Tag Archives: Traditions

The End of the ‘Temporada’ in Yucatan

If you have lived in the Yucatan for any length of time, you know that every good Yucatecan looks forward to the summer vacations at the beach, known simply as “la temporada”. While the term “temporada” literally means ‘season’ a word that is of special significance to hunters when combined with the word rabbit, duck, deer or moose; or that special time of the year when those of us past a certain age used to play marbles. In the Yucatan, the word has a special meaning and that is: summer vacations. Plans for what one is going to do during the upcoming ‘temporada’ can be started as early as January, when looking at the upcoming year on the calendar; it is a big deal here.

And, at the end of August, when Sams Club and Costco in Merida have already set up displays with plastic made-in-China Santa Clauses and inflatable snowmen, the temporada comes to an end and the locals pack everything up and head back to the city.

No more afternoon sunset-watching, cool drink in hand, while the kids walk the beach for kilometers on end. No more afternoons of entertaining visitors from Merida or beyond with fresh fried fish from the local fishermen and junk food galore to snack on. No more morning jogs on the beach, lazy afternoons with the kids on a boat or pre-dawn wake up calls to go fishing. The beginning of another school year means that Moms – and the occasional enlightened Dad – will be lining up at Merida papelerias like Burrel to buy their school supplies and books if they haven’t already done so for their children and you can’t do those things if you are still at the beach.

For the well-off, who have vacationed in Chicxulub, Uaymitun, Telchac and points further out, jet-skis and motorized beach vehicles are hosed off (by the help of course) and stowed on trailers, to be towed back to Merida behind luxury pickup trucks and minivans where they will be stored in the garage until the next beach break, usually Easter in April the following year. Boats of all sizes are taken to marinas to be taken care of by someone else. Leftover food, alcohol, hammocks and clothing will be loaded into the aforementioned minivans by sullen muchachas to be unloaded by same once they arrive back in the city.

Here’s a socio-cultural aside: most muchachas hate the temporada as it means much more work than usual what with all the sand being tracked in on an hourly basis and the constant arrival and departure of relatives and friends. Plus they can’t get back to their pueblos as easily from the beach on their (few) days off and don’t enjoy any of the beach activities as these are completely foreign to them, never having learned to swim or to appreciate a good ceviche or pescado frito.

For the less economically blessed, plastic chairs, remaining food items and TV’s will be crammed into and onto smaller, less-luxurious vehicles and will, with their owners holding onto rooftop items with their fingertips, also be transported back to Merida.

Both socio-economic groups use the same garbage disposal system, which involves throwing supermarket bags of accumulated trash on to roadside temporary “dumps” which make for a delightful visual treat for many weeks to come.

At the beach, restaurants and businesses that had moved their operations to the coast for the duration will shutter doors, unplug refrigerators and return everything movable back to Merida. The futbolitos, those popular tables with little plastic soccer players that every Yucatecan teen and pre-teen spends an inordinate amount of time at during the evenings to flirt with the opposite sex will be packed up and moved to an upcoming fair or put in storage. Local businesses, the ones that are on the beach year-round, will reduce their staff and count the pesos they made during the temporada, which will probably be just enough (but not quite, they will assure you) to tide them over until the next group of vacationers – the notoriously frugal snowbirds from Canada and the northeastern states – arrive in the fall to spend their winters in warmer climes and spread around what little money they bring with them. Beach houses themselves are closed up in preparation for long term emptiness, unless they are on the rental market for the afore-mentioned snowbirds, in which case they are only partially stripped as a caretaker will probably remain on site to keep things up and running.

All that packing, storing, towing and hauling activity comes democratically together in a sea of vehicles on the Progreso-Merida highway, thankfully now 4 lanes wide most of the way.  Traffic to Merida, in the last daylight hours of the last Sunday of the last weekend of the temporada, is usually a nightmare, especially on the stretches from Uaymitun to Progreso and Chelem to the Progreso-Merida highway as there are only two lanes and one lane, respectively, as the upper class and the middle and lower classes converge. 23 years ago, when there was one lane out to Progreso and one lane back to Merida, this last day’s traffic was literally bumper to bumper for the entire 20 kilometer drive with exasperated drivers looking for free asphalt on shoulders and passing dangerously at every opportunity.

