Piggin’ Out on Sausage ~ Salc-ccia

4 01 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Comfortable Sigh.

After sleeping nearly 30 hours straight (ask daughter Jessica and hubby John who had to fend for themselves during my long siesta ~ however, I understand they didn’t seriously suffer ~ eating guac and sipping frosty cervezas with their toes in the sand), I’m finally settling back into my Puerto Morelos home and the routine of a non-routine.

Lotsa changes since I was here briefly in October, not least of which are new restaurants ~ including several in La Colonia. Thus ~ someone has to do it? After frequenting my standby faves such as Cantina Habenaro for vino tinto and papas fritos, La Oazis for Shrimp Sambuca, Papas y Café for potato casseroles and to-die-for mole sauce, the place with no name and red tables across from the hammock shop for chilaquiles, and the other place with no name and red tables in La Colonia for tinga tostados ~  the time was right to venture out.

Salc-ccia is a tidy, clean, and most unassuming place in an even more unlikely location: behind the gas pumps at the Pemex Station.


Sausage ~ a choice of German Sausage, Argentinian Sausage, Yucatan Chorizo, Spanish Chistorra, Breakfast Sausage, Chicken Sausage, or Spicy Morrocan Beef Merguez. Sandwiches on freshly baked baguettes, “secret sauce,” grilled or Mexican-limon onions, dill pickles, with a plethora of additional sauce choices. Their refrescos and cervezas had to be the coldest ever, floating tiny shards of ice.

And, if fresh-baked bread and tasty real-meat sausage weren’t enough? The price for this nearly-foot-long taste sensation? Twenty pesos (about $1.50). Next time I may try the homemade corn tortillas. But today? German sausage and caramelized onions on a fresh baguette ~ mmmmm!

Salc-ccia, open only three weeks, is the first retail outlet of Embutidos del Camino, the sausage factory located on Cenote Road which supplies many of the resorts and restaurants along the Riviera Maya. In addition to sandwiches, Salc-ccia also sells meat by the kilo for grilling at home.

After today’s pig-out on sausage ~ perhaps tomorrow I’ll try the new vegan taco place where the hardware store used to be, or Govindas with its 58-peso organic lunch, or maybe La Luna Llena, or….

I’m sharing this?

1 09 2011

What the hell! on her little gecko face....

From my Only in Mexico department.

I wasn’t planning to share this on my blog. But we’re friends, right?

(One of my male acquaintances once used this line ~  I digress.)

And, I’ll preface with I love geckos! Yes, they leave little gecko droppings here-and-there. Yet they eat mosquitoes and other unsavory flying, biting things. So in my opinion, they’re fine housemates.

But….the other day, I’m sitting on the toilet. My mind’s wandering, thinking about Various Other Things. Certainly not thinking about geckos. As I absentmindedly reach for paper, a terrified gecko leaps out of the toilet paper roll, over my lap, onto the edge of the tub. Turns back to glare at me with a What the Hell? look on her little gecko face.

Needless to say (if I hadn’t already), I would have peed my pants!

And, for Inquiring Minds: No, I did not have my camera with me at the toilet. I found a Previous Gecko Photo to include for dramatic emphasis.

So ~ Who Won?

12 07 2011

For those of you holding your breath since my blog about the Wall of Shame and Puerto Morelos’ mayoral election  ~ for those of you losing sleep ~ frantically

“Who Won?!”

 Your wait will be just a tad longer.

Yes. My man  Manuel ~ Mr. Lavender ~ got the most votes.

And as a sidebar:

Little did I know that lavender was so important.

Mexico has such a high rate of illiteracy that the voting form includes a specific color beside the candidate’s name. For this election,  our choices were Brown, Pink, and Lavender.

There were, however, a few slight irregularities.

As in busloads of people from Cancun arriving with forged Voting Cards.

A group of us were enjoying Sunday Brunch Bunch at John Gray’s when Frank called that he was delayed in traffic. (Traffic jams in Puerto Morelos?) We blamed it on the triathlon held that day. But, no. It was an Uprising of The People, protesting the election.

And speaking of indiscretions.

My own Mr. Lavender produced a flyer featuring a photo of the favored candidate, Rodrigo. Printed on lavender paper.

Now, we’re not naming names, pointing fingers, or erecting yet another Wall of Shame ~ but our election was declared Invalid.

