Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Meeting Mexico Part Three: Zihua and Barra de Potosi

This is part three of a series of guest posts from my beautiful friend Samantha Bennett.... see previous posts here

Sweet Sammy and the beach dogs

The town of Zihuatanejo has been a fishing village for many decades. Everyone calls it Zihua ( Zeewa). Resorts and high rises tried to move in but were unsuccessful. Locals said no, and they said no firmly. The town hunkers down around a lovely bay filled with ships and boats of all sizes. Hills rise up on three sides, and ramshackle houses cluster everywhere. Little open-air stalls rub elbows with the pricier boutiques that can afford a glass front and door. Everyone talks to us as we walk by: “Hola Senorita! Good price for you today. Almost free!” The shops bulge with bright cotton dresses, jewellery of silver, obsidian, shells and wood. Carvings too of dolphins, turtles, swordfish, whale. Lean dogs slink around the moving cars and wander the streets, some of them clearly sick with mange, fleas, and a host of other afflictions. The Mothers look particularly exhausted and my chest and stomach cramp with sadness. I stop frequently to pet them, and the lean cats too. I do see some well-fed animals, usually with an ex pat. Patti tells me the police and locals often bring animals to the homes of the ex pats, knowing they will take them. Her friend has 7 dogs and 4 cats and Patti herself has 3 dogs. If I lived here, my home would fill up with animals over-night, while I would end up on the beach sleeping on a tea towel.

Barra de Potosi

Anita is shepherding a group of people, including Mumsy and I, to a far-flung beach called Barra de Potosi. We take a couple buses and then find ourselves in the back of a tarp-roofed truck, rumbling along pitted roads to the sea. The countryside is dry and wild, with rudimentary fences of sun-bleached wood and cacti twice as tall as me. Goats and cows graze and stare. We come to a dusty cluster of stores, and beyond the beach-side restaurants and a stunning beach, wide and calm. Long tables under thatched roofs await us and Fernando the proprietor of La Condesa greets Anita as an old friend. Two thin dogs, both girls, rise from the sand, timidly, hopefully wagging their tails. I go and sit with them and they shove their soft noses into my armpits and lap. So many dogs with no names. I bet they have names for each other. Secret names we will never know. We order beer. We order shots of tequila and creamy shrimp nestled in avocado halves. Many people are feeding the dogs from the table, and even tho they are obviously very hungry, they always take the food gently. I meet Anita’s friend Dee. She is a broad, in the best sense of the word, and her silver hair is slicked at the sides and straight up into a pompadour. She is loud and shiny, and we take to each other at once. Mumsy and I go for a beach walk and the shore side is sparsely populated with little bungalow motels and quaint b and b’s. Not a high-rise in sight. Back under the thatched palapa our table is strewn with beach jewels, presided over by a girl named Yadira. Anita has known her since she was 14, and 5 years later she has a husband and two children. Anita can never remember her name so calls her Velveeta, which Yadira accepts with grave courtesy. I buy bracelets for my Montreal posse. We all buy jewels. I can’t haggle with her. I know they expect it, and everyone else is doing it, but they are so poor, and those few extra dollars might make a big difference. I pay the price she asks, and hand over the bill. I glance away, and when I look back I see her quietly make the sign of the cross, and, eyes closed, kiss the bill quickly before stuffing it into her tattered bag.

Fishermen and birds

Birds here are numerous and varied, with names like the Great-tailed Grackle, the Kiskadee, the Vermillion Flycatcher. Ibis, both grey and white, Egrets both Great and Snowy. There is a primordial quality to the pelican, iguana, gecko and the dreaded crocs. Every day and all day the pelicans dive for fish 100 feet out from our beach. Straight down and at the last minute their wings fold and they splash clumsily into the waves. Rather than the dangly pouch I am accustomed to seeing in pictures, their beaks are long and sharp. It is not until they catch the fish and are floating in the water with a full mouth does the pouch descend, only to disappear as soon as they begin to dive again. Frigate birds wheel higher still and the herons daintily pick their way along the shore.

Every night my dreams are bountiful- long sagas, faces not seen for years. I hang out with Anna Paquin. I sing and dance, occasionally rescue strangers. They are Save the Day dreams.

(to be continued....Meeting Mexico Part 4)

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