Upon arriving in Merida, temporadistas are welcomed by the flashing blue and red lights of many police patrol vehicles and face the final hurdle of getting into the city and home, where washing machines and empty refrigerators stand ready to process sand-encrusted towels and receive plastic containers of leftovers.

A sense of relief mixed with nostalgia washes over many. But, the temporada has officially ended and it’s time to get back to the regular routine of life in Merida.

La Rama – Yucatecan Christmas Tradition

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, in the more popular neighborhoods – popular being the local euphemism in Spanish for poor neighborhoods – you can see packs of children aged 5-13 or going door to door and singing; well actually chanting, a peculiar little refrain that apparently is a recreation of Mary and Josephs quest to find shelter when their little baby Jesus was going to be born, back in the day.

I managed to corral one of these small packs, roving through the Cordemex neighborhood with about 30 other groups, under the watchful eye of two mothers who maintained a healthy distance while their offspring attempted to collect some money at each stop. To me, this resembled a great deal the North American Halloween tradition when one goes door to door shouting Trick or Treat, except here it was at Christmas and the theme was religious; in addition, the desired outcome was to receive some coins while the offspring of our neighbors to the north are on a quest for sugar.

When I asked the group if I could record them they looked back at their Moms and then again at me. The Moms nodded and smiled, and I told them to pretend I was just another house. They acceded and began their little song.

The song itself presumably had a melody at some point, but this small detail was lost on this particular group (and all the others I suspect, given the level of musical education and appreciation available for this socioeconomic group in the public education system in the Yucatan) and they had repeated the verses so often that they were in a rush to get through them all. As the song progressed it became a rushed jumble of words as each member of the group tried to arrive at the end first.

In the ensuing silence the homeowner either ignores them or comes out and gives them some coins and so, thankful for their cooperation with my little recording project, placed a 50 peso bill in the shoebox that contained the evenings haul up to that point as well as some plastic Christmas-y figurines that I assumed were Mary and our man Joseph. Their eyes widened at the sight of some paper money amongst the coins and they looked furtively back at the Moms and sang part two of their little song, faster than even the last few words of the previous chant and eager to get back to the adults and show them their newly-acquired wealth.

Here is the recording:

Part 1 – http://www.soundcloud.com/lawson_william/la-rama

Part 2 – http://www.soundcloud.com/lawson_william/la-rama-ii

And, since you probably won’t understand what the heck they are chanting, especially at the end when they’re racing to the finish line, here are the lyrics:

Part 1:

Me paro en la puerta
me quito el sombrero
porque en esta casa
vive un caballero.
Vive un caballero,
vive un general
y nos da permiso para comenzar.

Naranjas y limas
limas y limones
aquí está la virgen
de todas las flores.
En un jacalito
de cal y de arena
nació Jesucristo
para Nochebuena.
A la media noche
un gallo canto
y en su canto dijo:
“Ya Cristo nació”

Zacatito verde, lleno de roció
el que no se tape
se muere de frío.

Señora Santana,
¿por qué llora el niño?
Por una manzana que se la ha perdido
Que no llore por una, yo le daré dos
una para el niño y otra para Dios.

La calaca tiene un diente,
tiene un diente.
Topogigio tiene dos.
Si nos dan nuestro aguinaldo, aguinaldo
se lo pagara el señor.

Part 2 (this is the “hurray we got some money!” version:

Ya se va la rama
muy agradecida
porque en esta casa fue bien recibida
Pasen buenas noches, así les deseamos
pasen buenas noches, nosotros nos vamos.

Lyrics from http://www.navidadlatina.com/mexico/larama.asp