So, come December ~ we can look forward to more rallies, singing trucks, flapping banners, a weekend of no alcohol, and perhaps, lavender flyers.

Tally of Votes

The Wall of Shame ~ Muro de la Vergüenza

30 06 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For anyone who hasn’t been in  Puerto Morelos in the summer ~ It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s rainy. It’s quiet. It’s truly wonderful.

Those of us remaining feel like Family.

But, I digress.

Sunday, our citizens elect their first Mayor! Perhaps those new to this area are not aware that Puerto Morelos is not “independent.” We are  considered within city limits of Cancun nearly 40 kilometers north, and our tiny voting populace really doesn’t count for much as far as The Big City is concerned. What the Cancun officials do like, however, are the tax revenues from the hotels and restaurants. Bottom line, they take in our tax money, permits and liquor license fees, and throw Puerto Morelos a pittance to finance services such as road repair, police protection (an oxymoron?), fire trucks, ambulance service. Before any city or state election, there’s a flurry of activity.

So in their infinite wisdom and heart-felt benevolence, Cancun is recognizing that Baby Sister is growing up and can handle money on her own. Not too much, of course, as Cancun carved out choice hotels to keep within its borders. But it’s a start.

Having an election, however, means no alcohol is sold or served from an as-yet-undetermined time on Saturday (Saturday Night in PM with No Alcohol?!) and all day Sunday. Elections are Sunday – because, theoretically, no one is working and each citizen will, of course, vote. And, we certainly wouldn’t want anyone who’d had a beer Saturday night to vote the next day.

The lack of alcohol is compensated for, however, by mindless entertainment preceding the election – singing trucks blaring Promises and Vote-For’s rumbling through streets here and in The Colonia. Rallies. Honking horns. Balloons. Billboards.

I’m all for billboards.

While eating ice cream cones Monday night, my friend Susan and I took refuge from the rain under a flapping canvas sign declaring loyalty for Rodrigo tacked over the front of closed-for-the-season Alma Libre bookstore. I’ve been somewhat partial to Rodrigo since that moment.

Until today.

Driving into town after a trek to the airport, I’m greeted by larger-than-life Manuel — giving a Thumbs Up and grinning crookedly, depending on the direction of the wind – ensconced in purple. Well, not actually purple  ~  lavender. His supporters, wearing lavender tee-shirts, carry lavender balloons.  I figure this has to be a guy secure with his masculinity. And what a nice smile. With gigantic thumbs.

Note-to-self: never allow my photo on a fluttering canvas sign.

In retrospect (and actually relating to this topic) one of my favorite billboards was erected in the Town Square last March:

 The Wall of Shame.

Muro de la Vergüenza

 The Wall of Shame was not simply a “billboard,” but a permanent cement structure boldly naming nine public officials for mentirosos and corruptos.  Signed El Pueblo (The Town).

Does one really need to understand Spanish to get the drift? Corruptos?

I did look up mentirosos – – loosely interpreted:  You’re a big liar!

It seems these are the officials who ignored the overwhelming vote of the Puerto Morelos citizens to elect their own mayor.  Perhaps allowing our election wasn’t total benevolence, after all.

And perhaps the United States could take a lesson from Mexico: Visualize the heart of town, the most-busy intersection:  Muro de la Vergüenza. Has a nice ring to it.

Elections in Puerto Morelos are Sunday.

Why wait? I’m buying extra wine tonight.

Planning an Election Party.

And wearing lavender.

ARTEzissimo ~ Galeria y Cantina

23 03 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My art becomes the windows to paradise –

people bring this paradise back into their homes….

~ Zissi ~ Franziska Schuett ~

If one needed to decompress from a Caribbean lifestyle, ARTEzissimo — home, kitchen, cantina, art gallery, guest house – would fill this need. White décor, high ceilings, tall windows for an abundance of natural light, green plants – all merge to allow casual conversation, comfort, and maximum appreciation of an eclectic art collection. Options for drinks or dining include the kitchen counter to chat with Zissi and pat the dogs, the gallery with its sofa, or outdoor gardens.

