Saturday, September 13, 2008

Playa de Los Muertos

Thanks to Nic's aural injury and Jen and I growing weary of our own brand of surfing, we spent some time exploring a neighboring beach to the south of Sayulita. We found directions online and also got some pointers from our neighbors on how to get there.

However, that didn't seem to squelch our touristic ability to get lost. Well, lost is probably a pretty strong word considering the Pacific Ocean is always within walking, and to a lesser extent hearing distance. Along the way we got to see a bit of the underbelly of Sayulita. Apparently all the homes aren't has plush and comfy as the one we are renting. In fact, many don't even have walls. We were able to witness a second floor kitchen conversation between a mother and child due to the lack of a western wall on their building. This definitely caught my eye, and if not for already feeling like I was intruding on their privacy by just walking on the road, I opted to not raise my camera.

In the end we found that our wrong turn simply amounted to walking two to three times the distance necessary to arrive at our destination. Somehow after multiple forks in the road we managed to take a path leading directly to Playa de Los Muertos or Beach of the Dead. If that doesn't sound like a good vacation spot then I don't know what is! This beach earns it's name by the cemetery that lies northeast of it. One thing Jen pointed out on our lengthy bus ride from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita was the number and condition of the cemeteries along the way. She mentioned that it looked that more effort has gone into housing the dead than the living. However, it's fair to say that a number of the cemeteries aren't in that great of shape.

The cemetery itself is nestled into the hillside in it's own private section of jungle. This provides for a beautiful setting for some of the sites, but at the same time the growth and neglect gave me concern for the others. Between the erosion from the extremely heavy rains and the lack of growth control it would not have surprised me to see a limb or two unearthed. While I was careful where I placed my feet as I walked through a cemetery which clearly did not lay out "plots" for its inhabitants, I noticed a lot of trash strewn about. Along with the trash were a lot of weathered decorations and underwater candles. The cemetery definitely felt lonely as if its been a good while since anyone has come by.

After a little bit of research the unkempt feel of the cemetery could very well be the remnants of last year's Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In Mexico, the first and second day of November mark days of remembrance and celebration of the lives of those who have passed on. During this time, the family members left behind decorate the graves of their loved ones. Since it's September, that means 10 months have passed since the last celebration. You can imagine what 10 months in the jungle will do to a wreath or bouquet of flowers. Perhaps this is why many of the flowers left are artificial. In some cases, altars to the deceased are created in their former homes and are adorned with candles, skulls made of sugar, and for some their favorite food or drink. They are also known to have fresh water to refresh the weary soul. This could explain the jugs of what we assumed to be water on some of the graves in the cemetery. While most in Mexico commemorate the day of the dead, there are customs for honoring the deceased that are highly localized. I don't imagine we could fully understand everything about this cemetery without conversing with a local familiar with it.

Unlike the maintenance of the cemetery, much care has gone into the creation of some of the grave sites. The headstones are typically ornate and embellished with cherubic statues. Most every grave site is adorned with a crucifix. Statues of Mary can also be found and they take the form of the Mexican rendering of her likeness that you are likely familiar with.

On the other side of the cemetery lies a secluded beach which is excellent for swimming. Rock formations jutting out on both ends of the beach create a protected cove and a sense of privacy for the handful of people that are willing to abandon the glorious surfing to the north. We spent some time floating in the 80 degree water (don't worry, Nic obeyed his doctor and kept his head above water) and appreciating the new scenery in the much calmer waves. This also gave us a chance to hone our synchronized swimming routines and practice our Ariel impressions.

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