The sky looks gray and sullen this morning. The last couple of days I've been prone to sudden outbursts of tears-- at the river as the kids drove away in their truck, parting from Churpa and Becky after a walk on the beach . Last night the kids all crowded into the camper with me for awhile to get away from the bugs. I read them "Popcorn", and Becky told me she's going to miss me. I'm going to miss them all. At least they all get to clump together for awhile, the three girls leaving on the bus tomorrow to catch their flight, Churpa traveling as far as Guadalajara with the Georgia boys before she doubles back to DF for her flight. I'm facing my solitary journey again.
I sent a smidgeon of Steve's ashes south with Bob and Betty. I asked them to leave them in the spot where Steve and I camped together last year at the Oaxaca Trailer Park, where Steve said he wished we could just slip on down to Chiapas. And then slip on down to Panajachel. I mark the envelope "Steve goes to Oaxaca." I tell Bob, "If you get stopped, just tell them it's cocaine!"
It's the time of departures. We all spread, scatter, head out on our own well-traveled routes to home and work, hopeful of return, hopeful we'll get one more season on this beach before it falls forever into the pockets of the wealthy, who need yet one more beach covered with cement to satisfy temporarily their endless, insatiable quest for new playgrounds.
This beach is a unique habitat for wildlife. Little more than a spit of sand wedged between ocean and lagoon, the beach has long been haven to nesting sea turtles, who have been returning here to lay their eggs for countless aeons. Endangered, they are protected by the Mexican government, and there is less egg snatching than before.
But what laws protect their habitat, this beach where the new hotel swells ominously, workers starting on the third story, where generator rumbles and bright lights flood the beach at night when the 'dueno' visits? Who will tell him to turn off his floodlights so the giant sea turtles will continue to lumber up onto the sands to dig their nests and lay their eggs?
The swamp behind this narrow curl of sand we call beach is replete with life. Roseate spoon bills, herons, ibis and all manner of smaller birds nest in the mangle trees (also an endangered species, protected, and still openly harvested for fence posts and cabana walls.) The crocodiles have come back in the last few years, and enterprising restaurant owners like Pancho and Cato offer jungle boat rides.
For the 25 years our family has come to this beach, traffic has been light enough to have minimal detrimental effect on the environment. We have been a population the ecosystem can support without sustaining much damage.
The new road, smooth and paved, has changed all that. Day trippers bring new prosperity to the restaurants, but the small beach over the hill is swamped with snorkelers brought over in van loads from nearby towns. Given no instruction about the fragility of the reef, novice snorkelers endanger themselves and the coral. I spoke to one man who was walking on the coral and told him that his tread was killing the delicate living structure. My words didn't even seem to register. He was only concerned about his own plight, caused by attempting to snorkel over the reef at low tide.
And, of course, this new hotel is, actually, illegal. No cement buildings over one story have been permitted on the beach side of the road, 'till now. Years ago, when electric poles were strung out along the road, the Grupo de Cien was allegedly responsible for having the electricity turned off, in accordance with law protecting turtle nesting habitat.
But money doesn't just talk, it screams. The dueno of the new construction and his workers placidly ignore the closure signs that were posted over two months ago by SEMARNAP (which stands for Secretaria del Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Pesca, even if the letters don't match. This is Mexico!) This is the environmental agency created to protect "la naturaleza" of Mexican coasts.
But, of course, this is Mexico, and it's all a hell of a lot more complicated than that. The ownership of this beach has been disputed for years and is being contested in a current court case. The dueno of the new hotel may in fact, not be the enemy, since he bought his property from the ejido, which is fighting a corporate claim on the beach. What the corporate interests might do to this beach, should they win their case, would make Carlos' heap of white cement look paltry and insignificant!
This morning I am all set to leave. I notice that the workers haven't yet shown up to finish putting in the second floor ceiling of the hotel-in-progress. Instead, a flashy new red mini-van rolls up and down the road a couple of times while I am stuffing my last belongings into poor old over-loaded ES. (How did five of us ever travel in this last year, I wonder, when I now fill it up all by myself?)
I rouse Churpa and Josh to come for coffee. While we sit on a last petate in the sand, what appears to be a chain gang, in gray-green tee shirts, and a few cops with machine guns, walks down the road.
"Que pasa?" I ask.
"No te preoccupes," the black uniformed young man answers. This doesn't concern the gringos, he tells me.
Shortly thereafter, Sadhu's truck rumbles back up the road. He has tried to get out to fill his water tanks, but there are two roadblocks, and the road is jammed with vehicles and people -- impassable.
"They're throwing all the stuff out of the restaurants," he says.
I immediately panic. "Maybe this means the ejido lost the court case, and the corporation is moving in!" This is my worst fear for this beloved place.
We take a walk down the beach and, sure enough, the guys in the T-shirts are hauling everything out of La Fiesta, Pancho & Gloria's restaurant. Poor old Sabino and his wife Socorro sit on the road among their belongings, all piled higgledy-piggeldy in the sand. Sabino and Socorro don't have much -- they're poor people -- and all their possessions make a ragged heap.
Meanwhile, word is passing along the gringo telegraph that this is a strong arm move on the part of the corporation and these are just rent-a-cops.
I voice my sympathy to Pancho, our solidarity with him and the other ejido members. I'm almost in tears. Pancho, in contrast, is grinning. "Let's just wait a few days and see what happens. This is all politics. We're used to it." He thanks me for my concern.
When I comment to Gloria that it looks like they're having a yard sale, she laughs that nobody has bought anything. My mood starts to lighten. The Mexican spirit is contagious! This, after all, is the essence of my practise of Vipassana, the law of constant change. Stay calm and see what happens next!
The rent-a-cops have even hauled out all of the belongings of 'No Hay Paso', a rich Mexican who made his money in the US and returned to fence off his own little compound, guarded by three huge dogs and a family of guardianos. In contrast to Sabino and his wife, No Hay Paso owns a mountain of kitchen appliances, fishing gear and assorted knick-knacks. On our return past Sabino's I comment, "It looks like you're living out of doors!" And he laughs and answers, "We're just giving things a good airing!"
In fact, by late afternoon, the federales have arrived and vindicated the ejido. These state cops and their employees have absolutely no jurisdiction on this beach! And yet, they managed to bully and intimidate numerous members of the community, not to mention causing them the huge hassle of putting everything back into their homes and restaurants.
The road is clear, now, and I'm restless. It's too late to really get anywhere, but I can't face another buggy night on the beach. Churpa tells me, "Sometimes it's just better to get on the road." Once again, I follow her good advice and head on out to the closest town to get ES (the camper, 'Endangered Species') washed and greased as I splurge on an 80 peso hotel room. (If only, I think wishfully, Churpa followed my advice as often as I do hers!)