Guests are greeted by Xolo (“cholo”) the Mayan hairless canine. With his bare gray-and-pink splotched body, white Mohawk head-tuft, random hair-bursts, and his prominent and oh-so-Mexico cojones, Xolo initially appears somewhat off-putting (dare we say, “ugly”?). But his pleading eyes, nearly toothless smile, and wagging rat-like tail lovingly win your heart – and after a glass or two of vino tincto or the Zissi Tequila Special (tequila, orange juice, grape fruit juice over ice), he begins to resemble Star Wars’ Yoda or a wrinkly, pock-marked great-grandfather you may have known in a past life. Mickey, the soft, brown-and-white, tail-wagging rescued street-dog appears much more “normal.”

Zissi’s behind the bar, chatting with guests while serving up complimentary botanas – chips and home-made salsas or perhaps a spicy potato/chipotle/chorizo mixture. Wine is 35 pesos; vodka, rum, tequila 30 pesos; beer 20 pesos. She offers breakfast with coffee, and later in the afternoon, features a changing daily cuisine — Thai, Italian, or French often created with fish caught that day; prices range from 65 to 120 pesos. She’s not in this, she says, to make big money. Wine glasses are small, perhaps even a jelly glass. When asked if she’d like more glassware, she responds: “How many wine glasses do I need? Three? This is a Art Gallery, not The Ritz. My friends expect the food, not the plates, to reflect quality.”

Zissi — Franziska Schuett — traveled from Germany to Puerto Morelos in 1988. “I saw Mexico,” she says, “and then went back to Germany where everything was gray and cold. My art is intended to show people we are living in paradise – to open their eyes to appreciate nature. It is part of us.”

She grew up in a family of artists. Her father’s work is displayed in the bathrooms – an ethereal chalk of eight-day-old Baby Zissi hangs in the women’s bath, and a whimsical confession honoring his attraction to early-century whores adorns the men’s room.

A bust of her mother, created by her father — much too bland for Zissi’s taste — now sports piercing Caribbean-blue eyes and whore-red lips. “This is art – I can do what I want.” Her personal style ranges from pencil-pastel realism to 18th-century oils to graphic art to water colors – often with a poignant social commentary. The house itself is art – including a ‘50s-style washing machine with an interior light and black/white cowhide motif in the gallery and a European-style canvas oil propped on the stove of the Cantina. She laments that her artwork is part of her private collection and not for sale – with the gallery now open, it’s a challenge finding time to create.

The gallery itself – a room adjoining the Cantina — houses major pieces by renowned Mexican artists, changing approximately every two months. The current exhibit showcases Luis Alberto Platas Reyes of Cancun.

This Gallery/Cantina has been a long-planned idea, now coming to fruition.

Galeria – Open to Public

Cantina – Private Club for friends, their guests, and other open-minded people – passionate, personable people interested in art of the neighborhood – “You know who you are.”

Hours — 11:00 – 6:00 pm
Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays

77580 Puerto Morelos ~ Av. Ninos Heroes 779
Tel: 87 10576
Cel: 9981 44 95 01

Miraculous Meal Experience

1 02 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my first blog entry nearly  a year ago, I mused that a meal is more than just the food and that savoring the meal is not unlike making love – being present and relishing each delectable moment with all the senses…The recent dinner, prepared by Chef Edward Murphy in his home, created just such a rare magical experience.

For the silent auction benefitting Natalie and Cantina Habenaro, Ed and his wife Cheryl generously donated a five-course meal including wine pairings. Len Semeniuk purchased this event, and I am grateful to have been one of the eight to enjoy this exquisite culinary affair. When it comes to The Total Meal Experience, Ed and Cheryl are masters.

We were greeted by the scent of something wonderful sautéing in garlic and a table set with a cheery orange cloth and pink bougainvilleas among glistening candles. I’m juxtaposing Emeril Lagasse as Ed deftly dices and peels a mango, stirs one of several sauces, and checks the oven. Out his window, the sea’s whitecaps dance to a breeze-song. Cheryl pours champagne cocktails over berries and guides us to wicker chairs on the cozy patio.

This was a daydream-about Puerto Morelos evening – the soft caress of an ocean breeze — intense pinks and cerulean blues piercing the white cloud-puffs above the mangrove – friends enjoying each other’s company and crisp champagne….The evening soared upwards from here….

The sweet-spicy surprise of a mulatto salsa/habanero jelly on the eat-with-fingers lollypop lamb chop, melt-on-your-tongue puff pastry infused with prosciutto, shrimp with garlic aioli on a chickpea pancake….and this was only the first of five sumptuous courses, plus the cheese board….

