Change is in the air.
Not the political kind -- though that may also be true. The type of change that is really in the air.
About three days ago, The Big Hand cranked up the thermostat (just a few notches) and tossed a small can of water on the sauna rocks.
The temperature and humidity will gain far more momentum in a few weeks. Making summers on the Costa Alegre akin to spending time in a River Kwai punishment box.
But that will come later. The weather is pleasant enough to attract a breed of tourists we seldom see here.
White tourists we have aplenty. At least, of the senior variety. This week, though, a new group showed up.
American. Young, Firm. Attractive. Maybe not as much as the cavorting youth at the top of this post. But you get the idea.
Apparently, some of them were more adventurous than their panicky elders in The States who have been warning that traveling in Egypt would be safer than setting foot in Mexico. For the third year in a row, the Texas Department of Public Safety earns the Chicken Little award for trying to scare Texas college students into spending their Spring Break beer money in Galveston rather than Cancun.
But they are here. And that is a better first sign of spring than the upwardly mobile thermometer.
We do not get many young Americans here. I suspect this lot has discovered that American dollars go much further in Melaque than Cabo San Lucas.
The local news has been filled with announcements that a record 22.7 million tourists visited Mexico last year. The last three years have been tough for Mexicans who make their pesos catering to the desires of tourists.
But the recovery reflects a new fact. Even though fewer Americans are coming to Mexico, the rest of the world has discovered Mexico. (I have no idea if the number of Canadian visitors are up or down. During the winter months here, they are thick as geese on a golf course.)
And all of that reminds me of two anecdotes I have been meaning to relate. So, pull up a chair and let Grandpa Cotton tell you some stories.
The first happened in Oregon -- during my brief stop over on my return from China. I met a woman for the first time who suffered a Marty Feldman eye attack when she heard I lived in Mexico.
”In Mexico? And you’re still alive? Seven million Americans were murdered there last year. Americans are targets.”
If you are not wide-eyed at this moment, you must have skimmed over that 7,000,000 figure. That is over 3 times larger than the number of Americans who died in The United States from all causes.
But I quickly understood why she could believe such an incredible allegation. She went on to tell me Mexicans were invading the country through Arizona. She had recently visited a relative at a gated community in Scottsdale.
”And you’ll never guess what we found in the rest room by the pool. Mexicans. With back packs. Some security.”
I guess she never thought of the possibility that they were the lawn care crew.
The second story is more recent. I was standing in the long line that forms around our bank ATM (the only one in town). I was behind a fellow who I have known for three years. He comes south every year for about six months.
He looked at the line of aging white faces and said: “I don’t know how this place survives after all of the tourists leave in spring.”
I told him, the place survives because there are plenty of Mexican tourists who pick up part of the slack when the northern contingent leaves.
He fixed me with a stare and said: “I mean real money. This place would dry up without the four or five months of white tourists.” (By the way, that was his adjective. Not mine.)
In one sense he is correct. There are certain restaurants that would not exist without the northern tourists. But Melaque was here before the winter crowd showed up. And it would still be here if none of them returned.
But that is not going to happen.
Melaque has its attractions. As the recently-arrived young Americans are proving. And those of us who live here all year -- as well as the people who come to visit for months during the winter season -- do contribute economically.
And we get a lot in return. Including free sauna sessions.