Archive for category Yelapa
The boat was blue. As was the ocean and the sky. I was glad I had a fistful of Vicodin thrown into the bottom of my bag. Every time the boat’s helm hit the top of a wave, the center of the 30 passenger (currently at half capacity) water taxi to Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico gave a little yawning, cracking sound. I finally had the headache I knew was going to come and had therefore prepared. I had managed to survive a twelve hour layover, a flight full of margarita tipsy honeymooners, a taxi from the Puerto Vallarta airport to the Los Muertos pier (the pier of the dead, anything but) and the company of American men who bought my friend and I a lobster lunch.
I watched as the Mexican man getting our lunch emerged from the ocean a few yards out, carrying the lobsters in a trap. When he got onto the shore he pitched the little red devils onto the fire pit that the café used for cooking. Along with red lobster, there is always in Mexico an endless supply of Pacifico and Corona beers. The American men introduced me to a local mota dealer who met me in the bathroom with a half ounce in tinfoil and a complimentary pack of orange Zig Zags mashed into the middle of it for twenty USD.
Mexico, is, as always, bienvenido.
From the Americans at the pier, my friend and I learned that the next day was El Dia de los Marineros in Yelapa. It is the biggest holiday of the year for the hardworking Yelapans, who, finally, in June, have their village mostly to themselves. In summer is when most of the tourists and ex-pat gringos are gone for the yearly summer drought. In Yelapa there are 1,000 year round residents.
A small fishing village in Bahia de Bandera, it is one of several villages that dot the coast, surviving thousands of years in obscurity until the seventies when artists like Bob Dylan discovered Yelapa for himself, and would escape there from time to time to write and relax.
So, most people leave Mexico in the summer, but this is when I went. I was running away, it’s true. There are other places I could have gone, but this place, this place that Cortes had laid his blessing upon, was where I wanted to go most.
There are no cars, because there are no roads. No roads leading in, no reads leading out. The boat’s wake disappears into the ocean, I couldn’t leave bread crumbs for someone to come and find me.
I needed to go someplace where no one knew me. I needed to go someplace where I could be myself, true to my core, where I could write, where I could dive into the ocean on a whim, where I could ride horses along the beach or up into the mountains, jump off of cliffs, spend hours relating to hermit crabs and orphan dogs. The people in Mexico in June are the hard cores. I am a hard core. I belonged there, for that moment in time, and I needed to be there. And everyday I want to go back. As the years pass I wonder if I will.
I was married then, and I wanted a separation, but my husband refused to give me one. I understood where he was coming from, that I might use the time to indulge my senses in other men was true and he could not bear the thought of it, even though he himself wouldn’t touch me. But I thought that if he really wanted to save the marriage he would give me a chance to be myself again.
At the time, it had been over four years that we had been together, married for a year of that. Things were far from perfect, I believe we had fallen out of love with each other.
But he didn’t see it that way. He told me everyday how much he loved me, he gave me jewelry, credit cards, new cars, a $50,000 re-model on the house located only a mile from Lake Michigan. I had anything I wanted, all the things maybe he thought might put a band-aid on the issue or maybe a blind-fold over my eyes, make me blind to the fact that my own husband couldn’t understand that I needed to be loved.
But had I married for money I would have been happy, but that’s not why I married, so why did he try to give what I never said I wanted? Why did he think that a diamond tennis bracelet would take the place of his hands cupping my face? Why did he think a stainless steel kitchen would make up for the absence of a warm embrace?
I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen. So, I took my leave without permission. I had to.
As the boat neared the shores of Isabel’s beach it is 100 percent true that my headache suddenly disappeared. The Vicodin that I had been taking every day for two years for my chronic and mysterious headache went untouched the entire time I was in
As we got about twenty feet out I stood up on the sides of the boat and held onto the frame, when I could see the water was obviously shallow, I leapt in and grabbed the line to help guide the boat in.
With the boat pulled in, I looked up into the craggy cliffs, saw the natural and man-made haphazard stairway leading to the palapa hut where I would be staying for the next couple months, perched 30 feet up and built so as the back inside wall was the rock face.
My friend and I were the only ones getting off at Isabel’s beach. Less than half a mile up shore was the little beach and then the main beach after that was where the rest of the passengers would disembark. This was Isabel’s beach, a retired art dealer, professor, author and eighty-plus-year-old matron of the palapa villa where I was coming to make my home. This was the beach a terrible storm had made the year she first paid the lease, twenty years ago.
Isabel was not there to greet us. She was in Puerto Vallarta on a two-day supply trip and would be arriving back on the last taxi several hours from now. When I met her finally, she was carrying arm loads of packages up the long winding steps to the main house.
The drought had begun to settle in awhile back, she explained, as we helped carry things up the mountainous slope.