The evening’s camaraderie flowed with easy conversation, joyful memories and toasts to Ed Hoffman and Cantina Habanero, laughter generously punctuating the silence of taste-buds-in-awe. It was one of those evenings that we didn’t want to end. Yet somewhere around midnight we could find no more excuses to linger just a bit longer and strolled to our cars and homes, more than satiated with wonderment and exquisite food prepared with love….

¡La vida es rica!

About our Hosts….

Cheryl writes:

Edward did his apprenticeship at the Hyatt Regency on Yorkville in Toronto and graduated from George Brown College, Chef Program. For the last 20 years, Edward was Executive Chef for the Canadian Auto Workers in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada.  It was a very large property on Lake Huron with 130 rooms and convention facilities for 2000.

Yes, Edward and I did meet while he was a Consulting Chef and I was the Catering Supervisor — we fell madly in love, got married, moved to the country — Markdalem Ontario, Canada — and had a 120-seat restaurant called Mrs. Murphy’s Restaurant and Catering company.

We certainly have had fun working together for the past 28 years. We always made a good team — he was back of the house, and I was front.   In this case, it does really pay to sleep with the boss.

Menu – Ed Hoffman Memorial Dinner

Prepared by Chef Edward Murphy with his charming assistant Cheryl Murphy

Welcome Champagne Cocktails


Lamb Chops with Mulatto Salsa/ Habanero Jelly

Palmetto with prosciutto

Shrimp with garlic aioli on chickpea pancake


Thai bouillabaisse with grouper shrimp and scallops

wine: Covey Run Late Harvest Riesling 2007


Tuscan Bread Salad


Deconstructed Beef Wellington with Fois Gras and Creamed Mushrooms

Dauphinoisse Potato

Carrots and Asparagus in White Truffle Beurre Noisette

Creamed Spinach with Chaya Madeira Sauce

Penfolds Pino Noir


Papaya and Guava Crepes in Grand Marnier

with dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Italian Sweet Wine


Assorted cheese served with poached pears


Aged Manchego

Old Cheddar

Ile De France Camembert


En recuerdo de mi amigo, Ed Hoffman

27 01 2011

Ed con amigos a Cantina Habenaro

Para mí, tal como para muchos puerteños, este pueblo fue amor a primera vista. ¡Excepto! — esa monstruosidad chillona de color azul fluorescente en avenida Rojo Gomez. ¿Cómo se mantiene a flote ese lugar?

Por entonces yo no podía saber que ese bar — upa — ¡restaurante! — dilapidado y chabacano se convertiría en mi oasis social en
Puerto Morelos – mi refugio y lugar frecuentado – mi sitio favorito para un vaso de vino tinto y una conversación fácil, sea insignificante o

Simplemente un paseo seguro – con excepción, tal vez, de los taxis que van a toda velocidad – por media calle, durante el día o después de la medianoche – durante la temporada alta, llena de turistas (sangre nueva para los chistes viejos de Ed) o durante el verano bochornoso con solamente algunos residentes locales matando mosquitos…Y Ed – el centro de todo. Adorable y gruñón, pero siempre listo con una sonrisa de bienvenida: “Hey, this is your table!” “Too bad we’re open!” “Best mojitos in town!” “Try the mango margs!” “We’ve got ribs tonight – Did the recipe myself!” “Band starts in 30 minutes!”

Los que me conocían en mi Otra Vida saben que yo era empresarial, estructurada, super-organizada. Después de jubilarme, de descubrir
Puerto Morelos y de algunos años duros, me enamoré – me enamoré con la Vida –liberé mi cuántos-años-tendrías-si-no-supieras-cuántos-años-tienes otro yo con sus faldas cortas, el rock and roll antiguo, metal pesado y  el ¡baila-baila-baila! Y un catalizador principal
en esa transformación fue Ed Hoffman, los amigos que se reunían con él y los momentos magníficos que creaba en Cantina Habanero.

Ed siempre va a tener un lugar especial un mi corazón así como en los corazones de los muchos miles de personas más que sonreirán al
recordar  “su noche especial” en Cantina Habanero con tal Ed Loco – bailando a Vertigo 777 o disfrutando de Mark Mulligan o del Hombre Orquesta con los Altavoces en los Pantalones – o de los artistas Jan o Don o Bob. Y ellos se recuerdan con quién estaban – y el resplandor de las estrellas aquella noche….

