Saturday, March 19, 2011

Elvis Live in 'Costa Canada', Mexico

March 2011

I'd been vaguely aware of it for some time, but it smacked me in the face the night Elvis played in the restaurant next to our hotel. As usual, the volume was full blast, so we could hear every chord, every word, every 'love me tender.' Apparently he was good – as in he had everyone in the place up and dancing – and certainly we could hear them hooting and hollering and singing along. We'd seen some of them going in – a mostly 60+ crowd, many struggling with the flight of stairs up to the second floor restaurant. Here, that's pretty much typical of the age range, although there are lots of fit, and very fit pre-geriatrics here too.

'Costa Canada'. A little town on the beach that used to be Mexican. Used to be primarily a fishing village, but there are precious few fisher-folk now. The odd guy casting a net into the surf. Not even the touristy sport-fishing boats we've seen elsewhere, lined up along the beach, ready for charter. Fishing's given way to tourism. That's where the money is.

Pretty much all of the Mexicans in town are here to serve the tourists. Restaurants, taco stands, hotels, shops, liquor stores, spas. And plenty of real-estate agents. Much of the town has been bought up by Canadians – and in particular by people from the coast of BC – Vancouver, Victoria, Powell River. They've built monstrous super-luxury homes up on the hill. Private family 'all-inclusives'. Half the year or more they sit empty, but necessarily guarded.

The Canadians come when it starts getting cold up north, and they stay until the weather there warms up, and/or the weather here gets too hot and humid. A lot of them drive down in their big trucks and campers loaded with all of the goodies, motor bikes strapped on the back. The majority bring at least one dog with them, many two, and several more. They take their dogs everywhere with them. On the beach, the first thing they do (the dogs that is) is take a dump. Then they chase the shore-birds for a while. So cute!

It's 'an American town', Canadian style. It's not particularly Mexican. Indeed, I wouldn't call it Mexican at all. Even the Mexicans who are here don't seem very 'Mexican'. Most of them speak English, even when we speak in Spanish. They're much cooler and more diffident than Mexicans we've met in other parts of the country, where Mexican mannerisms – a lovely 'old world' gentility – are still much in evidence. Here they may ignore you, or just get what it is you want and give it to you with a blank, unsmiling face. No 'que lo vaya bien' when you leave; no 'pase un buen dia'. They're jaded, and who can blame them?

But even so... . What I finally have come to realize about this trip, the reason why I have not been motivated to write, as I usually do when traveling, is because here in Mexico I am not experiencing the kinds of exposure to a 'different culture' that usually tweaks my muse. The 'new Mexico', the 21st century, 30 years of tourism, 30 years of rapid social and economic development Mexico, has created a country, and a culture, that is much the same as our own. The 'flavour' is rapidly fading away.

Especially in towns like this – coastal, snow-bird, sun-and-surf, marguerita-on-the-beach towns. But hey, it's the perfect place to come if what you want is reliably warm and sunny weather, all the comforts of home, and cheap food, liquour and labour. Oh – and Elvis on Monday nights.

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