Soon, some of the Mexicans Isabel employed at the villa came to help and the six of us about twenty feet apart from the boat to the front door formed a line to get the packages up to the house
Later at dinner, Isabel explained that no one doubted the drought would end naturally, but just in case the Huichol Indians were going to come down off the mountain and out of the jungle soon to do the full moon peyote rain dance ritual on the cliffs overlooking the bay. They were already on the way, making their way through the thick jungle, it would take days, there are no roads.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. The people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands of years. They are direct descendents of the Aztec.
Isabel explained that as little water as we have now, would be as much water as they would have later. That great torrents of fresh water would fill the two rivers to overflowing, that sheets of water would come rushing down the mountains, tumbling hermit crabs and pebbles, rotted mangoes and coconuts that would heap along the mountain-side perched palapa houses.
She told me for the first time then, and over and over for the next several weeks that when she left in September, that was when the rain would come. She told me about keeping the drainage holes free of leaves and other debris so that the water would have a quick escape to the sea and not swell up and fill the place with water ruining everything. The whole affair was of great concern to her because it happened that last year’s caretaker didn’t do a good job keeping the drainage holes free and it was a disaster.
I left before it started raining. I left too soon. It was months before I told my husband our marriage was over, but I came back from Mexico wild again, and he must have known from my dirty toes and the look in my eyes that it was over. He let me go easily, and I still love him for that, because it showed me I made the right choice. They say marriage is a leap of faith, but so is divorce. No decision that changes a persons life is easy and I was waiting for a sign. Maybe one of my biggest signs is I didn’t have to take the headache pills while in Mexico, but had to start again as soon as I got home.
Or maybe my biggest sign was how, as the boat came to shore that first day I hiked up my white skirt and leapt into the ocean, feeling the warm gulf waters envelope me up to my thighs, wading to shore with one of the crew, helping him to guide the boat in.
I guess this was when I knew the uncomfortable truth of me having to leave my marriage. Because I knew I was being defiant, and I didn’t like having to feel as though I was being defiant at thirty years old. At thirty years old I should be able to leap from anything I wanted to leap from, no one should have that power over me to tell me what I could and could not do.
In the back of my mind as I leapt from the boat I heard my husband telling me to get down off the sides of the boat, I saw my husband turning red with embarrassment when I hopped into the water, my skirt up, grabbing the boat line in one smooth movement as I hit the water, pulling the boat in like I lived there and did it everyday. In my mind I could see that if he was there, I would be beside him, only wishing I could do what I did.
The details of that lovely place are all draped with the gossamer wings of a butterfly, drenched in the crystalline blue of an endless sea beneath a great and mighty sun and twinkling like a net of stars above the palm fronds swaying gently in a balmy, tranquil night.
The drought had settled in before I came, and went on long after I arrived, but no one around me doubted it would end; that great torrents of fresh water would fill the two rivers to overflowing, that sheets of water would come rushing down the mountains, tumbling hermit crabs and pebbles, rotted mangoes and coconuts that would heap along the mountain-side perched palapa houses. No one doubted that as much time as we spent now conserving water we would spend an equal amount of time keeping the drainage holes free inside our homes of leaves and other debris so that the water would have a quick escape to the sea and not swell up and rush our homes over the cliffs, not to mention our pot and pans, books, wax-candle stubs, and mosquito netting, that five dollar USD bottle of Pantene champu, snorkeling gear, a broken piece of mirror, other things hard to come by in the sticks of Mexico.
No roads to speak of led in or out of the village. One could come up to four hours away in a vehicle and then have to hike the rest of the way because the foliage in the jungle was impossible to get through in any other way other than having someone lead the way with a machete.
The best way in or out of Yelapa is by boat. One disembarks from the mainland, Puerto Vallarta, from Los Muertos pier, which translated, means “the dead.” Of course that side of town is anything but, with fifty dollar USD fresh lobster feasts, children selling tiny, wooden, bobbly-headed, brightly painted animals, ten for a peso, and women selling jewelry up and down the pier. For 120 pesos you can hitch a ride to Yelapa, on a boat that looks like it will crack in two on the next wave.
I watched from high up on the cliff the tourist boat coming in, loaded with couples on their honeymoon, looking for some authentic adventure together that would seal their connection. I dig my toes into the crevices and squint my eyes and whisper to the ghost of Pepé who is always close by, a constant companion. Whenever “his” palapa isn’t rented to someone (and sometimes when it is) I will go there and sleep away the night or for special guests “we” will make red snapper ceviche with fresh garlic, tomatoes, and avocado. Pepé insists I use his recipe for the ceviche. No one ever says anything but, “muy bien” about Pepé’s ceviche.
