It is the most American holiday of all, the 4th of July. But, this expat happens to live on the island of Cozumel, Mexico. It’s a conundrum. Now, one might argue that relocating to another country means that childhood celebrations and patriotic traditions should be left behind while one embraces the new culture. And, that would be a good argument except that I happen to live where the locals not only welcome us with open arms, they encourage us to remember where we came from. How do they do that? They help us throw a party complete with all the fixings. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Now, this is where I’d like to mention that here, on the island of Cozumel, it is also election time, which means that the locals have much to do to demonstrate their own patriotism. But, that didn’t stop a group of folks from putting their heads together to figure out what to do to help us American expats celebrate as well. Oh, and that group of nice folks happen to be the ones with the big smiles in the photo on your right (and look in the p.s. section below for their names). Together they managed to open up space in the Punta Langosta Shopping Center, invited local businesses to set up tables filled with food and drink, and then they went so far as to bring in a lively local band as well. Now, that’s hospitality!
As for me, I got to the party around 5:30. I’d pedaled my second hand bike down Melgar to the Punta Langosta, which is located just across from the #2 cruise ship pier located close to el centro. It’s July in Mexico, so mentioning the heat might just be redundant, but I am going to state that I am still not acclimated. In fact, I don’t think I ever will be and that’s okay. But, why is that relevant? Well, the first thing I’d noticed was the face painting booth set up by the Chrysalis volunteers. Since I’ll be writing in detail about their organization a bit down the road (they do some great work) I’ll just mention here that they often have fun ways to raise money and this was one of them. I saw so many folks with such great artwork that I thought I’d give it a shot, but it was quickly determined that face paint on me wouldn’t stand a chance. So, after a bit of thought, it was determined that I would do well with a colorful “tattoo” on my upper arm. It might not be quite as fun as the panting tongue and balloon look on your right, which makes me smile every time, but it did match my outfit and, after it was finished, I was in the party mood and ready to take some pics. And, yes, that is me on the left proudly displaying my newest “tattoo.”
Once I started to walk around I have to say that everywhere I looked there were folks having fun. Whole families, couples, both residents and tourists, locals and expats. Many dressed in the colors of the 4th, including some of the Mexicans. It really was quite the party. Let me see if I can describe at least the setting, although I will include a photo to help with the visuals. In the middle of the shopping center was an area, complete with fully grown palm trees, where tables were set up with lots of food and drink choices and smiling folks just waiting to take your order. The half moon arrangement favored the stage area that would feature the band later. Sandwiched in between the food and stage were tables, chairs, and a space for dancing. And, although the band hadn’t started yet, the speakers were giving out music by Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys etc. In fact, just about any and all American rock music you could imagine was being played to help with the mood. As you can tell, I’d gone upstairs to take the pic you see here and I’m so glad I did because that was when I noticed that the clowns I’d seen walking around (yes, we even had clowns) weren’t just making balloon hats for the kiddies and the young at heart. Nope. Lots of adults were featuring them as well and you just know I had to go and get some pics of that.
This is where I’ll say that one of the things that I’ve found to be the most fun on this island is the freedom I’ve had to take pictures of people. No-one has turned me down yet. Even in full balloon head gear they happily smile away while I take the shot. Now, I don’t know if it’s because many of them are on vacation and doing what they wouldn’t normally do, or this island just attracts folks who like to have fun. But, no matter, the photo opportunities here are endless. Now, speaking of photos, I’d been a bit worried about the shots for this event because my camera had been acting up lately. Electronics and humidity just aren’t a good combination. In fact, I’d had to go online and ask for suggestions and that was when I’d been told that I could put it in a bag of dry rice overnight. As crazy as that might sound, it worked, thankfully, although it still makes me chuckle that one guy felt a need to emphasize that the rice should be uncooked. How fun. But, no matter, I really wouldn’t have wanted to miss these shots.
After taking a few more balloon pics, and grabbing a Coke, I noticed the guy who’d been the emcee, of sorts, was taking a quick break, which gave me an opportunity for another photo. That’s him on your left. As you can see, his shirt has the Senor Frog’s logo, which was just one of the local businesses that came out to help us celebrate as well as Carlos and Charlie’s, another popular local hangout, who lent us their house band, Divine. And, as luck would have it, it was just about time for them to start. While they were getting set up I continued to walk around snapping pics of the party goers until the heat finally made me take a break.
That break didn’t last long though. Divine started to play and, I have to tell you, they are good! Three guys and a gal started to get into some classic rock and I was really impressed. It was great to have a front row seat when the music is that fun. But, it was when they started to play some Santana that I realized these folks are seriously talented. I will definitely be going to hear them play at Carlos and Charlies soon. I walked over to a friend and mentioned how good I thought they were and she heartily agreed. Then we both acknowledged what a life that must be. To be young, talented, and playing for a rock band on a tropical island. Now, that must be something.
But, as much as I wanted to hear more, it was still time for me to be heading home. The reality was that the heat had caused me to be soaked through and I swear I could almost hear my mini split air conditioner calling my name. But, just before I left, I had the opportunity to take a picture of a darling girl. Not only was she quite pretty, but her face painting looked so good and she was just so proud of it that I had to ask for her photo. She struck the pose you see here. Then I spotted someone walking past with a fresh supply of balloons and I just knew that would be my last shot of the night. It seemed appropriate somehow. All the colors of Mexico had been put together to help us celebrate the 4th of July. Now that makes living here all the more poignant somehow, especially today. Salud!
p.s. “A HUGE thank you to everyone who turned out for the 4th of July party last night! It was great fun to see so many people out having a great time! Thank you so much Eduardo from Punta Langosta for being such a gracious host, Pedro, Deyner and Martha from the Tourism Department, Memo from Sr. Frogs (who deserves a medal for his organization) and all the great local restaurants who came out there & and had the best food & drinks!” (I borrowed this quote from Laura, “head cheerleader” of Cozumel 4 You, and the lucky lady standing with all the handsome men mentioned………you can see them in the photo up on top of this piece)