It was a curious sight this late afternoon of mid July on the beach between the turquoise-azul, blue waves lapping softly on the white sand, and the beach bar with swings hanging on ropes. On each of the sunbather’s chairs was a local personage. By the side of each local worker, was a distinct pile of merchandise of some sort. The sun was just about to sink itself into the sea for a night’s rest, and you noticed in the purplish-pink of the setting sun the silhouette of the piles, the outline of a tall iced drink with a pineapple wedge, or beer with a lime wedge, and the outline of a person next to the piles. The hustle and noise of the constant merchants selling their wares to beach goers was hushed, if just for this one afternoon. What was the cause?
Earlier in the day a couple, who happened to be tourists traveling together from Los Angeles, set out on a boat from Cancun‘s Playa Tortuga ferry port. They rode over early in the day, for this was their last day in Cancun before they headed home to enjoy the rest of their summer. They arrived at the beach just a bit before noon, and walked toward the legendary North Beach that was said to have stunning sand beaches and clear blue oceans too. Having forgotten a towel, Syd bought one from a local vendor sitting with his goods just off the street and before the beach side restaurants. Towel in hand, Syd and Ty headed towards the ocean. They noticed the lounge chairs and umbrellas and attendants, and Syd asked in her best Spangilsh she’d learned in school and from her Lonely Planet guide, for a sombrilla to be set up, and how much it would cost. The cost amounted to a few U.S. dollars worth of pesos, and so they quickly agreed and were situated on chairs with the shade of the umbrella and menus as well.
Syd had noted that on the public beach just North of Solymar, that the people lounging on the beach were never in want of food, for not long after they had arrived, food vendors began to wander over to them and to all of the other sunbathers that came out that day. First it was just the man selling nicely cut-up sticks of fruit and coconut, a locally growing fruit that grew in the middle of the public streets. Next were the cold drinks.
“How are they keeping them cold?” Syd wondered to herself, and realized they must be restocking their supply from cars up on the street. Indeed, tias and tios, abuellas and familias waited outside of cars with more batches of homemade foods and commercial drinks.
After a time came a man carrying a clear glass case that held piled up inside fried football-looking objects yelling in a
do-you-want-one voice, “Keebee keebee? Keebee keebee?”
Followed not long after by a man with a stew pot, offering fresh fish tacos. And all through the afternoon, until Syd and Ty moved on along back toward their hotel, the parade of food kept on coming. The same men would ask the same sunbathers if they wanted for any of the goods they were selling. And she did buy a snack or two. Though mostly everyone didn’t make eye contact and said, “No, gracias,” politely, because the food kept parading on by on the sand around the chairs.
Today in Isla Mujeres was no different. And Syd had an entertaining idea. “What if,” she thought, “I was able to pay these vendors to have a seat, and a day off? Would they stop for a price, or keep going as they appear so industrious and determined?” At any rate, she would offer each vendor a small sum to take a seat and have a cold drink on her for the afternoon, as an experiment in helping locals to enjoy the place her and her husband had been so fully enjoying on their trip.
First was the man with the arm loads of colorful dresses, then the man with the plastic-straw cowboy hats. Next, the man with the clickity clackity crab and lobster magnets, and after that the henna tattoo artist, and the woman offering to braid tourists’ hair with a sample head and book; a man selling towels, and a woman selling purses. And on it went until late afternoon, and about twenty vendors with their various piles were lounging idly in beach chairs with their shoes off in the shade of an umbrella with a cold drink in his or her hand. A curious sight indeed; the piles of colorful dresses, books of tattoos, purses, and hair ties, bandanas, and hats, and the vendors who, for an afternoon, had a chance to enjoy their own ocean.