Friday, December 20, 2013

Lo de Marcos, an explosion of colour!

Having already been amazed by the towns and landscapes we saw along the way in Mexico, we have now added a completely new experience to that: Mexican life! We came for just a night at Lo de Marcos, 10 days later we're still here. Having  enjoyed it so much, we will stay here until the new year. We are also planning the next part of our journey and update the blog, while we enjoy the colours, the flavours and the noises of Mexico! We're truly loving every minute of it!

Mexico is not what we had expected at all. Where-ever we went in Australia, New Zealand and the USA all we heard was how bad it is in Mexico. In our previous posts I had already written about our positive experiences in Mexico. Since arriving in Lo de Marcos that feeling has only become stronger. Lo de Marcos is a small Mexican town along the west coast, just north of Puerto Vallarte. Not particularly big, quite small in fact.

Cobblestone streets, small and simple houses, little shops that seem to have been around for centuries and operated by people that have been here for generations too. It's a true Mexican town, a little bit chaotic to 'western eyes'  perhaps and distinctively different to what we were used to. That in itself is already what we were looking for, different.

Although we liked what we saw from the beginning, we also realised we didn't really quite understand any of it. In general, mainland Mexico is an explosion of colour and smells tickling the senses. It's all around you, from the many, many little restaurants operated out on the streets, to the mobile shops operated from the back of a truck or the bakeries operated from the back shed. Lo de Marcos is certainly no exception! Every night the town lights up with shops opening from the most unlikely places.

Roller doors open and a complete kitchen in Mexican style rolls out and forms the base of a restaurant. On the corner is a veggie shop that sells everything from what looks like the living room, extended over the sidewalk with just the aid of a canopy made from palm leaves. Food is important to the Mexicans and everything you get is as fresh as it can be. The fish you buy was still swimming this morning.

Having been in Lo de Marcos for almost 10 days, the beauty of the Mexican way of life slowly begins to sink in. It even begins to make sense somehow. On top of all the colourful buildings, it's very much the people that make it what it is. Colourful people that seem to embrace life so much stronger. They may not be rich in the money sense of the word, but when it comes to enjoying life they're living like millionaires. Simple things like a walk into town, especially via the beach, is just magic. Fishermen are bringing in small boats with the catch of the day, a catch you can buy directly from the boat or enjoy a couple of hours later in a local restaurant.

The boys from the bakery are on the beach too, selling breadrolls they baked that morning. The big supermarkets luckily don't exist here yet. Nor does fast food. If you want a pizza, then a nice Mexican lady will make you one, a proper pizza that is! Instead of a shopping centre you'll find an abundance of small shops scattered all over town, often smaller than our living room, crammed to the ceiling with all you need. You have to know where to go and what to look for and if you can't find it just ask! We had to learn to look through different eyes.

Forget looking for warehouses, shopping malls and bright neon signs. Look for small obscure shops operated by the whole family that are always open. Know that every dollar you spend helps to feed the little kids running around in the shop and help their parents making a living.

Somehow my thoughts just keep coming back to the food. It's understandable perhaps, especially coming from a culture that seems to revolve around fast food. The food here is amazing and so defining in what Mexico is. Food in Mexico isn't fast. Nothing is fast in Mexico. But the taste of it is mouthwatering. Are we suddenly experts in Mexican food? Certainly not. We have no idea what half of the stuff we buy actually is. Of course our little Spanish doesn't help... But we just try it and most of it is absolutely amazing! 

We were, like most, very apprehensive about even crossing the border. All we had heard about before we went, was the horrible thieving Mexicans, the corrupt policemen that roamed the streets looking for foreigners and the drug related gangs. Some doubted we would even survive the border crossing, as 'they shoot foreigners just for fun there'.

Having been here for almost 5 weeks I'm not going to dispute that problems exists, just like they do in any other city too. All I can say is that we haven't come across any problems. The opposite. People are friendly and open. Interested in what we are doing and willing to help you out in any way they can. They're not rich, but know how to live in this country without lots of money and, most importantly, are happy doing it. We see a lot of happy faces, smiling kids that can be happy without a mobile phone and PlayStation. Sure you can look down upon their low incomes, the little old motorbikes that have to carry whole families, as they cannot afford a car and the cars they do own almost fall apart. There is no denying that from a western point of view there is a lot of poverty here. You can also look at it from the other end and wonder why it is that we need so much more of everything, just to make us feel happy.

There is another 'special' side to Lo de Marcos too. It has quite a few RV parks, mostly inhabited by retired Canadians and Americans, who have been coming here for years. They are known as 'snowbirds' as they come here to escape the harsh winter. The Mexicans are happy to have them, realising what they bring to their town every year of course. But at the same time the 'snowbirds' put a lot more into the town than just their dollars. And the people from Lo de Marcos appreciate that too.

We witnessed a Christmas parade in town the other day, an event that was started years ago by the 'snowbirds'. They bring presents for all the local children and both the Mexican families and ourselves were overwhelmed with their generosity. A Canadian called Tony in the RV park we are staying, brings ukuleles with him every year and organises music lessons for the kids. He sells raffle tickets too, the money of which will be used to buy next year's ukeleles. Lovely people organising events like these add so much to Lo de Marcos. The town deserves it though.

Despite the warnings we received about Mexico virtually everywhere we went, we think Mexico is great. Lo de Marcos is great too. It's one of those places on this beautiful earth where we not only found beautiful nature, but also beautiful people. People that made us feel genuinely welcome. Staying here surely changed the way we look at Mexico. Viva Mexico! More Lo de Marcos photos can be found here.