I don’t think I’ve been as calm about going to a place so important to me.
Some people get this impression that I despise Cancun. I honestly don’t- for the most part I’m amused to be from there, because if anything, when people ask that I act Mexican I have veritable proof that I’m anything but. Cancun is such an international place- but not in that New York or L.A. way where everybody’s coming to be a part of the big American dream. Those places are American spiced with international. Cancun will claim you because it can; the place has no culture of it’s own because it just mashes everybody’s . I love this.
A quick history lesson into why it exists: In the 70s, the Mexican government was looking for a tourist attraction. Several bankers got together and decided that Cancun would be ideal- the pristine beaches, and all that virgin territory with next to no inhabitants in the vicitnity made for a very lucrative deal. So, Cancun was more of a financial invention than anything. So far, I think we can all agree that it worked.
Cancun now has some of the most diverse set of inhabitants you could think of- Europe, Asia and Africa are all well represented within its borders. Add to that the large population of Cubans and you have the single place within the country that is only Mexican by sheer geography and not much else.
While flying I found out that I had so many questions about myself, and my birth city and a blend of the two together that I wondered if the 4 hour flight would be enough time for me to wrap my head around it. Airplanes make me think too much.
Then the pilot announced that we were going to land in 30 minutes to weather of 84 degrees, which reminded me why I love being alive. Then I remembered humidity and the joy was doubled.
First off- Donceles (my neighborhood growing up) has changed a lot. Man alive was it weird seeing my childhood stomping grounds. Our little house seems so small.
Then Aaron and Andrea took me on a drive to the Hotel Zone. I imagine the Vegas Strip and The Hotel Zone are cousins of some sort, because when people imagine Cancun they don’t imagine little houses next to a new highway, or places that sell palm tree leaves; they imagine the Hotel Zone, just like people imagine the Strip and not much else of Las Vegas. That’s business.
Cancun is rotting with poverty and with money all at once. Louis Vuitton, and Cartier (amongst others) have set up shop there. It’s strange.
Later on we drove to El Mirador- my favorite beach- and I played like a kid and wrote messages and wishes in the sand while watching the water wash them away. The sun set and while I saw the ocean swallow it up I felt my body relax the way it does when it’s near the water. I’m a beach baby through and through.
The fact that I went during the Christmas season didn’t help much because everything is lit up, and decorated for the sake of tourism. I am part moth and was fascinated by it. I do believe there were noises expressing wonderment coming out of me. Yes, I too can look like a tourist in my home town!
We got to go to Chichen Itza. They don’t let you climb on the pyramids anymore. This made me glad my mother insisted upon us climbing when we were kids even when climbing a stairway sideways at that age seemed like punishment and took forever. At least I have some vague memory of what the stones felt like against my calves.
And then there’s the food- food, glorious food! I seriously hummed that song the entire time, because there is so much stuff I can eat there. They have entire menu sections for vegetarians. I don’t have to explain that when I say I don’t eat meat, I mean chicken and fish too. This was a very welcome thing.
There was a point during the week where I almost lost my life, because I had no idea the sand levels had changed so drastically (thank you hurricane season!) , and I’ve also apparently lost a lot of respect for the ocean. My brother managed to see my dark hair in the water and pull me out just in time. It was miraculous and I spent the good part of an hour rinsing sand out. I then tried to get back in the water, at almost the same spot because I didn’t want to get scared and have reservations, especially about swimming in the sea. My brother pulled out the seniority that comes from being a first born and ixnayed that thing. And so, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get enough coloring to convince people that I was a real Mexican.
Overall the trip was great. I got to see my brother, my sister-in-law and my aunt. I got to sleep in a hammock at night. I got to go to the old market where my mom used to buy groceries every day and buy the best mandarin oranges known to man. I got to eat some pizza with huitlacoche. I really didn’t get to eat any guayas which was a real downer for me considering I grew up on those things.
But the markets of old are still there, El Mirador is still there. The taquerias, Wol Ha and other childhood loves are gone, which is more of an invitation than anything to get reacquainted and fall in love with home again.
Also, interesting to note: The kids in public school are now mandated to learn Mayan. This makes me want to be a kid in public school again. I might be able to say more than tuch, shish, and pec (belly button, little bit and dog respectively). But kudos to the government for trying to keep the language from dying however feebly.
Still, the conclusion stands: I love and adore Cancun, but the amount of tourism, the crazy Spring Breakers (no local in the right mind lets their kids out of their sight during Spring Break season, FYI), and the fact that MTV now has a satellite there, thus ensuring debauchery and idiocy make me reluctant to ever go live there in any permanent way.
It was nice to see Aaron in his natural habitat too- you’d think we were weirdos, but really, we shine in the place. Well, you’d think I was a weirdo. Aaron is socially seamless. But me- I’m as confident as a fish in water when I’m in Cancun because if anything, I’m not as confused there. I’m Mexican, I’m American and yes, I’ll have salsa with my french fries, please.
To learn more about Cancun, go here.
Listening to: “When The Leaves” by Ingrid Michaelson
Needing: Sunshine and beach. Stat.