Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Michael

2007 picture showing the marina
construction nearly complete
On one of the last days of October, Windy and I sat in our beach chairs at dusk on the small beach adjacent to the marina. It is a picturesque spot, maybe a five-minute walk from our boat. The surf is usually very small here, in the lee of Punta de Mita. The girls like that the water is shallow for hundreds of feet. The view of nearly the entire Banderas Bay is magnificent.
Our little strip of beach is only three-years-old, created during construction of Marina Riviera Nayarit. This development forever changed the character and geography of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a fishing-based pueblo founded in the 1930s. I was here in 1997, anchored out in our last boat. Today the town is busier and seems more prosperous. But gone forever is the little crescent-shaped beach littered with fishermen’s pangas, cruisers’ dinghies, and plastic tables and chairs of waterside bars and eateries. In fact, the sense of a distinct bay is gone with the marina breakwater redefining the coastline.
An older gringo walked in from the surf. He had a large, vertical scar in the middle of his chest, like my grandfather had. He chatted with a Mexican family before he walked by us and stopped to introduce himself. We gave him our abbreviated story and he gave us his.
Older Gringo is a local, an ex-pat who has lived in La Cruz for a long time. We went back and forth with names of people we know who live nearby, both of us trying to reach a common understanding of where in town his house is located.
Profligate pulled in a couple of days ago. This
63-foot cat is a working boat owned by the
publisher of Latitude 38. You can read their
recent take on La Cruz here.
“Ah, and so you were one of the homeowners up in arms over the building of the marina, because it changed your beach front property into one that fronts the parking lot behind the fish market?”
“Yes and no,” he replied. He said that his house was thusly affected, and that his neighbors each ponied up hundreds of dollars every month to pay the lawyers who fought the proposed development tooth-and-nail. He said they were all ex-pats like him. He said most have moved on. He said his view is very different, that he didn’t join the fight against the development.
I think I raised my eyebrows at this point, both surprised and perplexed.
“Even though I own property here, and even though I am here for a very long time, I am a guest in this country.” He added that just as he has no right to vote in a Mexican election, he has no right trying to alter the course of development in this community. “I am a guest,” he repeated.*
I thought of the old Hotel Punta Chivato (now called the Hotel Posada de las Flores). In the 1980s, an Oregon couple took their turn in the storied ownership history of the famous spot on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, near Mulege. They put everything they had into the place. As their restoration was nearly complete, the Mexico ejido system forced them to surrender the property when it was deemed communal land. (This system was subsequently eliminated in the early 1990s when NAFTA passed, in a Mexican bid to quell anxious foreign investors.) Surely that couple understood the risks of their foreign investment, or should have. I wondered if Old Gringo had been in their shoes, would he have fought the confiscation of his property?
Probably not. I reasoned that the scar on Old Gringo’s chest is a manifestation of a previous, stress-filled life. I imagined that his seeming Zen-like passivity and perspective is deliberate, a healthy, post-surgery change in attitude.
I thought about myself and whether I’d made any similar changes since we left D.C. I don’t think I am a stressed out individual (not in that life nor in this life), but Windy reminds me regularly that I don’t slow down, that I always have to be working on something. It is sometimes maddening to me that she is not stressed about all of the things on the perpetual To-Do list that lives in my head. I’m almost always anxious about getting things done according to the timelines we impose.
Old Gringo would probably remind me that we started cruising June 3, more than five months ago, and that the time for timelines is passed, and that this is our new life, that I need to slow down and enjoy it, not focusing on what it will be, but enjoying what is--just as I imagined I would all of those years I sat in a cubicle dreaming of just this. I think he would be exactly right on that point.
* I am cognizant that I am a guest in Mexico. Even when I’m frustrated by inefficiencies characteristic of the Mexican way of doing some things, I try and mimic the attitudes of the Mexicans around me, no matter how absurd it seems. For example, I recently made a trip to Home Depot with a two-foot piece of dirty, torn hose in-hand, hoping to find a replacement. I knew I could not walk through that front door with my hose before a security guard at the entrance put a small sticker on it that he initialed, indicating the hose is not store merchandise. Absurd as that would seem in the U.S., here it is reality, in several stores. So with a bunch of people clustered around the guard at the entrance on this day, I waited my turn to have a small, initialed sticker put on a piece of hose that looked like trash. Of course, the flip side is that some things are extremely efficient, such as getting a part welded or just about any other transaction with a tradesperson.

This is Dona Mari, a fixture here at the marina. She spends her days recovering
aluminum cans from the marina recycling bins and then pulling them into town
in her cart. Here she is sitting doing needlepoint. This is the first time I've seen
her resting, at the marina or in town. She seemed pleased to have her picture
taken, but I could not get her to smile to save my life. The reason may not be
that she is hiding poor dental work, as there are other possible reasons.


  1. Hey MR, I am sure you have slowed down some since May. You are only doing one thing - getting a boat ready to live on in open water vs. work+proposal+commuting+rest of your life.
    Baby steps from the old fast life to the new slower life. You have every meal with your family. You hang out with your kids every day, sit on the beach with Windy because you can. You can take care of the rotten hose length on Mexican time, which includes the little initialed sticker.

    It is somewhat different when the choice is "slow down or DIE", so do not try to compare yourself to that mandate.

  2. Hi! just found your blog. Beautiful family and story you have. We look forward to keeping up with you.

    As an aside..I chuckled when I read your two daughters names, Frances and Eleanor. My sister's name is Frances Eleanor ____. She never liked her name growing up as it was so unique. But now as adults, we both love her name. Frances was also my grandmothers name.


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