My friend Elke has a peeve.
I am certain she has others, but this particular peeve gets pet status in her house -- people who walk down the middle of the street in Melaque or Barra de Navidad. Usually, northern tourists.
There is no denying that it happens. During this Christmas season, out villages have been packed with people seeking the surf and sand of the Costalegre. And it has been a double bonus for our local merchants.
Beginning in November, northerners (primarily Canadians) start their trek south for their extended stays. By mid-December, it is a steady flow of migration.
Melaque and Barra have also long been a holday destination for Mexicans. On weekends, summer vacation, semana santa, school vacation, and, of course, the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's day.
The Mexican vacation trade has noticeably increased during the past two or three years. When I moved here, Mexico's economy was mired in one of those economic flus that plague Mexico whenever The States get a cold. It was a tough times for the local merchants.
Our beach towns have long been magnets for people who come for day trips or short-term stays by bus. And there have been plenty of buses this year filled with large families accompanied by coolers and bags of groceries.
There is also a newer holiday crowd. The Mexican middle class. Many of them, who live most of the year in Mexico City or Guadalajara, also own homes here. They have been coming for years. They certainly are not new to the area.
But I have met a different set. Middle class families who once spent their vacations in Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta, and who want something less crowded. I talked to a couple families who are reconsidering their stays here because our coast is getting too crowded for them.
And crowds there are. I thought Christmas was busy. I had lunch today at Papa Gallo's on the beach in San Patricio. If the beach was not packed, it was certainly well-populated. When I returned for dinner, the highway was bumper-to-bumper with cars and buses leaving town.
I thought I would easily find a parking place. I was wrong. While I was gone, more buses and SUVs had disgorged their occupants onto the streets.
And that brings us back to Elke and her pet peeve.
For some reason, visitors seem to think our streets are pedestrian malls. They are not. In fact, there is an incredible amount of traffic that squeezes its way through our narrow lanes. Lanes made narrower by the increase in double-parking. And often made impassable by milling pedestrians.
But there are reasons why there are now people walking in the streets. The first being the most obvious -- there are more people than the sidewalks can bear. Roaming family bands turn into not-so-mobile topes.
The crowds tie into a second factor. Our sidewalks are customarily littered with debris that would be unexpected on northern sidewalks. Shops set up merchandise that causes potential customers to stop and look at what is on offer.
Motorcycles, bicycles, and even the random car are parked on the pavement damming up pedestrian progress.
And, then, there are the hotels and family homes with a living room's-worth of furniture dragged onto the sidewalk to create the semblance of a drawing room on the public pathway.
People do what is natural. They take the easy detour into the street. Where they are greeted by a honking Audi.
So, I understand why people are in the street now. But the habit will continue after the Christmas-New Year crowd heads back to the Mexican highlands. And most of the remaining offenders will have homes north of the Rio Bravo.
Here is my suggestion. Next week, give Elke a break. During most of the year, our sidewalks are perfectly adequate for walking. It is true that walkers need to be vigilant for potholes and drop-offs below and awnings above. But we are certainly up to paying heed to our surroundings.
As most of you know, I try to walk 15 miles each day. And most of that is on sidewalks. It can be done.
And it will save Elke from wearing out her horn.