He died probably before I was born I think. He was almost certainly Isabel’s lover, but while she won’t admit it and neither will he exactly, whenever they talk to me about each other there is an intimacy in their voices that coats their words like mango juice.
Isabel is a retired art dealer, professor, author and eighty-plus-year-old matron of the palapa villa that stray cats like me and Pepé find ourselves at – hanging out on the porch for so long we eventually get taken in on a more permanent basis. We make ourselves useful and we’ll get fed at least.
Of course Pepé — whose time was spent doing only-God- knows-what while he was alive, like aiding and abetting the Black Widow who hid out in the mountainous jungle of Yelapa for awhile before the FBI tracked her down, or smoking marijuana with Bob Dylan — a long-time expat Yelapan in Bahia de Banderas — was dead if I didn’t make that clear and he didn’t really eat anymore, but he did make himself useful. He was a broken-down old ghost, and we related to each other in our infinite sadness, and poetic way of looking at the world. I guess. He was better company than myself alone was at any rate, and I spent my time in Yelapa mostly alone, writing: My alone time was interspersed with horseback rides into the mountains, snorkeling trips, bird watching, rodeos, beer drinking, bailars, hikes, hang gliding, soccer on the beach with the locals…
It is legend that when Cortes arrived on the beach he was so taken by the beauty and serenity of the small tranquil playa that he built a church to show an everlasting truce between the people of that land and the kingdom of Spain. The church remains in the village on the sea and Cortes, while he was not so kind to the rest of Mexico, kept his word and never returned to Yelapa to cause harm to the people or the land.
One day, a young Huichol Indian family journeyed to the village from down out of the mountains. It was a young mom and dad and their tiny papoose who didn’t wear any clothes ever and just peed anywhere.
The dad was 16, I found out, and so now they were kids who were running away he tells Isabel in Huichol and broken Spanish. They know each other because she has purchased his art and sold it before in California and he has brought some of his art with him and wants her to sell it for him so he and his bride can be together with their baby and have money.
While he explains all of this I take the mom and the baby down the twisty path through the jungle, down to the tranquila Bahia, the sparkling sea under the sun and we go swimming. The baby is delighted and so is the girl and the light sparks rainbows in their eyes and in the droplets that splash around us. She speaks no Spanish. I speak no Huichol. I can’t tell her how adorable her baby is so we just laugh when he does and call it a day.
After dinner I search the linen closet in the main house for tiny rags to use as diapers and a bin of sorts for baby washing, soaps and creams and blankets, whatever I can find and take it to her. When I arrive in the candlelight glow of their palapa I get the baby from her hip and diaper him on the table in front of them.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. The people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. In 2009 almost nothing is any different in their world than it was thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago: This young family are direct descendents of the Aztec, and as such we treat them reverently.
In Yelapa, like anywhere, there’s always a million things to do if you want to do things and need to get them done. There really are a million things to do but life isn’t lived like that here; the jungle is just kept at bay, it is never conquered.
Work is done joyfully and one’s own pace. People’s individual skills appreciated: The pie lady makes the best pie, the piano player the best notes, the fisherman, the fattest fish he finds everyday. The children of the village play among the trees, when they get old enough they take a boat to Catholic school in Puerto Vallarta each morning. But like I said, each memory of the place is honey and granola with chunks of the pineapple I picked off the tree and cut up fresh just that morning, still warm from the fire of the sun. La cocina in the main house is always full of laughter as the women cut mangoes into containers with Isabel. Ana, the frail, olive skinned girl with big dark eyes and a British accent, and a woman from British Columbia who can’t take the heat and while she doesn’t complain, certainly she wants to. The history professor from Yale who made documentaries in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, the Huichol family making cooing sounds to one another on the porch as the sheets from all the guest beds in the palapas flutter prettily in bright colors of pinks and yellows in the smooth and hopeful breeze, a well-tended garden of popping red, orange and purple blooms, high on the mountain, perched on the cliff, overlooking the ocean, multiple colors of blue waves caressing the rocks far below, birds of paradise float by, and always in my memory when a mango falls off the tree, lands on the roof and rolls into the court yard , I go and get it.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. Their people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. In 2009 almost nothing is any different in their world than it was thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago: Descendents of the Aztec.
It is legend that when Cortes arrived on the beach he was so taken by the beauty and serenity of the land that he built a church to show an everlasting truce between the people of that land and the kingdom of Spain. The church remains in the village on the sea, the Huichol went deep– four days deep into the jungle.
We take the zebra-horses.
For a long time we walk the zebra-horses; through dry riverbeds, rounding gravely path corners to let mules pass as they are dragging loads of palm fronds down from the jungle mountains where there’s a bit of rain up there and the leaves are thicker. It’s where we are headed up to the mountain ravines, the mountain waterfalls, and the mountain rivers.
