“Did you hear that the new Mexican president, Lopez Obrador, put the presidential plane, a Boeing Dreamliner, up for sale and prefers to travel like everybody else, by commercial, scheduled flights,” I asked Camp after Rosie set down our first pint.
“ I just hope he stays alive, driving his own Jetta to work, sometimes with his wife and just one security guy,” Camp said, obviously aware of the changes.
As in most points of view there are several, depending of where the viewer stands. It can be a wide panoramic view or a revealing close up, the bird’s eye or the dark underbelly view. Also there are usually two sides to an issue, two sides of the same coin. In order to do my Mexico impressions justice I need to break them up, into at least two categories: the touristy one, which is for the most part a surface experience, visual and sensual, maybe spiritual, set apart from the culture I drop into, like looking into a house through a window. The second part is more visceral, like being in the house, invited into the peoples lives, listening, watching, participating and seeing their culture through their eyes rather than mine. It’s a more immersed point of view, which has to take into account some unpleasant realities like politics, poverty, inequalities and other limitations.
Parzcuaro is the popular Pueblo Magico, nestled along the shallow lake by the same name amidst the volcanoes in the heart of Michoacan, located on the Tierra Alta Plateau at 2300m in central Mexico. The present town dates back to the 16th century and features the second largest colonial plaza in Mexico. It’s long been a favourite destination of mine, ever since 1984, when I first drove into the town. (in a 1962 Ford Galaxy 2-door hardtop, pulling a tent trailer with both kids (4+5) on a piece of plywood with some blankets and toys in the back seat). Patzcuaro has changed little in the past few centuries, let alone in the past 30 years. More taxis, collectivos (mini vans) and cars clog the cobble stoned streets, and today cappuccinos, pizzas and Internet are available everywhere.
Puerto Penasco, or as it is better known, Rocky Point is just a two hour drive south of Ajo, Arizona or can also be reached by a new road from Yuma. It is also referred to as Phoenix’s beach since it is only 4 hours from that 4 million plus city. Puerto Penasco is in the Sonora desert at the northern apex of one of the most fertile bodies of water anywhere: the Sea of Cortez also known as the Gulf of California.
We first drove through Rocky Point some 20 years ago and only remember a feast of local shrimp and lobster in a noisy bar perched atop a rocky outcropping and a crowded RV park across the road. Not much else. This time around we were guests of our friends who rented a luxury apartment for a discount price at a sprawling upscale development called Sandy Beach west of the original town and harbour. Up to sixteen stories high, several of those condo developments clustered along the shallow beach, guarded on all sides by security check points with guard shacks and guards armed with walky-talkies and clad in snazzy khaki uniforms. Hundreds of these high end condos built in the past 20 years sprawl along the sandy beach, all equipped with gourmet kitchens, rain showers and flat screen TV’s with several heated pools (replete with pool bars) and hundreds of lounge chairs spread throughout the manicured compounds, surrounded by golf course and dune buggy tracks. Very deluxe and very much affluent Americana and nothing to do with Mexico apart from the soil they are built on. Some of the buildings were abandoned in the 2008 crash waiting patiently for a developer from up north to finish them. I spent most of my week reclining on a lounge chair under an umbrella behind a rope separating the haves from the have-nots, watching the endless parade of local peddlers go by trying to sell anything from a song to a massage, from mangos to jewellery, from hammocks to hats.
It was 1973 and we were all 40 years younger, unless we weren’t born yet. I was still trying to get over Mona who was also my partner in a vain attempt to introduce a vegetarian restaurant into the Italian and Portuguese neighbourhood. Both ventures failed – the relationship and the business – mainly because Mona needed to expand both her physical and spiritual realm with a cherubic Yogi from India. I salvaged enough cash out of the wreckage to enable me to escape to Mexico for the winter in my cherished VW van, before Mona handed it all over to her Yogi to free herself (and me) from material entanglements.