In Mexico, off the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula is an island. The island is surrounded by
coral reefs filled with life. Ferry boats pass over the reefs, making half-hour runs to and from the
mainland. Dive boats anchor near the coral itself, and divers bob around among the eels, fish, and
lobsters. Cruise ships come in around the reef, and drag anchor through dead reef. The dock that
accommodates them occupies space that used to be one of the oldest surrounding reefs. If it’s
right or wrong, it’s been done, and people pay lots of money to ride on the big luxury liners.
The large dock juts out toward the mainland, and the surf there is calm. The beach is not.
Small children weave in and out of crowds of tourists, clutching cheap bead necklaces, and crying
out the price for their wares. The boardwalk is full of people with suitcases, people with guides
and maps, people with cameras. Taxis wait for any minute signal to rush these people to their
destinations. On the other side of the street are expensive boutiques owned by foreigners. Then
there are the nightclubs, “as seen on MTV,” and the fancy restaurants. The cruise ship passengers
are urged not to stray from the main drag, and most don’t. They wear neon bracelets identifying
them as belonging to the ships. Most store owners have special prices for cruise passengers.
That’s why most things don’t come with price tags on them.
Behind Main Street, the true San Miguel lives. The natives’ stores and restaurants, (much
better than the expensive ones), family-owned hotels and car rental places. The store owners tell
women how pretty they are, to lure them into their stores. Ladies, if you’re feeling insecure, just
take a stroll down Cozumel’s back streets. Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll leave feeling
like a princess.
The sounds and smells of the restaurants are wonderful, especially right before sunset.
Reggae music plays at a dull roar from one bar and grill. The Crab Shack pumps out Calypso,
and at Prima’s, (funny how the best Italian food in the world is served in Mexico), they always
plays something that sounds both classical and exotic at the same time. Then, if you walk past La
Chosa, you can hear the grill sizzling as they are fry up lobster tails, bacon, steak, and fish, that,
more often than not, end up on the same plate. All the eateries are open-air, so you can hear the
mummer of conversation, the clatter of plates, and someone is always laughing.
At the hotel Las Plaza Las Glorias, on the main drag, but down from the really snooty
places, everyone is invited to happy hour. Everyone watches the red sun sink at an alarming rate,
and count the days they have left in paradise. At the precise moment that the last sliver of sun
drops below water, a band strikes up and sings, “Cozumel,” a song about the beauty of the island.
Then everyone drinks huge margaritas and daiquiris and then either stumbles to their hotel rooms
or to Carlos and Charle’s, the trendy and crazy dance club.
Around two or three in the morning, the karioke clubs finally lose their hard core partiers,
and the music stops, and the owners clean the places. The tourists go to the hotels or the ships,
and in the morning, there are more people with suitcases on the sidewalks, some leaving, some,
paper-white, just arriving. The stores are doing a healthy trade by ten in the morning, although no
one bothers to keep track of the time on the island.