It is so dusty though.
Winding our way up until we are on a narrow path that the horses navigate slowly, with cliff on one side, ravine on the other.
That mountain path on horseback, felt my mount’s hoof crack on the rock,
As a mountain lion cleared the trees right before me and as the ravine rose up before me, I try not to squeeze the horse, I hope he doesn’t notice the big cat with yellow eyes up in the tree.
We are going to find the waterfall and meet the Huichol half way who are coming down for the luna de la lluvia that will take place on the cliffs overlooking the sea under a full moon in three days. The sacred peyote Huichol rain dance ceremony under the moon.
There is said to have been a murder of a tourist by a man who used to live in the village. It’s unclear where the murder happened. I hope he turns himself in, whoever did it.
Ana reported Montezuma’s revenge, she pronounced it “typhoid fever.” We all felt terrible for her and stopped swallowing water in the shower.
One day some students who were a few villages over teaching local farmers how to compost and use alternative energy came and stayed for the weekend in tents in the campground area of the villa. We all went swimming. It was a hot and sunny junio Jalisco day drinking stoned not paying attention to the tide. The jellyfish are a social creature too. We tried to get away, but the faster we swam, the closer they got, until it was too late. Hot sunny blue water jellyfish I cringe to this day.
A young Huichol Indian family journeyed to the village with their tiny papoose who didn’t wear any clothes. Why should he?
The dad was 16, I found out and so now they were kids who were running away he tells Isabel in Huichol and broken Spanish. They know each other because she has purchased his art and sold it before in California and he has brought some of his art with him and wants her to sell it for him so he and his bride can be together with their baby.
While he explains I take her and their baby down the twisty path through the jungle, down to the tranquila Bahia, the sparkling sea and we go swimming. The baby is delighted and so is the girl and the light to sun sparks rainbows in their eyes and in the droplets that splash around us. She speaks no Spanish. I speak no Huichol. I can’t tell her how adorable her baby is so we just laugh when he does and call it a day.
After dinner I search the linen closet in the main house for tiny rags to use as diapers and a bin of sorts for baby washing, soaps and creams and blankets, whatever I can find and take it to her.
The next day I leave the village by boat to stay for a few days at Isabel’s city house.
There’s some distant things that are hollow sounding and distant things that pull me along with far flung promises and distant things that dig me deep and knowing. I try everyday to step forward along the russet colored sky bent down banana trees little hermit crabs crawling to and fro getting ready I wonder how they know, and all along the horizon bits of angel feathers float down to land at my feet they have red tipped quills reminiscent of every single time I took the easy way out and let the lies cool on the windowsill. It is trying me trying me the way the Spanish words are jetty on the cool blue ocean waves and sand sinks into the margarita glass and causes sadness and worry, give me your Jalisco, give me your little dogs all hungry and sick from eating red scuttle crabs and drinking salt water. If you don’t latch the gate they will come in late after you’ve been asleep and when you awake they have turned into armadillos with clackety claws tapping across the concrete to get out before I see them, but I see those armadillo dogs with wagging spitless tongues, ears cocked and listening.
I watched from the cliff the boats come in loaded with tourists I dig my toes into the crevice, my bare toes, squint my eyes and whisper to Pepé. Later I go to la cocina and cut mangoes into containers with Isabel, the matron, the art dealer the writer the keeper of the villa, Ana, the frail, olive skinned girl with big dark eyes and a British accent, and a woman from British Columbia who couldn’t take the heat and while she didn’t complain, certainly she wanted to. When a mango fell off the tree, landed on the roof and rolled into the court yard I went and got it. That’s how I might have first noticed the peyote in the terra cotta pot.
In the morning with the sounds of flopping fish on the rocks below and swooping gullet birds gulleting and gulleting how they are so gutturally inclined like snorting pigs with wings eating up the beach rocked flopping fish for breakfast. It sounded just like rain, those flopping fish. I swing off the bed and fling out to see, perched there on the cliff above the sea, hair messed up from sleep watching the fishermen with their boats make for the place with the octopus and red snapper, bring me both, I’m so hungry.
When they come back the boats are met with the citizens with pesos to purchase fish flesh and I like to help them kill the octopus make them soft on the rocks and with a knife we slice the snapper under it’s tiny chinless fillet it open slice down the belly with the biggest knife on earth and with a little lime juice make cerviche for lunch.
There’s a million things to do if you want to do things and need to get them done. There really are a million things to do but we don’t live life like that here; the jungle is just kept at bay, it is never conquered.
Mis amigos jump off the cliffs in hang gliders under the moon. At night a black piano is played high up on the mountain and we drift up into the underbrush listening and humming, the night blooms eternal, nocturnal and thirsty we feed it with our eyes that see in this darkness, accustomed to our little world next to God.