By Freda Rumford from the August 2013 Edition
And so it is August! One of the three big holiday times for the Mexican people to get away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city and workplace for rest, relaxation, and the seaside! The other major holiday times are Christmas and Easter, with Easter being the more important of the two, with ‘Semana Santa’ (Saints week) and ‘Semana Pascua’ (springtime week).
It is now school holidays; a time when the six weeks off from school is staggered to allow everyone a chance to get away. On questioning the parents sitting alongside our pool, watching their children, we learned that some school districts start holidays at the beginning of July until mid August, others from mid July until end of August. This is a regional thing as various aged children within the family need to holiday together. This is the Mexican way! Often mothers will have extended summer holidays for the full six weeks with the children while fathers visit each weekend.
On these holidays the large cities empty as citizens leave for their second homes at the ocean or in the mountain retreats. This is the main reason that condos have sprung up everywhere in Mexico. Family elders share the condos between them and it is not unknown for them to own several so that all of the family can be together in their ‘tribal’ gatherings. They also have joint ownership of ski boats, fishing boats or yachts and all traditionally relax and enjoy each other’s company. Cousins get to know each other and become best friends. It is seldom that these times are spent on individual holidays; those are saved for other times. On these three occasions; it is family time. It is the Mexican way.
For the International visitor to Mexico, the hustle bustle of the holiday towns becomes initially almost a battle as they drive around and around looking for empty spaces in the supermarket parking lots. Strange thing: The supermarkets are not usually busy with customers except just prior to the ‘comida’ hour. In actual fact, those of us who live is close proximity to the Mexicans learn, the wise housewives do not trust local produce.
They bring their own from neighbourhood stores in their respective towns. The busiest places are the OXXO or Kiosko (7-11 type stores) which do a roaring trade in Coca Cola or Pepsi and ice cold cervezas. Eventually the International set realise that first thing in the morning or between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. the supermarket belongs to them.
The time not to be out travelling is later in the evening when beach time is over and everyone looking for a little action. The taco stands and road side cafes are humming with people getting some really delicious late evening snacks at incredibly low prices. Here it is possible to feed a family of six for not much more than 60 pesos ($5). The stall holders do not generally keep a record of what is eaten, they rely on the diner to inform them once they have finished. A unique way of doing business but it works.
In the indoor shopping centres, people enjoy the air conditioning where they can be seen enjoying an ice cream or an ice cold drink. Husbands sit in the food court or on benches visiting with other male family or friends while their wives poke around in the clothes shops until they have seen everything available for that day. Tomorrow, there will be different things to see or minds have been made up about what has already been contemplated.
Most foreigners living in Manzanillo year round do not visit the beaches on Mexican vacation time. They have it to themselves at all other times and prefer to let the Mexican vacationers have it on national holidays. If they should be at the beach it is very often that the Mexicans will offer to share their picnic with the stranger and it is very hard sometimes to say “No thank you.”
We found it very strange that in the summer, instead of going to the beaches the people at our condo preferred to sit around the swimming pool for the entire day under cover. They would either chat or play cards, swim a little, have lunch, swim or dunk some more and then snooze on the loungers.
It was difficult to understand until we realised that waves at the beaches were usually quite high during the summer and it was safer by far at the pool. Mexicans generally are not swimmers, they are paddlers and wave hoppers and it is a lot of fun to watch them having a super time than can be imagined with these pastimes.
Whatever they do, the Mexican people are really lovely to watch and most of the international set, being retirees, enjoy watching the family interplay. For the most part, the children are well behaved with only a few acting as prince or princess accustomed to their every wish being obeyed. I commented on this at one time and was told very gravely. “Senora, we still have the control of our children!”