Saint Paddy’s Day - I was surprised when I met my first Mexican waiter named Patricio (Patrick). What was a name so associated with the cold, green, rainy Old Sod of Ireland doing in sunny Mexico? Then I met my son’s good friend from college, Father Sean O’Mannion, who grew up in Merida. What’s with this Ireland/Mexico connection? Well, I got the answer this week on the Yucatan Living web-zine. It seems that many Irish men fleeing the Potato Famine joined the US military when they arrived in the US. However, they ran into the same religious persecution that had made them leave their homes and , as a result, they defected during the Mexican American War and formed the San Patricios Battalion fighting for Mexico. When the battalion was captured, they were executed. Mexico still commemorates September 12, 1847 - the date of the military execution - as well as celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day March 17.
The pull of the Virgen - As a “recovering Catholic”, or someone who no longer practices the faith of my childhood, I am constantly surprised when in Mexico by my attraction to the church on the plaza. I guess it is the simple faith that I see there, the beauty, the pageantry and the remembered rituals. I love to watch weddings and baptisms taking place there. Luckily, I don’t have enough understanding of Spanish to quibble with whatever might be the topic of the sermon, and I’m not familiar enough with Mexican Catholicism to know if it is subject to scandals like the recent ones in the US. Also, as someone who suspects that the Heavenly Father might really be the Heavenly Mother - I like that the Virgen of Gaudalupe seems to be more venerated than her son.
Why leave the States? - Once again on this trip, I encountered some tourists that I just can’t understand. If you come to a different country to experience a different culture, why do you expect Isla to be just like home? For instance, kitchens in most restaurants cook each order individually; this results in sometimes long waits and sometimes your dinner partner will receive his/her order long before you get yours. That’s just the way it is. Relax! Don’t fume about kitchen management, don’t walk out, don’t insult the waiter. You’re on vacation in Mexico, what’s the rush?
So you want pastries in the morning. Well, most bakeries bake in the afternoon and open in the evening. Find a good one, learn their hours and load up on their pastries for tomorrow morning. For God’s sake don’t bang on their door and wake them up in the morning demanding your morning sugar high. You’re in Mexico and this is not Dunkin Donuts - get over it!
Yup, they don’t speak English all the time, Spanish (or Mayan) is their language and you’re in their country. They won’t understand you better if you say it louder; but they might understand it if you call them stupid, dirty foreigners, they’ll certainly understand the sneer in your voice.
Things don’t move at a frantic pace, isn’t that what you wanted a vacation from? The streets and sidewalks are uneven; don’t curse it - watch your step! There’s petty crime and you need to lock your doors/windows - don’t you need to do that at home? There’s political corruption, mismanagement and graft - so what’s new? There’s no MacDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Tony Roma’s Ribs - try Cancun.
International Delights - Sometimes we get “tacoed out” on Isla, then it’s fun to try some other international treats. Olivia’s and Como No have great Middle Eastern dishes, Color de Verano had fabulous European desserts, the Onion Soup at Bistro Francais is to die for and the blackberry sorbet at Cool Ice Cream is a wonderful mid-afternoon treat.
The Class Struggle on Isla - We had an enlightening discussion one morning with an Isla resident about the obvious division of rich and poor on Isla. On such a tiny speck of land it is easy to see both abject poverty and conspicuous consumption. The rich like it that way, they can get a gardener to work a 12-hour day for 50 pesos. Efforts by “do gooders” are looked on with suspicion and are sometimes sabotaged. We can’t affect these attitudes or local or national politics in Mexico, but those of us who are lucky and wealthy enough to visit Isla should find whatever project helps the local people in a way that particularly touches our hearts and “pay it forward”.