A Quick Trip to Old Mexico

May 9, 2007

I just got back from a week in Mexico with some friends. It was a great trip, we did a lot of diving and margarita drinking and sun tanning, but we also talked a lot to some locals about life there and I got to flex my Spanish muscles.

Here's everybody at dinner:

The first part of the week we were with a group of people from our dive shop. Some of them were getting open water certified, some were getting advanced certifications, and some were just along for the good time. After a couple days of squeezing in as many dives as possible and group dinners, everyone went back to the US except for me and my friend Anna, so we got to hang out and kick it vacation style (Anna was the instructor, so her vacation didn't really start till all the students went home).

Here's Mike, Mike and Anna at dinner:

Anna and I latched on to a local and learned about an ongoing religious festival in the other town on Cozumel, El Cedral. The festival lasts about a week and is basically like a state fair, only they have cock fights and bull fights, horse racing and boxing matches, etc. in addition to rides for the kids, art exhibits, live music, games, food and drinking.

We spent some time watching the cock fight. The roosters they were using were rather small and had been plucked from the center of their back down to their toes. They had about a two inch strip of feathers down their spine that had been trimmed, feathers on their heads, wings and tails. We were told that the size of the rooster depends on the size of the ring. In this case it was a small ring and small roosters. I was offered a seat, which was nice, though the view wasn't great from where I was seated. I did snap this picture which shows both roosters, though my camera decided to focus on the back of the guy in front of me, so I had to alter it a little to be able to really see the roosters. I don't know what was in the air that made the dust spots- could have been the roosters stirring up the dust:

There were lots of people filming it with cameras and using their camera phones to snap pictures. Lots of people were also making a strange sound, somewhere between a cluck and a kiss sound, that supposedly makes the roosters angrier. You're supposed to bet money casually with the person next to you if you want to. I didn't bet money, but I called which rooster I thought would win. Here's a picture of the other rooster chasing my rooster when my rooster chickened out (ha ha, get it?):

When they prepare a rooster for the fight, they remove a little digit or nub on the back of each leg and replace it with either a knife or a pick depending on the size of the rooster and the size of the ring. For this fight they were getting picks. We stood right over the guy who attaches the picks. Apparently it's a very specialized job because if the pick comes off and the rooster loses because of it, people will be very angry since they tend to bet money (and sometimes a lot of money). So we watched him file the spot and attach the pick with some sort of resin that had to be melted over a flame. The he uses some thin white tape to go around the pick and the rooster's leg. On top of the tape he puts thread that he wraps around several times. Then he puts the resin on top of the thread, covering it all the way around the rooster's leg. After that they wash the rooster with water and give him a little to drink and they're ready!

The coolest thing about El Cedral is that we only saw 4 other tourists. I thought I would feel uncomfortable being all American looking, but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all! It was nothing like the time that hubby and I walked into the Columbian breakfast joint in the next town over from us in Jersey and we were the only white people there. It was like the record scratched off and everyone turned around to stare!

Anyway, later in the week we went to dinner with a friend of ours from the dive shop. He took us to his mom's house and she cooked us a real Mexican dinner. She's a little Mayan woman who speaks only Maya and Spanish. The food was awesome! She made Chiles Rellenos stuffed with beef and raisins and topped with a red sauce, another chile and cheese dish using the same type of chile as as the Chiles Rellenos, Rice, Beans, Spaghetti, and tortilla chips. She makes her own tortilla chips by cutting flour tortillas into triangles and frying them. For dessert she made a nice Flan that had another name that I can't remember. We learned a lot about their family, saw some family pictures and learned about Maya cures for ailments and sacrifices to the land and whatnot. It was really a memorable night.

When we got back to this hotel we saw this hoppy toad that we thought was a statue. It wasn't! He was huge- there's nothing to compare him to in the photo, but trust me. Actually, he's standing in front of a step, that's some reference.

All in all, it was a very nice trip. I had a great time and I think my Spanish really improved! I've been trying to watch some Spanish TV every day to keep up the progress I made.

Here are some pictures from the trip hubby and I made in February to check out Playa del Carmen. Here we are at the ruins in Tulum followed by two shots of the cenote we went to swim in, El Jardín de Eden.