Friday, April 22, 2011

an even better friday

It is Good Friday.  Both on the liturgical calendar -- and on the local business calendar.

In fact, it has been a very good week for the businesses in Melaque.  Semana santa always brings lots of highlanders to town.  But this year has been particularly good.

Melaque gets its Easter trade mainly from the Guadalajara area.  The middle class tends to book into Puerto Vallarta -- with all of its resort conveniences.

Not so the working poor.  They come to Melaque.  Every country seems to have these little class distinctions -- usually based on income.  In England, the working poor go to Blackpool.  In Oregon, to Lincoln City.

The fear was that Easter would come too late in the year to attract the Tapatios to the beach.  The received wisdom is that the big attraction at the beach is getting sweaty -- and the heat wave had already started in Guadalajara.

That fear was far too rational.  Most people come to the beach during semana santa because that is what you do.  Not going to the beach during semana santa would be like attending Notre Dame and skipping spring break in Daytona Beach.

And come they have.

Last week I had breakfast on the beach and took a photograph of what the beach looked like that particular morning.

Melaque makes a good deal of its living off of tourists.  It is certainly not a traditional Mexican town.  We leave the cultural color to those faded colonial beauties in the mountains.  This is Ferengi territory.  There are pesos to be transferred from those willing to spend to those willing to serve.

We have two tourist seasons here.  The first starts around mid-November and peters out in late March. 

It is the season of old white people.  There may be politer ways to say that.  But it is the truth.  Most of the tourists we see in town during those months look as if a Viking ship of casually-dressed senior Norwegians had grounded on the beach.

The local merchants know their stuff.  Out come the Canadian and the American flags to let baffled northerners know that if they eat at a flag-bedecked restaurant, they will not be embarrassed if they do not know their huevos from their pantimedias

Waiters and clerks are all smiles -- as pesos are tucked away.

There is then a late spring lull until the Mexican tourists arrive for semana santa.  Under the counter go the Canadian and American flags faster than you can say Parisian collaborationist.  And up goes the red, white, and green of the national colors.

Waiters and clerks are all smiles -- as pesos are tucked away.

The Mexican merchants I know practice a form of utilitarianism that would make Jeremy Bentham proud.  They are in the business of pleasing people.

They can put up with out-of-towners taking all the parking places, walking in the middle of the street, treating them as hired help, walking around without shirts in public, and getting as drunk as a frat boy following finals.

The fact that old white tourists act almost exactly as younger brown tourists makes no difference to them.  After all, they are in the serving business.

This has been a good week, as I said earlier.  I stopped by my breakfast restaurant this afternoon and snapped off this shot of the beach today.  It looks like a successful season to me.


Felipe Zapata said...

I take issue with your use of the term working poor. The good folks in the top photo seem nicely dressed, and I spot nary a tin cup. They are the working class of Mexico, and they are doing adequately well, thank you.

The pandering of the foreign flags amuses me. Nobody does that here where I live in the middle of the country even though my town is major-league tourist country. And the Gringo and Canuck tourists we do get behave themselves.

Speaking of tourists, like Melaque, we are full of tourists, and it's a great thing because it's very important to the local economy, which has been struggling for a spell due to the totally misguided impressions left by the irresponsible Gringo news media.

Don Cuevas said...

"a Viking ship of casually-dressed senior Norwegians had grounded on the beach."

Hey! I know those people, but they are near Pátzcuaro.

Good one, Steve.

Don Cuevas

teresa freeburn said...

that beach looks so inviting. we've had colder and rainier weather than usual this winter and spring. we've only had 2 days this month where it's reached 55. tomorrow it's supposed to go up to 65-a nice change from our chilly days. it's 34 right now i write this at 5:30 a.m.

Feliz Pascua!


Nwexican said...

Wonderful post even for a wannabe casually-dressed sr. Norwegian just off of the Viking ship(love that description fits perfectly) Happy Good Froday to you and yours.

Steve Cotton said...

Of course, "working poor" is a silly term. I find the best way to deal with any rresidual Marxism I may still retain from my college years is best dealt with by taking it out and parading it in its absurdity. The families that come to Melaque are all good working class folk. The type of families anyone would like to have as neighbors. And I do.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks. I rather liked it myself.

Steve Cotton said...

I don't expect much sympathy, but it is only 72 here right now at 9 in the morning. Everyone walking by on the malecon is bundled up as if they were going sealing in Nome.

Steve Cotton said...

And to you as well.

NWexican said...

Ha, you should check out Algodones some time. Not exactly a Viking ship, more like the whole European continent and all at the many farmacias.

NWexican said...

FYI, I was referring to myself.

Nita said...

I think your description fits most tourists, not just the elderly. I get angry when I see the locals being treated like hired help.

Steve Cotton said...

I thought I would get a good deal on prescription drugs down here. Not so. My blood pressure medicine costs noticeably more here. But the good part of the tale is my pressure is coming under control through exercise and diet. It will be good to drop that last pill.

Steve Cotton said...

Point taken.

Steve Cotton said...

Some tourists are nice to the waiters. But a majority of tourists -- both Mexicans and NOBers -- treat the help as their personal servants.

barbara hopkins said...

My gardener/pool guy once described to me what a vacation to Manzanillo is like for a working stiff like him. He said that he and all the relatives here in the Lake Chapala area pool their money and rent a bus to get there. The bus drops each family off at the homes of their Manzanillo kinfolks where they spend their nights. In the mornings, all the Lake Chapala families pack up the food they have prepared at home and go down to the beach to the "headquarters" of yet another of their Manzanillo kin from whom they rent umbrellas and spend a day on the beach.

That, apparently, is how the working class in Jocotepec spend their vacations on the Pacific coast. And, you know, it doesn't sound half bad! They don't eat out much, but I'm really glad that SOMEBODY is for the sake of the wait staff and their families!

Glad it's busy there.

Steve Cotton said...

Lots of visiting relatives show up in Melaque, as well. But the little bungalows along the beach are sold out -- often with a lot of people in each room. They bring some food in coolers on the bus. But they also buy fresh foods from the grocers. Yesterday, I saw a large family (part of them are pictured at the top of this post) heading to the beach with large pots of beans, rice, and ceviche.

But there are plenty of families in the restaurants, as well. The whle town is throbbing with energy. Last night some celebrants were on the beach drumming through the entire night. It is good to see the place so alive. And quite a different feel from the winter tourists.

Andre said...

Thank you for sharing the pictures. Happy Easter !

Babsofsanmiguel said...

"Old white people"? I resent that...(I say tongue in cheek).....I'm one who is in Melaque every year.....and by the way, do you consider yourself, "an old white person"........well, cause, or never mind...........

And, the people you refer to as the "working poor" are the emerging middle class that you would not have seen prior to NAFTA.

Steve Cotton said...

Of course, "old white people" does not refer to me. My cattegory would be "old fat white people."

I agree with you on my use of the term "working poor." I was just having a little fun with my Marxist brethern. Most of the visitors we get each year are my economic heroes.

Steve Cotton said...

You are welcome. And Happy Easter back to you. As my people would say in greeting: "Cristo ha resucitado! En verdad, esta resucitado!"

Kim G said...

According to the front page of Excelsior on Saturday, occupancy rates for Semana Santa were generally high, and much higher than expected. This (as you write) is indeed good news for Mexico's heavily tourist-dependent economy.

We here also did our part, visiting DF, Xalapa, and Papantla (Veracruz) over Semana Santa.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we look forward to our next Mexican sojourn.

Steve Cotton said...

Next time, put Melaque on the list. At least, you wouldn't need to stay in a crowded hotel.