Jessily y Jeremy van a saber que su papá era amado, pero comprender completamente la magnitud de ese amor va a ser una lucha – el número inmenso de almas que tocó su padre y la diferencia que él hizo, la dicha que él trajo a las vidas de tanta gente por todo el mundo – simplemente por ser “Ed” y por crear el atmósfera y la comunidad – la familia – de Cantina Habanero.

A pesar de lo gruñón que podía ser a veces, Ed Hoffman era mi amigo muy querido. Lo extraño al fondo del bar, pero en mi corazón lo estoy abrazando en una luz dorada de amor – junta, por supuesto, con una nube de su máquina vil de humo falso – y estoy visualizándolo dentro del cielo brillante de azul cristalino de Puerto Morelos. Y sé que siempre que necesito una sonrisa, puedo visitar mi corazón y traer las memorias mágicas creadas por mi amigo, Ed Hoffman de Cantina Habanero.

Gracias, Ed…hiciste mi vida un poco más brillante.

Thanks to my daughter, Jessica Dover a professional translator, interpreter, and Spanish teacher, for this translation. Please click the link to her website, Alma Luna.

For the English-language version or to see more photos, check out my previous post.

En recuerdo de mi amigo, Ed Hoffman

21 01 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For me, as for many Puerto Morelians, this village was love at first sight. Except! — that gaudy florescent-blue monstrosity on Rojo Gomez –how does that place stay in business?

Little did I know that this ticky-tacky dilapidated bar – oops — restaurant! — with its crabby owner would become my social oasis in Puerto Morelos — my Safe Haven and regular hangout – my favorite spot for a glass of vino tinto and easy conversation, fluffy to philosophical….

Simply a safe stroll –except, perhaps, for careening taxis – down the middle of the street, during day or after midnight — High season ripe with tourists (fresh blood for Ed’s old jokes) or summer sultry with only a few Locals swatting mosquitoes…. And Ed – center of it all. loveable curmudgeon but quick with a welcoming smile: “Hey – this is your table!” “Too bad – we’re open!” Best mojitos in town!” “Try the mango margs!” “We’ve got ribs tonight – Did the recipe myself!” “Band starts in 30 minutes!”

Those in my Other Lifetime knew me as corporate, structured, ultra-organized. After retirement, discovering Puerto Morelos, and some rough years, I fell in love –in love with Life – – releasing my how-old-would-you-be-if-you-didn’t-know-how-old-you-were alter ego with short skirts, old time rock ‘n roll, heavy metal, and dance-dance-dance! And a major catalyst for that transformation was Ed Hoffman, the friends he brought together, and the magnificent moments he created at Cantina Habenaro.

Ed will always have a special place in my heart as well as in the hearts of the many thousands more who smile when they remember “their special night” at Cantina Habenaro with that Crazy Ed – and dancing to Vertigo 777 or enjoying Mark Mulligan or The One-Man-Band-with-Speakers-in-his-Pants – or performers Jan or Don or Bob – and they remember who they were with – and how bright were the stars that night….

Jessily and Jeremy will know their daddy was loved, but fully embracing the magnitude of that love will be a challenge  – the vast number of  souls their daddy touched and the difference he made, the joy he brought – to the lives of so many people throughout the world – simply by being “Ed” and creating the atmosphere – the community – the family – of Cantina Habenaro.

As grumpy as he could sometimes be, Ed Hoffman was my dear friend. I miss him at the end of the bar, but in my heart I’m embracing him in a golden light of love – along, of course, with a poof from his vile  fake-smoke machine– and visualizing him within the brilliant crystal blue skies of Puerto Morelos. And I know that whenever I need a smile, I can visit my heart and bring back the magical memories created by mi amigo Ed Hoffman at Cantina Habenaro….

Thank you, Ed….You made my life a little brighter.

Miscellaneous Musings

3 08 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This blog has morphed into more of the “weird and wonderful” than “the food” of Puerto Morelos – and having been in “immersed” in Merida studying español for three weeks, I now, more than ever, appreciate my home’s eccentricities…. Merida is hot, beautiful, and historic (did I mention hot?).  A lovely family shared their lives with me during these weeks, so I didn’t realize how much I missed Puerto Morelos ‘till I returned. The sight of the Puerto Morelos water takes my breath away! And yes, it’s hot here, too.

My amigos here say the only changes are that more and more locals and seasonal residents are vacationing in cooler climes. Having been gone, however, I see some wonderful additions to our village and The Colonia.

