Sunday, April 20, 2014

swinging my social mallet

Who says Melaque doesn't have class?

Well, that is the wrong question. 

The proper inquiry is whether Careyes has class.  But that is a bit redundant.  Careyes is one of a series of enclaves for the wealthy north of my little fishing village.  The string of pearls is populated with old money Mexicans and new money Americans with a sprinkling of Europeans from once-titled families.

Now and then, the high-falutin' open their gates to the hoi polloi.  At this time of year it is for the copa agua alta  (the High Water Cup -- which sounds like something on a bathing suit) polo match.

Yup.  Polo.  The game with ponies, mallets, chukkers, and poofy pants.

The sport is a natural for the upper classes of Mexico -- mixing a love for horses with a good dose of European snobbery.  The only impediment, if you listen to
Jorge Castañeda, which I often do, is that it is a team sport.

My friend Jack asked me if I was interested in acting as the driver on a polo expedition.  I have intended to attend one of these matches for the past five years.  And yesterday was the day.

The polo grounds are quite impressive -- and hidden from view from the coastal highway, as is true of most of the hideaways for the rich in these parts.  The jungle shelters wealth.

This is the 15th High Water Cup.  And yesterday was the final day of the tournament.  Participants -- if not full teams -- from twelve countries had crossed mallets during the past two weeks.  Yesterday the final four teams played for the cup.

I am not a novice when it comes to polo.  While I was in college, my friend Stan was pressed by his family to start taking on some of the accretions of old Portland wealth.  The University Club.  The Oswego Hunt Club.  That sort of thing.  And I tagged along through the membership maze.

The Oswego Hunt Club meant polo.  A one-year experiment -- including a fascinating test of Indian ponies from the Warms Springs reservation.  Mainly to attract girls.  I then revived the interest when I was stationed in English horse country.  Probably, for the same reason.

It was fun to disinter my polo strategy.  And to hone my ability to distinguish a mere bump or a line of the ball foul. 

Of course, there are the horses.  Each player has a string of them to switch out following each chukker -- something that is especially required in the tropical humidity.  Our 93 degrees was alleviated by clouds, but they then caused the humidity to spike at 88%.

The game was fast and well-played, but not really top-notch.  The Argentine team beat the Mexican team with a couple of well-thought out goals.

When it got too hot to stand in the sun watching the game, there were pavilions where drinks and food were served -- for a price.  Porsche doesn't give away its logo for nothing.  Nor does Lamborghini.

It was easy to spot the wealthy Latins from the rest of us who had slunk north with our cloth caps clutched to our breasts.  The Latins were stunning.  Handsome men.  Beautiful women.  Children that could have stepped out of a Nieman Marcus ad.

And we Americans and Canadians from La Manzanilla and Melaque?  We looked as if we had stopped by to apply for jobs in the kitchen.

But we had fun.  And that was why we were invited.  To show some interest in a local event.

We yelled.  We oohed.  We ahhed.  We cheered.  For both sides.  Sometimes for the wrong reason.  We added life to an event that already had life.

Even though there were two games scheduled, we stayed for just the first.  I told Jack:  "There are some games that are far more fun to play than to watch.  Polo is one."  Jack responded: "And boxing is not."

It was time to call it a day.

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