November 9, 2010

Macarena on the Malecón

 There’s a musical beat to Mexican towns—an incessant, driving, often out of tune exuberance. It starts as the sun gets lower—and hits its peak around the time we’d like to head to bed. In most towns we’ve visited it’s muffled by distance—and is no more noticeable than a neighbour’s TV through a too-thin wall. But in Guaymas, where we’re just steps from the Malecón, the heart-beat of any harbour town, we’re in the thick of it. And after a few days of trying to live at our own rhythm we gave up, and embraced Guaymas’s beat.

We head out after supper—walking the few steps to the colourfully lit square. Last night it was filled with a fitness group—a hundred or more people taking a dance class from three instructors up on a stage. A huge sound system pumped out the songs they dance to three nights a week. They dance to everything from the Macarena to Texas-style line dances. When the class is over the line for the churro stand (the Mexican version of ‘those little donuts’) snakes past the stage.
Last night we talked about joining the dancers—but decided to hit the churro stand instead, before it got too busy. We ordered 15 pesos worth—about $1.25. The bag was huge and the snack left us coated in sugar and grease. We had no choice but to keep going to walk off the calories.

Down the walkway from the dancers we encountered a marching band. Often there are two—a military band and a high school band. They seem to compete from opposite ends of the harbour in a cacophony of drums and squealing trumpets, but last night there was just the school band—methodically working their way through a program of songs and marching moves while an audience of dancing children and sceptical adults looked on.

Near where the band practices a traveling market has taken up residence—and pan flutes competed against the Macarena and the marching band to pull us in for shopping. The stalls were filled with local mescal, woven clothing, carvings and herbs. But the press of sound pushed us out and toward the church’s more peaceful square. Maia giggled when we noticed who we shared the shadowy square with: young couples, still in school uniforms, stealing kisses in dark corners.

When we’ve finished our circuit—past three town squares, two streets of shops and a line of market stalls—the music had faded. The bright lights that called us in were being shut off. By the time we were back aboard all that was left was the marching band—it’s drums now beating a gentle rhythm we could sleep to.

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