Sunday, December 19, 2004


It is possible to visit Mexico and not experience Mexico. It is easy to find comfortable lodgings, lush jungles, beautiful beaches, familiar food--all at the prices you would expect to pay at home. However, if you make the effort you can also find the real Mexico.

Between Cancun and Tulum the coast is dotted with resorts and resort communities. If you venture to the West of the highway you can find outposts, tiny villages and towns. Like mistakenly stepping into the service entrance of a grand hotel, the streets are populated with the people who service the big resorts. Most of the people come from somewhere else, few are local.

Yesterday we ventured into Chemuyil, a tiny village just three miles from where we are staying in Akumal. The streets were filled with children on a Saturday, playing and laughing. There were a couple of mini-supers, the ubiquitous grocery stores, and a small outdoor market where women were buying fresh produce. Music was playing and the town was relaxed and bucolic.

For lunch we found a seafood restaurant, La Palapa run by Chucho. We had succulent ceviche tostadas, lightly breaded shrimp tacos and a Maya fish entree that was cooked with spices in a banana leaf. Perhaps most unusual was an appetizer of ground up pumpkin seeds, tomatoes and cilantro, served with chips, gratis. One of our best meals yet, the food was fresh, flavorful and unique.

For dinner we could not help but return to try another spot recommended by Chucho, Loncheria El Parque, right up the block from the local park, not surprisingly. All six tables were outside and the menu featured all antojitos, or the snack type food that is so popular in Mexico. We had tacos al pastor, cheese and chicken empanadas and salbutes with carne asada. Scrumptious! And completely different from other version of the same items we have had elsewhere in the Yucatan. With sodas for everyone, the bill came to $10--not each, but for the whole table.

Walking through the streets in the cool of the evening watching people set up a wedding cake and fill up the street with chairs, this was Mexico, not for the benefit of the tourists, but for it´s own sake. With tourism encrouching everywhere, it surely will not be the same in a few years, but for last night it sure was wonderful.