I loved living in Campeche. I enjoyed getting into the rhythm of that small city. Paco’s Familia became my Familia. I was immediately absorbed into it all. My stay, however, was cut a week short by a miscommunication of sorts. My apartment was rented out from under me. It did cause a bit of turmoil in my mind…. It is interesting to see what tricks your mind can play while traveling alone for a period of time (longer than the usual vacation). Paco told me once about loneliness. It is a thing to work through. Being evicted by La Familia stung. I was ready to leave right then, but I was committed to classes for the coming week. I did miss my last week of classes that I had scheduled, but I guess it was time to move on. I have now been away from Campeche for a week, and fully realize what I had there. My last week was filled
with many things to do and people to be with. Obviously, I worked through what I needed to….
I am now into week 6 of my stay in Mexico this year. I realize I have been remiss about writing. So many things have happened along the way, I will try to catch up.
My classes were great. I had three terrific instructors. Adriana, my conversation teacher, became my soul sister. We had so much in common, we just bonded. She will be 25 next week, is learning English and will come to the USA in August. I am hoping to catch up with her there too. We are about in the same place learning each other’s language, which provided a guidepost to learn more vocabulary and proper pronunciation on both our parts. All I had to do was say “Como se dice….” and the words appeared – in either language. Sometimes, just hearing simpler words and phrases in Spanish allows me to understand more. I can now carry on a halting conversation in Spanish. I am in Isla Mujeres right now, a tourist town, where a lot of English is spoken. I do not get the practice I had in Campeche or Xpujil (more about Xpujil later), but I will be out of the way of most tourists soon.
La Familia, specifically Luis, Martita and Condita (Martita’s sister) invited me to go to a festival in Tenabo.
I had no idea what to expect, so I just said yes. Paco was not feeling well, so he declined. None of La Familia speaks English, so we had a somewhat quiet evening…. That was week two in Campeche. The Feria de La Maiz is a Mayan festival for the planting of the corn. Tenabo is a tiny village between Campeche and Merida. The entire village was transformed for this festival. Apparently, at the beginning/middle of May, many of these fertility festivals take place around the Yucatan. Tenabo is a larger one that takes place
every year. La Familia had never been there before either. I was their excuse to show me around their world. We arrived about 9:30 pm. We wandered around the town looking at the kiddie rides, food booths and crafts arranged around town for the event. Two orchestras were set up at either end of the main plaza. One played intermittently. At about 10:30, things started to become active. The event actually started at 11 pm. One person said it would go on until about 5 am! The procession started with the Cabeza del Cerdo – a pigs head set in a sort of shrine made from corn cobs, husks, etc. – set upon the head of a young man. A live rooster in a basket on a pole was also paraded up front. The Cabeza had many ribbons attached to it, much like a May pole. Colorfully dressed young women picked up the ribbons and danced along with the Cabeza. Several of these processionals came by, with various ages of participants, from older men and women to children. Then came the presentation of La Reina, or queen of the festival. More processionals followed, all to the rhythms of the orchestra.
At one point, a shaman-like character came dancing backwards in front of the Cabeza with a maracas made from a gourd bowl with dried corn wrapped in a handkerchief. He invoked a good planting with plenty of rain for a bountiful harvest. Then, the dancing began. Dancers from Campeche, Merida and Yucatan (several villages) were represented, each with their regional style of dress and dance. As you can see from
the photos, it was a very colorful and a truly magical event. I am also certain that I was the only very tall, very white person in the crowd! I am “una curiosa”!
And the food…. Yucatan food is wonderful. Paco introduced me to panuchos in the first few days here.
They are freshly fried (not greasy) small tortillas filled with relleno negro – turkey cooked in a black mole sauce – a bit of salad and fresh salsa. Delicious! Then there are tamales, puerco con frijol (served only on Monday’s), sopa de lima (a lime, chicken soup) and many other local specialties. I bought a cookbook so I can make some of these treats too.
Other excursions – Paco got sick, a rare event in his hearty life, just as we planned to go to Veracruz together. I went by myself. Veracruz is a very old city, a native port long before the Spaniards arrived and continues to be an important port to this day. For a very long time it was the only port on the east side. A
railroad was completed between Veracruz and Mexico City in 1872 which caused further international
co-mingling. Then came the wars in Europe when many Spaniards and French settled in the city. Cuba was also in its heyday and influenced the city with music. The local genre is called Jeracho, which uses a small harp, guitars of smaller sizes and voice. It is a very mellow and captivating combination. Veracruz is alive with music and dance. The Zocolo, or main plaza is a focal point every evening. Another influence of Spain and Cuba in this part of Mexico is Dansón, a stately ballroom dance. Each night I was in Veracruz, an
orchestra played and clubs danced the Dansón. There are many more dances here than just salsa, and much more music than just mariachi. Music is everywhere in Veracruz. The Zocolo is alive just about all hours of the day, but particularly at night. It is a cacophony of sound with competing marimba bands, mariachi, jeracho and Dansón all going at the same time! Amazing! I did get to spend a day on the Veracruz playa too, sipping cerveza and watching people under the shade of an umbrella.
I took a side trip to Xalapa (home of the jalapeno pepper). Xalapa (pronounced Halapa) has a truly world class museum of anthropology specializing in the prehispanic cultures of the region. The state of Veracruz has been rich in culture for thousands of years. I spent most of the day at the museum, then headed to their main plaza at observe people on a Sunday afternoon. Sundays are a time when the families go out together, and the parks are vibrant with food booths, chatchkeh booths and street performers. I ate the best tamal ever there – made with fresh corn and stuffed with savory chicken. Yum!
Both Xalapa and Veracruz are University towns. Both have a lot of diversity and culture. Veracruz
is hot and humid, right on the Gulf. Xalapa is 2 hours northwest of the city at the foot of the
mountains. It is called La Ciudad de Flores. It has a temperate climate with a profusion of flowers and evergreens. The weather was cool and refreshing after the heat of Veracruz. A very beautiful small
I’m getting more practiced at this travelogue now. This episode ends here with accompanying pictures. To be continued with Mexico 4. I found out from some of you that my previous pictures were too
large. I have resized these for better viewing.
As always, comments are welcome….