This is not Mexico. Hospitality examined.

This is not Mexico. Hospitality examined.
July 15, 2009 Lainie Liberti

Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the American Dream

We’ve been in Mexico for 3 days and it has taken me this long to unwind. Our first two nights were spent in downtown Cancun, nowhere near the tourist drag, in a run down budget hotel, courtesy of travelocity. The hotel was called Terracaribe as in terra=earth & caribe=Caribbean, but I refereed to it as terra(cari)ble as in “terrible”.

Cancun is hot, just like the desert heat we experienced last week, only now there’s a touch of humidity. It makes the air feel very heavy and of course, my clothes wet.  Miro and I arrived in the evening and after dinner, we spent the night in our room, watching Spanish TV and laughing. The next day Miro and I set out exploring, ended up on a a city bus to the Hotel Zone. Not having a plan one way or another, we walked around a bit, but felt a bit discouraged to discover that there wasn’t a whole lot of public beaches accessible where we were. Most of them were associated with one hotel resort or another. We did manage to find a small rocky beach in between two grand resorts. We spent a couple of hours in the water and Miro played with a couple of local children, communicating with only hand gestures and smiles. They seemed as out of place as we did, them local Mexicans not welcome in the fancy hotel resorts, us Americans not interested patronizing those establishments.  Together, we found ourselves as outsiders but didn’t have a common language to share our experience. Man, I wish I spoke some Spanish…

My first thought about Cancun, the Hotel Zone in particular, was this is not Mexico. It is a construction of a rich  American opportunist who built this oasis with the intention to milk as much money out of unadventurous (American) tourists as possible. It was apparent it was a profit center, but I doubted the profits went to Mexican citizens, themselves.
It looked as artificial as Las Vegas and seemed to promise another American dream = safety while exercising entitlement.

The American consumerist-tourist was safe, just needed to stay in the Hotel Zone, pay exorbitant prices and socialize with other American tourists. They were safe from interacting with the Mexican public with the exception to order another margarita, or asking one to fetch a gringo style taco. Safe from this culture of dangerous people who commit crimes, just as the American news media has been reporting. Safe from unpleasant visions of poverty. Safe from the Mexican faulted bird flu.

Safe from themselves.

This was not the artificial Mexico we wanted, so it was time to make a move.

I emailed two couchsurfers I had been corresponding with before we left the States.  I knew we there was nothing for us in Cancun and it was best just to leave sooner, than later. I had been corresponding with Cyndi who lives in Playa Del Carmen, just south of Cancun. We corresponded for about 1 month before arriving and I was really looking forward to meeting her, felt like finally seeing an old friend. She’s an American ex-pat who has lived in Mexico for the last 18 years, and I couldn’t to hear her story.

I also emailed Ivan, another couchsurfer who lives in Cozumel. His place was ready for us for 1 week starting on the 16th. So that’s what we’ll do, our plans have solidified. So this morning, we left for Cancun and headed to Playa del Carmen for  2 nights with Cyndi, then we’ll leave for Cozumel for a week. Then we’ll return to Playa del Carmen to spend a couple more days with Cyndi and see what happens next.  Right now, anything to get us out of Cancun…

Miro and I took the 10:00 bus to Playa this morning. Cyndi picked us up from the bus station on the boardwalk. We lugged our four bulky bags, two big backpacks each and one small  (filled and heavy) day pack each. (This is the point I became acutely aware I was one of those stupid American travelers who over packed. ) We plopped our bags into the back Cyndi’s green VW Rabbit and took off to her house which was just a few blocks away.

My first impression of Cyndi was, what an amazing woman! She’s independent, self sufficient, strong and very beautiful. I was so happy to meet her and felt she’d turn out to be a dear friend.

We lugged our bags upstairs to her condo and she said, she’s leaving for 2 days to Cancun. She was going to stay with her son to show a couple of condos and to keep our fingers crossed she makes a sale. She handed us the keys and said, make yourself at home, hold onto the keys so you have them when you get back from Cozumel. And with that, she was gone.

Ok, that’s good too… but for now, Miro and I have a beautiful condo to ourselves for the next 2 days..


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