Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I've been a bit quiet on here lately. This owes mainly to the fact that I am in paradise. That's right paradise. For the time being I'm going to keep quiet about where this paradise is, and am only going to say the following:
  • It's in Mexico.

  • It has the cleanest beach I have ever seen, and the water is about the temperature of a bathtub.
  • And finally, and this is the kicker, it is completely deserted. Aside from a very small handful (probably ten or less) international travelers, there is no one on the beach, which spans for miles and miles, other than a couple of fishermen.

But let's back up a bit, there are interesting stories to be told. It all starts in San Cristobal, which just so happened to be hosting the Festival of Guadalupe, or Dia de Guadalupe as it is known in Mexico (though dia implies that it only lasts one day and that was certainly not the case). So there is some saint here in Mexico named Guadalupe, apparently the Virgin Mother (Mary) appeared to her in a vision one time told her to do something, and now she is a saint. I'm overstating my ignorance a bit, but not much.

Anyway...the story really has nothing to do with why there is this festival, but rather with the festival itself. Every year one city in southern Mexico is chosen to host the festival, and this year that city was San Cristobal. Then churches put together what I can only describe as teams of runners, who then travel from wherever their church is to San Cristobal running along the side of the highway carrying a torch. If running down the crazy-ass highways of Mexico doesn't sound terrible enough the trucks that carry the runners who are resting slowly drives behind the runner blasting a car alarm at around 100 decibels to announce its presence. Try to picture it. There you are risking your life running in 90 degree heat on these fucked up roads with vans and trucks whipping by six inches away from you, and behind you is a truck blasting BEEP BEEP BEEP, RYAA RYAA, ANH ANH ANH. Oh, and just to top it off, for some reason I can't even begin to comprehend, you have to wear a sheep hide vest over your clothes.

So I was feeling a lot of sympathy for these dedicated kids busting their asses because of their faith, and was really enjoying the festive atmosphere that enveloped the city. But that was only on the first night.

By the second night my sympathy was gone. Replaced with growing resentment, that began boiling over into outright anger. The thing was the party just never ended. Which meant the fireworks NEVER ENDED. Which meant the Mariachi bands NEVER STOPPED PLAYING. And above all else it meant that the runners NEVER STOPPED COMING, and thus the CAR ALARMS NEVER STOPPED BLAIRING. EVER.

By four a.m. on the second night I couldn't take it anymore. It was absolutely impossible to sleep. Even with ear plugs the constant music being played by a drunken mariachi band, the innumerable explosions of bottle rockets, and the incessant whine of car alarms was too much to bear. I began practicing my Spanish in my head. It was everything that I wanted to say to the all night revelers (and bear in mind this was not a one night party. I had arrived on what was either night 7 or 8 of an 8 or 9 night party). It went a little something like this (though I have translated it back into English for your benefit).

“This noise, this non-stop over-the-top fucking noise is what is causing all the problems in your society. This is why Chiapas is rife with poverty while other areas of the country prosper. This is why alcoholism is rampant, and why domestic violence has become such a huge problem. This is why children here are far behind the rest of the country in terms of education. The list of socio-economic issues goes on and on, and it is all because of this fucking noise! No one can sleep, how can the children learn anything in school? No one can sleep, how can the men go to work in the morning. No one can sleep, the men are all getting drunk. No one can sleep.

I was getting pretty poetic in my four a.m. Rant, which at the time seemed to make perfect sense, it was similar to Rudy Giuliani's No Broken Windows plan for cleaning up crime in N.Y. City in the 90s. As you probably well know by now if you have ever read Freakonomics this wasn't what cleaned up N.Y. City and it probably wouldn't alleviate any of the social issues plaguing Chiapas either, but man did it feel good to rant in my head, in Spanish, at four in the morning.

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