Monday, August 20, 2012

The Art of Keeping your Head in Mexico

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home," Dagobert D. Runes once commented.

Whoever the hell he is.



This was the kind of quote I had in mind in Cabo St Lucas when I went people watching. Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston like to vacation here on the far corner of Baja California I'm told (presumably not together). I didn't see any of them. I saw a guy who looked like an extra from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

In retrospect I was unlikely to see too many celebs in Wal-Mart in Cabo.

The interesting thing about Wal-Mart in Cabo was that, while a lot of Americans have a poor opinion of Mexicans, the Mexicans in Wal-Mart were dressed far more stylishly than the Americans in any Wal-Mart you might be unlucky enough to visit in the USA.



That's not saying much. But it is saying there were no 300 pound women dressed in skin tight lycra, threatening to swallow you with a bare belly button the size of the Black Hole of Calcutta by the check-outs. There were also people working the check-outs.

Disappointingly wine is rather expensive in Cabo. Most things seemed to be.



I had been keen to visit Mexico because I had never been there before. I wanted the stamp in the passport - and to tick it off my list. The trouble is seven days spent in a pleasant resort isn't really up to the task of ticking off a diverse and vibrant nation of 113 million people.

And a dangerous one? Before I left some people looked at me in an odd way when I said I was going to Mexico. It was as if I had proclaimed: "Hey. I'm off to vacation in Aleppo, Syria. Anyone got some style tips?"



But these comparisons are not far wide of the mark in some parts of Mexico. Drug wars in the border city of Ciudad Juarez have left 10,500 dead since 2007, making the city a more dangerous place than anywhere in the Middle East, although the bloodshed is receding and the city has relinquished the title of the most dangerous in the world to the capital of Honduras.

Cabo didn't appear to be in the same country. The most dangerous threat seemed to be from timeshare sellers who have taken to calling it "fractional ownership" to avoid the bad rap timeshare gets.



In contrast it seemed like a pristine paradise made verdant out of the desert for the benefit of Americans. On a day of luminous clouds we drove across the desert through endless ranks of giant saguaro cactus to the sleepy town of Todos Santos where the Hotel California, made famous by the Eagles, stands on the main drag. I drank the tequila and got the T-shirt as well as a "sad tourist" sticker on my forehead.



Then on Wednesday and Thursday an odd thing happened. It started raining and it didn't stop. The hotel staff said it hadn't rained so dramatically in 12 years. The dry river beds became rushing brown torrents.




When the storm had passed I walked on the beach amid driftwood and half of the garbage of the Pacific that had come ashore. A tide of dirty plastic bottles and other items I didn't want to think about washed in and out of the river that had suddenly appeared on the beach.



A day later it had all gone and paradise was restored. But it made me think. I thought of the men in handcuffs under the bridge as the storm had arrived, I wondered where all the trash had come from and if paradise was an illusion like the airbrushed  images of Cabo in the coffee table book in the hotel suite.



If travel is about a greater understanding I had only brushed the surface. I needed time I didn't have to find the far away parts of Mexico off the tourist trail. Most of all as I look out the window at the rain falling steadily in Tidewater I realize I need to go back.





15 comments:

  1. ::sighs:: Such lovely, lovely pics...I don't care if it's all a coffee book illusion, I want me one of them...

    Also, I avoid the whole Wal-Mart Fashion Horror scene by simply avoiding the place. Gah! ::shudders::
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. oddly enough it's better in Mexico Mina - I know. Now I am in withdrawl.

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  2. I agree with Mina - illusion or not, it looks beautiful! Hope you had a restoring time.

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    1. It was at the time ValleyWriter - pity re work

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  3. I re-read your post because so much is there. Yep, Cabo is an illusion -- a line from Elliot's "the love song of j alfred prufrock" came to mind: let us go, then, you and i, like a patient etherized on a table . . . ."

    I stay out of Wal-Mart, too. The place gives me the creeps.

    But happy you spread your wings and are eager to go again, the sign of a lovely vacation.

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    1. yep that's a cool line from Eliot Kittie - sadly I always have the travel bug.

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  4. Except for the trash on the beach, it all looks very beautiful in your pictures. I hope you enjoyed your time there. I'm sure I would have if I were there.

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  5. David- I so appreciate your humor. That Wal-Mart scene is hysterical. Wal-Mart is the go-to place for everyone who lives near or in the remote Maine town where my family's summer place is. I swear the big belly-buttoned lady frequents that Wal-Mart as well.

    Airbrushed or not, Cabo looks a helluva lot nicer than Tijuana. Great pics. ;)

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    1. I know Jayne - I have heard Tijuana is an experience - wow you even have those types in Wal-Mart up your way?

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  7. I've always wanted to see Cabo. I've been to Mexico but it was just a poor small town with a bit of tourism (this was long before the drug wars got out of control.) I think Cabo looks like a lot more fun!

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    1. for real - it's certainly a fun place Alyson

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  8. I'm not going to lie, David. I am incredibly jealous of you right now. The trip looks like it was absolutely wonderful. I love these photos. There's not much more I can say without bursting into tears of envy.

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    1. sorry Jen, you always have the Museum of Corn - sadly it feels like light years away now :(

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