 After three weeks of Spanish study, I learned how much I don’t know – – yet it’s a start – poco y poco, as they say – and I’m determined. So my first day back included a visit to The Colonia, not only for fresh-squeezed orange juice and guacamole makings, but also a little practice in hablando español ….

 One thing hasn’t changed – the potholes – well, perhaps they’re a bit larger and deeper. But I discovered a delightful new tienda specializing in locally created clothing and art. The owner and seamstress will greet you, and next visit, I’m getting a cool beach cover-up. But on this first visit, I couldn’t resist a delightful child’s purse and two mermaids created by Aleandra. (I’m a sucker for mermaids as well as local art – my condo is filled with works by Ale, Susan Harrison, Daryl Eady, and Heidi.)  

And my favorite fruit-and-vegetable mercado, La  Merced, has expanded its offerings – an in-house kitchen and bakery.  I discovered that it pays to speak Spanish, even as poorly as I do –Gabriela, bagging groceries, pulled out chips and a sample of her salsa verde – and then a complimentary sweet bun – so I came home with snacks and tomorrow’s breakfast!

Then a stop at my favorite tortilleria – thick and warm — not quite as good as the cooked-over-the-open-fire ones by my Jungle Spa amigas – but way-better than the average tortilla!

And – – who says nothing’s changed?! – Neon green cardboard at street corners – Vente de Garage — a garage sale in Puerto Morelos?! Gotta check that out – my treasure: three DVDs with the Spanish subtitle option — only 50 pesos!! A fun way to continue my education.

And the delightful empanada place in the lot next to the police station – as far as I can tell, it still has no name – has upgraded its signage – still the same wonderful food at more-than-reasonable prices, however.

Have been craving Cantina Habenaro’s pizza and Ed’s famous fries  – I satisfied the pizza craving Friday night while enjoying Vertigo 777.  If you like muy picante, ask for the Mary Special –pizza with all their fresh veggies including habenaros and pepperoni. Tonight –papas fritos!

For lunch, I finally tried hard-shell tacos at JJ’s Kitchen –and now see why everyone’s raving about them. They were even better with the homemade habenaro sauce. And Ed gave me a generous test-try of BBQ ribs with homemade chipotle sauce. I’m convinced – returning to JJ’s – often.

 My current-favorite word in español – “naco.” So what is naco? Actually, even in English, there’s not really a definition for “tacky,” you just know it when you see it. Today, Ed was saying that he works hard at what he does – “It’s not easy being cheesy.” So to experience the ultimate in naco – tacky – “friend” Cantina Habenaro or JJ’s Kitchen on Facebook.  Naco! And, if you’re even slightly twisted — way-fun!

 And a reminder – a stop sign in Mexico:  merely a suggestion.

 I mentioned to someone that I’m getting a bicycle, as sometimes I’m in a hurry.  Does anyone else think that’s funny?! “Hurry” — “maybe I’ll get a bicycle”….jajaja (that’s español for hahaha) Smile.

Perhaps my next Blog update: Things I love about Puerto Morelos….

Puerto Morelos Fishing Tournament — Cacophony of Sensory Delights

29 06 2010

Tournament trophies

Festivities include bikini dance contests

Beer flowing. Scent of hot-fat churros blending with boiled corn and crunchy pork rinds. Nutella in a crispy crepe.  Mango and jicama with chili and limon. Swim suits and halter tops. Wet tee-shirts. Lithe bodies and beer bellies. Energy, laughter, joy oozing through every pore….

There’s no feeling quite like a Mexican fiesta, yet I’ve not experienced anything like this Puerto Morelos fishing tournament. Semana Santa (Easter Week) comes close, yet this fishing event generates even more intense adrenaline-filled excitement, possibly because of the weekend time-frame.

A bull-horn kicks off the Saturday morning start with a resounding Boom!  117 fishing boats – opulent yachts to the most mundane nearly-rowboat. Sun high, anticipations higher  – contestants shoot off to sea with strategies and favorite spots in sharp focus. The rest of us drink beer, shop the stands, eat outrageous gut-bombs, and laugh with friends. I’m secretly hoping a small, local boat will snag the winning catch.

The first evening’s weigh-in brings mostly Dorado, lots of disappointed sighs,  a few cheers, excited laughter, and of course, no scarcity of scantily clad young women representing some of the sponsoring organizations – the newspaper Novedades, Corona, Coca Cola, Sea Do….

