March 17, 2008

Semana Santa (Easter Week) comes to La Manzanilla

La Manzanilla beach going north
La Manzanilla beach looking north

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Perhaps it is because I grew up going to Coney Island and Jones Beach in New York, but the scene above, hundreds of Mexican families enjoying the beach, actually seems more normal than the virtually deserted stretches of sand I have become use to here for most of the year. OK - deserted stretches of sand I enjoy.

Welcome to Semana Santa, or as it is referred to by many people here, Semana Loco.

Carloads and busloads of Mexican families are arriving and setting up camp on the beach, in yards, alongside the highway - any place there is a flat spot. On my way back from Tenacatita, two days ago, I passed two teenage Mexican girls carrying backpacks who were hitchhiking to La Manzanilla. By the time I had passed them and realized I should give them a lift, two truckloads of Mexican fellows were vying for the chance to give them a ride to the beach.

It's kind of an annual Mexican Woodstock, sans the late Jimmy Hendrix, and it's going on in virtually every Mexican coastal city and town.

La Manzanilla beach going south
La Manzanilla beach looking south

The local gringos gird for this event like upstate New Yorkers get ready for a snowstorm. Stock up on food, water, and figure that you are not going to leave your house for days on end. Some leave town entirely and head for the interior - where all the beach-going Mexicans have just left. (And many of them rent out their La Manzanilla homes for a good price...)

I toured the beach area this afternoon and met only one other gringo - a very confused-looking Canadian fellow searching for the beachfront condo he had rented, not knowing that most of the state of Jalisco was going to arrive and was already cooking carne asada and fish on his doorstep.

But good grief, everyone else looked like they were having a great time, with soccer balls flying left and right and even kitesurfers putting on a show.

Sail surfing
Kite surfing in 30 mph winds

Grabbing some rays
Working on a sunburn, er, tan

I had planned to go to neighboring Melaque today - it is St. Patrick's Day, after all - but was warned against going near the city. Melaque's patron saint is St. Patrick (San Patricio) himself and the city apparently becomes so jammed with people, cars, tequila and people dancing in the streets, it's impossible to get around.

Sure sounds like fun to me, but I'm blogging instead.


But on the way home from the beach I went by the lagoon to see if the crocs were celebrating - or perhaps salivating - at the prospect of several thousand naive tourists on the beach, some of whom were wading in the end of the crocodile swamp near a local restaurant to cool off.

Not a good idea, considering how many people have been throwing food into that area for the crocs.

Crocodile is partied out
Waiting for just the right tourist

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