Sunday, April 4, 2010

Semana Santa is coming to Town!

This week began one of the biggest holidays of the year in Mexico – Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Being a very Catholic country, Easter is a big deal here, with a rare four-day weekend that almost everyone takes off. While that may not sound like too much time off by North American standards, considering that a normal work week here is 5 ½ days with Saturday afternoon and Sundays the only time off, this is the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas, when things shut down for at least two weeks.

In Loreto Bay we live in somewhat of a “bubble” when it comes to these sorts of things. With the majority of our community “on holiday” while they are here, the rhythm of life for most people in residence doesn’t change with a holiday weekend like this. However, one positive impact of the break will be the lack of construction work going on around us, with the relief from noise and dust that comes with it. Normally it is only Sundays that bring “quiet enjoyment”, and we come to cherish that one day every week which is so peaceful.

This long weekend is also a traditional time for the local Mexicans to spend a rare day or so enjoying time on the beaches. We don’t normally see many locals on the beach here, they work long hours and long weeks, so these opportunities for recreation are not that common. In Mexico, like many other places, the beaches cannot be owned privately, so Loretanos are able to bring a cooler and some beach towels and have a relaxing time with family and friends, hanging out and enjoying the sand and surf. It strikes me as unusual that these people don’t spend more time “beaching” at other times during the rest of the year, considering they live nearby one of the most beautiful Marine Parks in this part of the world. Thinking about it, I wonder if it is comparable to how my family used to go tobogganing during Christmas holidays, and hardly ever during the rest of the winter, even though we lived on a hill?

Another impact of the long weekend is that the INN at Loreto Bay is operating close to capacity (albeit with the reduced number of rooms that have been available this winter) and most of the guests are Mexicans. It is a welcome change to see family groups enjoying the beach and pool and using the services of the hotel after months of minimal occupancy. Perhaps this is a positive omen for a new market opportunity under the anticipated new management. Likewise, in town there is a different feel and energy on the streets, with lots of visitors the restaurants and town Hotels are busier than what has been normal this winter.

With the arrival of Spring the week before last, there has also been a noticeable change in the weather – it is now warmer by 5 or 10 degrees than the typical highs we experienced earlier in the month. Even on windy days, and there have been a few of those recently, I can feel the heat from the sun and on calm days it is beginning to feel hot. This has caused me to shift from my “winter wardrobe” of long pants to shorts for work, although I still press my clothes each morning as I think it is important that I look professional. My prospective buyers can be in flip-flops and board shorts – no problem – they are the customer and they are on vacation, but I think it is appropriate that my appearance needs to be my idea of businesslike - for the Baja.

With the sun feeling hotter, I am now wearing a hat again on a regular basis. I have quite a collection of hats, fedoras and baseball style, but my favourite hat is a fabric and mesh fedora with a chin strap to secure it in the wind. I has been my observation that “a man is known by his hat” in this community. A hat becomes a recognizable feature, can be identified at a distance, and becomes more or less a trademark for the wearer, as well as a necessity for shade and protection.

Other habits start to change with the warmer weather, like seeking out shade. The old song about the “Sunny side of the street” was clearly written about a temperate climate. As the sun becomes stronger you naturally find yourself looking for some relief. When you meet someone on the street and stop to chat, it will be a longer visit if there is a bit of shade to stand in.

Other changes are more subtle. While to a visitor from the north, it appears to be summer-like weather here year-round, in fact many of the plants go through a seasonal cycle, although the differences in climate are much more subtle than in northern latitudes. The sisus vine that climbs many of the walls down here is sprouting new growth again on the woody vine branches, after losing much of their foliage at the end of last year. The palm trees are growing spikes that will turn into flower organs and produce the annual seed crop to start more little palms. Mesquite trees that looked barren and forlorn most of the winter are now leafing out with delicate fresh green sprouts. The bougainvillea bushes a ablaze with richly coloured leaves.

Space and editing do not permit a full appreciation of the beautiful plants and flowers that are coming into their prime here at this time of year, so I have put together a Photo Album of 30 pictures that I took this week wandering around the courtyards of Loreto Bay. Click on the following link to enjoy the full collection:

SS Flowers

Spring also marks the time when residents who have been here for longer stays begin to return to their summer homes and the realities of Income Tax season. (“Income Tax is breaking up that old gang of mine”). Friends and Neighbours become close here during their winter stays – partly due to circumstance and proximity, but I also think that there is a “self-selection" process at work as well. This place has a strong attraction to the people who made the choice to build their dreams here. And, for that reason, among others, they find an unexpectedly strong compatibility with other they meet here that made the same choice. As increasing numbers of people spend more and more time here, the community of residents grows and becomes stronger and the relationships between these residents are the building blocks of this emerging community.

So it is sad for us who remain to see these people, who we have felt close to through the past winter months, closing up their homes and leaving one by one for the summer. Naturally, the tendency is for those who remain to become closer, as their numbers diminish. But having said that, the inbound flights are not quite as fully booked as they were earlier in the year, and with more availability there is the possibility for more spontaneous travel here by visitors.

On a positive note, this winter there have been more homeowners staying longer, and more of them coming for more frequent visits, as the number of completed homes grows along with the number people who are ready to spend more time here. We look forward to our community continuing to grow next winter, with more people contributing their presence and energy to the dream we have in common – the dream that is “Living Loreto”.