Do you remember them too?

Do you remember them too?

 August 19, 2010

Joanna and her youngest brother John in Cancun 1976 

Our young friends  Michael and Jess have been visiting over the past few days. Yesterday Jorge and I took them to the C.A.M.E. bus terminal and I couldn’t help but contrast the luxurious coach they were boarding to what we used to travel on… 

Some of the GL line features are:

  • AC
  • Fully reclining seats
  • Movies & music
  • Complementary beverage
  • On board bathroom

  In “the good old days”, you got:

  • Wide open windows
  • You were lucky if you got a seat
  • Who could hear anything over the noise of the motor? (Video reproduction was not invented yet…)
  • There was too much swaying to even think about introducing anything into the stomach…
  • You pleaded with the driver to pull over if you were desperate

 But Jorge and I didn’t always take the bus; sometimes we’d load up our sunny yellow Beetle and hit the open road. To get to Cancun we had to drive for six hours, through about twenty-five small villages and over about 300 speed bumps. Along the way, we’d, stop in the pueblos for oranges, soft drinks, or anything that would quench our thirst!  (Neither had anyone had “invented” bottled water yet…) At the time, all of these hamlets looked much alike.

Usually, an impressive seventeenth century Catholic church and much less imposing presidencia  (town hall) faced the dusty plaza. A community water well, a tortilla mill and a small store or two made up the “business district.” Oval-shaped thatch-roof homes were grouped in family compounds and a colourful campo santo (graveyard) lay on the outskirts of town. I used to cry at the sight of so many mangy, hungry dogs and I laughed with the throngs of curious half-naked children. We waved at the shy women dressed in brightly embroidered huipiles and observed all the men stretched-out in hammocks sleeping their siestas – Life seemed to be completely on hold.

The above picture shows Cancun in the 70s the one below, shows Cancun today!

Cancún looked like a huge construction site. As a new tourism development, it received lots of press, especially because much of the land was owned by México’s politicians and their cronies. Hotels and golf courses, shopping centers and marinas were all part of the grand scheme. But when I first went there in 1976, three hotels were finished and open for business. Others were nearing various stages of completion. Everything was booked solid for the Christmas season and I wondered what the future occupants of the still-in-progress properties would say if they could see what I was seeing?

A hideous shanty town that housed the workers had sprung up outside of the tourism zone. Some of Jorge’s guide friends had moved there in order to be part of the boom and were buying up available land in the hopes that one day it would be worth a bundle. I determined I would not like to live in Cancún. It seemed such a plastic place (Little did any of us imagine it would become what it is today!)

I didn’t want to remain in Cancun so we drove another ten kilometers along the palm-lined coast to Puerto Juarez and caught the ferry to Isla Mujeres. It had grown dark by this time but we luckily caught the last boat. We opted to lie out on the deck, under the dense canopy of stars. The sultry Caribbean breeze, the phosphorescence and the crystal-clear sea reflecting the sparkling sky, the gentle rocking of the boat and Jorge beside me… I wondered if this could be Heaven or what?

Yes, it’s true… everything is more comfortable in 2010 than it was in 1976… but there’s also a lot to be said for “the good old days” Do you remember them too?

Images by Google and from my family albums


Filed under Vida Latina

3 responses to “Do you remember them too?

  1. Lori Kelly

    Freddie and I went to Isla Mujeres in the early 80’s (then many times after) To this day one of our most romantic happy memories was the first time to visit Isla riding a late boat being the only passengers heading to the quiet peaceful island.You did a wonderful job of describing the amazing atmosphere….

  2. dan

    But the buses I remember didn’t have wide open windows. It seems the Mexicans didn’t like fresh air blowing on them, so they always insisted on keeping the windows closed.

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