Ukraine and Panama this year. Doug Towle and his duet "De La Terra" are first and then is a clip from the end of the show jam session that stretched on into the wee hours.
What a night! If you want to plan your next holiday, come to Zihuatanejo for Guitar Fest next year. The town is one of our favorite so far on this trip. The beaches are drop dead gorgeous, there's diving, fishing or sailing and on and on. The Mexican people are truly hospitable and sweet and everything is really inexpensive. Why go anywhere else?
22 February 2009 | Rebalcito
Enter the vaqueros and see the clowns here
22 February 2009 | Rebalcito, Jalisco, MX
Again the band wore orange and gave it everything. Five hundred or so, more than the town houses, were seated for lunch, all cooked and served to the table by townsfolk, along with as much beer as could be drunk. Very frail old ladies with hair drawn tight in Karlo like coils, hopeful young families, sharp in cowboy best, groups of gangly, baggy jeans lads, farm hands, business owners, less than a handful of gringos and, as always, scores of very young children, this fiesta was for everyone and everyone sang, danced, ate and drank together for the whole afternoon.
Drawn by a poster announcing the last day of rodeo in the nearby town of Revilcito, we dinghied in early and walked the four miles through the woods, along the beach and then inland, arriving at the plaza an hour early, all the better to share a spot in the shade with a manky old hound and watch the scene unfold. The thirteen piece band: drums, congas, trumpets, clarinets, and singer, but heart and soul the tuba, started warming up at 1.00 and then played at fever pitch, breaking only to change venues, until past midnight, when safely back in our bunk in the anchorage we could still hear the reverberations.
In dribs and drabs they filtered in, until the covered municipal yard was full, the beer was iced and the huge domed clay oven, fueled with coconut husks, was opened. From 2.00 to 5.00 we feasted, one plate replaced with another if wanted and empty bottles replaced with full, all the while conga lines of dancers encouraged with chants from those still seated. One beer server adopted me, ensuring that at least one cold one was always in front of me, whilst periodically silently slapping me on the back as if to say " it's OK, this is for everyone, and you are welcome to."
Replete, we walked the mile or so to the Plaza de Toro, where later in the evening rodeo, in this case bull riders only, had a distinctly Mexican hue. The band played on. The rodeo clowns, who each doubled later as bull riders, danced between bulls to cumbias now so familiar they are part of the landscape.
This whole party was put on by the town for the town at no cost to those attending. This is a town with one paved street, about six stores, no bank, no post office and only the very basics of what we have come to think of as necessities. This joy and conviviality we have seen in several of the small towns we have visited. If it could be captured and put in a bottle it would be worth more than the rarest Tequila and be just as heady.
" We live in a culture that has lost its memory. Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents' pasts instructs us how to live today, or tells us who we are or what demands will be made on us as members of society."
Gretel Erlich - The Solace of Open Spaces
A visit inland to the El Camino Real
31 December 2008 | La Bajada coffee ejido
Birding with a local guide on the 500 year old cobbled El Camino Real from Mexico City to San Blas. The coffee is grown by families on what amounts to a co-op on a government land grant. We have some of the coffee and will try it soon.
Jungle river trip
27 December 2008 | San Blas, Nayarit, MX
WELCOME, THE TIP DEPEND OF A GOOD SERVICE. THANK. This is the endearing greeting painted on the side of the bow of the lancha (launch) we boarded for the jungle cruise up to Tovara Springs and the crocodile nursery. Tovara Springs is the source of most of the San Blas's water.
At 7.00 am.we walked the kilometer from Matanchen Bay beach to the departure site for the jungle cruise. The early time was suggested so that we would see the most birds and reptiles. Our guide and lancha pilot was Ramon who had an easy smile and eyes sharper than a sailor's penknife for spotting the wildlife camouflaged among the mangroves, bromeliads, lilies, ferns and matted rafts of root and debris along the banks of the river.
It is a twitcher's heaven with a riot of species of heron, red headed kingfishers, egrets and snail eating hawks swooping among the mangrove branches or preening themselves in the fresh morning air. Iguanas peered at us with disdain from the tangled mangrove roots and turtles, crabs and carp did their thing, apparently not even noticing our presence.
At our point of departure, the river water is salty, brackish and the color of 70% dark chocolate, but as the journey towards the spring progresses, the water sweetens, becoming clear as glass and incredibly inviting until you spot the first crocodile sunning itself next to that sparkly pool of water. Gulp! I have never seen a wild crocodile before, it is quite a thrill. These giants were once hunted to near extinction along these banks, but now they are protected and in The Cocodilarillo, they are bred and nursed to restock the Estuario San Cristobal. We chose to visit the breeding area and there you can get close enough to count a crocodile's teeth and check if he has been flossing after meals.
Two hours later Ramon sped us back the way we had come in long sweeping curves following the twists of the river banks. We digested some of the names of the birds we had seen; Pico de Bote (Boat billed Heron), Corona Negra (Black Headed Heron) and Anhinga (Snake Cormorant) feeling that we had truly been initiated into the tropics.
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