Over the past 20 or so years I have been all over Mexico, from Guanajuato to Mexico City, from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas. Up to this point, I have yet to visit the Mayan Riviera, which is apparently the main tourist destination in Mexico. To be fair, I haven’t even made it to the beach yet. We are meeting our friend Ruey (who we taught with Taiwan) and her flight has been delayed three hours. So, here we sit in the Cancun airport awaiting her arrival…for seven hours!!! I know that you should not judge a place by its airport, but holy mother of pearl, this place is nuts! I have never seen so many tourists in my life! Perhaps I am jaded because there is no free WiFi, and not one place to sit and wait except Starbucks and a Mexican food restaurant where I just spent $80 USD on 4 drinks and a plate of nachos. One small bottle of water cost $4. I ‘explicative’ you not! I am sure once I get to the beach I will retract all of my jaded comments, but at the moment I am disillusioned. I am in a sea of tanned foreigners showing a dizzying array of tattoos and cleavage. This, to me, is not Mexico. As we strolled down El Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City last night, I couldn’t help think about how much I really love this country. We have been here two weeks today, and I have simply loved sitting in cafés, making art, and striking up conversations with the locals we have met. The other day Marty lured us into an obscure pool hall and we taught the girls how to play. I loved the fact that there were VERY LARGE no smoking signs plastered all over the walls, and as we played the owner walked around the myriad of smoking clients cleaning out ashtrays. That was an interesting lesson to explain.
On this vacation I have tried to teach my children this: make an effort to speak with people in their own language, show an interest and respect for their culture, and more often that not you will have made an instant friend.
We have learned that in Mexico City (or anywhere in this country) people have the right to protest whenever and wherever they want to. Last night we stumbled upon the “campground” of people from Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Guerrero who have been protesting for the past three months. Some are teachers from Oaxaca and others are from Guerrero who continue to demand the return of the 43 students who disappeared several months ago. They literally set up tent cities in the middle of town, block off streets, and march day in and out down the Paseo de la Reforma with an enormous entourage of police officers who stand for hours at a time on street corners ensuring that there is peace. Businesses who have the misfortune of being located on the blocked off streets are often forced to shut down due lack of business. Apparently this is their constitutional right and the government can do nothing about it. Freedom of speech is alive and well in Mexico. It has certainly been an interesting phenomenon to witness.
This morning we had to be at the airport at 7am. Our hotel offered to call a taxi for us and I was tired enough to agree. Fifteen minutes later, an unmarked SUV drove up and the driver started to hoist our bags in the back. I quickly asked how much he intended to charge us, and I was quoted 250 pesos. Crap! I knew for a fact it was only about 50 pesos to the airport, so I put on my American face and politely refused. We grabbed our bags, walked a few feet down the street, and caught an old beat up cab. Sure, the driver smelled like he had spent the night with a few too many alcoholic beverages and he drove like a maniac, but he was terribly friendly and when we finally arrived, it only cost me 50 pesos. I may be cheap, but I resent being taken advantage of simply because I am a tourist.
So, here we wait at Starbucks with only three and a half more hours to go. We are headed to Akumal tonight, which is about an hour and a half south of here. Although I am sure it will be the typical Mayan Riviera beach destination, I look forward to relaxing and cultivating a few more freckles.