The Saturday night viewing stand in Town Square sports an interesting  array of entertainment, from modest Yucatan Dancers in native Maya dress to teens in hip-hop resembling Village People. There’s the crowning of Princess Puerto Morelos, a young lady donning a banner and crown to reign for the weekend. And more beer, food, crafts, and booths. Bands play until 3:00 am — I hear it at my condo half-a-kilometer away.

Fishing boats again take off, 7:00 am Sunday – bringing in their Best Catch at 2:00 for the final weigh-in. Neighbors Maurcio and Martha invite me to their family table under the giant canopy – someone staked out this prime location early in the day – and its loaded with Bacardi Anjeo, mixers, ceviche, salads, chips.  I  gratefully accept.

Cheers and excitement to the side, so with drink in-hand I climb makeshift bleachers to view the clearing below – Am I really seeing this? Three-year-olds in bikinis. Judges include Princess Puerto Morelos and one person I know, Danielle of Arte Boutique (does she realize what she’s about to do?) along with a couple others. Emcee is Carlos of male stripper fame (an entirely different, yet fascinating, story). He’s impressive with bronze, buff body bulging from the wife-beater sleeveless tee with Alligator Gym logo and white crop pants. The wee ones dance with wild abandon – – no self consciousness of the hundreds of cheering fans surrounding and towering above. Winners are selected. I wonder about the criteria.  This is a serious — not a feel-good, everyone’s-a-winner — activity. Carlos parades three little girls around the ring and out the gate.

I’m in awe — taking deep breaths — as the next group enters, the girls seeming to be around five. These little ladies are ready and, unlike the younger set, each dances individually. The judges’ selections are brought center stage. But no! Boos and hisses – although I don’t understand Spanish, the feeling is unmistakable – the crowd is not pleased. Three now-self-conscious five-year-olds chew their nails in center ring. Carlos confers with judges – their decision is final. Girls are marched around the ring and out.

On to pre-teens. Age 10 going on 18 – dance moves I’ve certainly not considered – no shyness – heads high and proud – bodies undulating sensuously and provocatively. Where are their mothers? On the sidelines, providing pointers.  I’m getting a clearer understanding of Mexico’s high early-teen pregnancy rate.  Next are girls about 15, with attitude.

The day could not be more stiflingly hot and humid, and  I’m crammed among a growing mass of sweaty bodies. So I make my way back to the shade of the rum-and-coke table. As the age categories increase, I hear the crowd wildly clapping. Cheers. Hoots. Cat-calls. I’m obviously missing quite the performance. 

People suddenly morph to the nearby pier, beside which a tall wooden pole with flag atop has been set into the water. Greased pole contest — clearly, another crowd-pleaser. The teams dive in. Four sturdy young men stand chest-deep in the sea, arms interlocked around pole and each other. Three more climb onto their shoulders, also interlocking arms. Now the competition becomes interesting as lithe, monkey-like boys scramble up wet bodies – and yet more – until the grease does its work. All crash down. Team after team. Splashing to defeat. No one makes it to the tip – yet somehow a winning group is selected.

Excitement builds. Time for the fishing awards.

There’s a scurry around the table of tournament trophies — oversized replicas of Dorado, Marlin, Barracuda — along with giant checks symbolizing the grand prizes , up to $100,000 pesos and a new car! Dignitaries on stage include not only Emilio Muñoz, general coordinator for the Fishing Tournament and its surrounding Navy Day Celebrations, and the Delgado for Puerto Morelos, Pancho Mendoza, but also Governor of the State of Quintana Roo, Félix González Canto.

The well-endowed young ladies in their cheerleader-style semi-ensembles hand giant-fish-head trophies to the actual presenter, the Governor. The winning team from each category comes front-and-center, some with children-in-arms.  A lot of prelude – and at last, with a speech by the Delgado – Grand Prize. The crowd wildly chants – Puerto Morelos! Puerto Morelos! Puerto Morelos! Don Pepe! Don Pepe! Don Pepe! For the first time in the history of this tournament, the winning team is local – sons of grocery owner Don Pepe Espinosa. Not one of the small boats, but homeboys — nearly as satisfying….

It’s Sunday night. Crowds dissipate. A few food carts remain. A moist breeze rustles the coco palms. Raindrops fall….