Wednesday, January 14, 2015

¡yo quiero campeche!

We really like Campeche.  It is one of those cities that tries very hard to be liked, and it is hard not to reciprocate.

I told you a bit yesterday about the fortifications and the wall that once completely surrounded the central portion of Campeche.  The Spanish portion.  The idea was to keep the pirates out.  What remains of it is designed to keep the tourists in.

The wall is a French fortification.  Well, it was designed by a French engineer -- Louis Bouchard de Becour.  When he completed the work, the wall was over a mile and a half in length.

Even though the fortifications did not see much action in Mexico's war for independence, they were put to use when Campeche and the rest of
Yucatán declared independence from Mexico in 1841.  General Santa Anna put an end to the rebellion.  But the walls still stood.

At some point in the 1800s, the walls were breached.  Large sections were pulled down.  Our street source says it was "a Frenchman." 

The fact that the French controlled the city as part of placing Emperor Maximilian on the Mexican throne may be the foundation for the "Frenchman" story.  Even if it is not true, it would be a good tale.

And it makes for nice symmetry.  A Frenchman out up the walls.  Another Frenchman tore them down.

Only a small portion of the original walls still exist.  But we enjoyed our stroll along them -- with an occasional moment of imagination where we held off hoards of pirates trying to disturb Campeche's civility. 

The view also gave us some additional tourist targets.  Such as, what looked as if it could be an abandoned church.

It looked like a cross between the Hagia Sophia and Horseguards.  And that is a combination not to be missed.

Having defended the honor of the Spanish crown, we wandered over to the local market.  These habaneros caught my eye.

You may ask why.  Well, I will tell you. 

We have had several meals on this trip that were rescued only by a regional habanero salsa.  A very simple salsa.  Green habaneros.  Lime juice.  Salt.

That is all that is in it.  But it is the liquid of the gods.  It has saved both a pork dish and a shrimp and rice concoction.  When I get back to Barra de Navidad, it will be a staple on my table.

Speaking of food, we headed off to the malecon to find a good seafood restaurant.  And two out of three of us had a good meal.

I was a bit distracted by a woman sitting a few tables away.  She had one of those faces that are far more interesting than beautiful.  But that is a fair trade to me.

The fact that her face was reflected in the top of a neighboring table made her that much more intriguing.

I was equally enamored by this young woman at an outdoor concert yesterday.  The feeling was obviously not mutual.

After our late lunch, we walked back into town because we had been informed there would be folkloric dancing at 7.  I tagged along reluctantly because I have just about had my fill of Mexican folkloric dance.

The concert was at the dilapidated church we had seen from the fortification walls. 

I should say the former church.  It was once known as the church of San Jos
é.  It was completed in 1756 with a façade of talavera tiles.  And as a lighthouse on one of its steeples.

But a church it no longer is.  It managed to survive the Reform movement of the mid-1800s.  But it fell afoul of the Revolution.  It is now a venue for temporary art exhibits.

Or, in the case of yesterday's performance, a background for dance and music.

My complacency about folkloric dance was about to be replaced by laughter.  I was prepared to suffer through another interminable series of Vera Cruz dances, when the lead act made its way onto the floor.

A line of chorus boys in what passed for Broadway costumes dancing to the epononymous tune of Mame.  Followed by several indifferent performances of other show tunes.  It had to be one of the most [fill in your own synonym here; my choice would only bring me grief] moments I have experienced in Mexico.

The next act was seven musicians who performed tunes familiar to the audience, but completely new to me.  The Latin beat was enough to get me dancing in my seat.  And that is not a pretty sight to watch.  Though it is delightful to be.

The next three acts were almost surreal.  First, came children dressed as smurfs dancing to Christmas tunes. 

If you do not have shared DNA on the stage, there is no sense in looking for talent in child performances.  Though, there was one boy who looked as if he was ready to beat the stuffing out of anyone who laughed at his costume.  And he could dance.

That was followed by the opening number from Cabaret -- with canned music.  Lyrics in English.  The result was far less German expressionism than it was local chaos.

And the last number?  Hip hop dancers with a soundtrack of English vulgarities.  At least, the dancers were energetic.  And quite good -- in the sense that some people would pay good money at a gentleman's club for similar entertainment.

It was all far better than sitting through another hour of flowing skirts and dropping hats that is too often folkloric ballet.

All in all, it was a great day.  There were some mis-cues.  But that is what life is all about.  And that is the joy of life on the road.

Next stop?  I am not certain.  But I bet it will have a Mayan ruin or two.

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