Tis the season that Jesus died, or rose from the dead, I’m not quite sure. Either way many many years later a lot of Mexicans and tourists decided to celebrate Semana Santa (Easter) by hitting the beaches of Playa del Carmen.
Far from the quiet sun baked little-ish town we visited last year, Playa has become a hive of activity. The main drag of fifth avenue is now chock a block of pasty skinned, lobster red or handbag brown tourists. They stumble hungrily between food stalls and merchandise vendors, eyes flicking left and right behind designer sunglasses in search of the perfect memento from their holiday.
Like hungry sharks the local vendors line the avenue, ready for action beneath shop awnings which shade them from the gloriously bright day. They lean out from their awnings with well baited lines, waiting for a nibble so they can reel you in. Competition is fierce as they try and out do each other in an attempt to catch the best punter.
“Hey Honeymooners, you look so sweet.”
“Everything for a dollar.”
“Everything is free for you.”
Big grins stretch across the rainbow faces of catchers and catchees as ever inventive cat calls are thrown from one vendor to the next. It’s fun for awhile, and I think fun for the more transient visitors, but if you’re living here you learn pretty quickly to stick to first avenue. A quieter path closer to the beach and one block away from the concentrated turmoil that is fifth avenue, away from the hard selling golden tongues and proffered handshakes of the local vendors.
The craziness during Semana Santa / Easter does not end on the busy streets, but carries itself down onto the white sandy beaches. As you walk down a road which leads directly onto the sand, small restaurants have set up their sound systems in an attempt to let you know they are there. Loud dance music bangs out a tune while scantily clad women hand out fliers with a smile permanently etched across their young skinny faces. It seems like the underlying commercialism which permeates a lot of Playa del Carmen is being brought to the fore. The potential “Cancunism” that this place holds suddenly becomes glaringly apparent.
I kick my flip flops off and beneath my own designer sunnies take in the turmoil that is our local beach when the holidays hit. Sun loungers spread almost down to the waterline are full of barely clothed people. Fat or thin, white or brown. The beach has no restrictions on who can lounge out on its white shore. Girls wearing little more than floss soak up the sun trying not to miss the tiniest patch of skin. Men flex while they walk or try to keep their man boobs in check as they bound along the beach front, staring without staring.
As far as the eye can see, people tan. Thousands of holiday makers have found their way to the beaches of Playa del Carmen. A good mix of locals and tourists make the most of this beautiful coastline and the twenty eight degree cloud free day. Stages have been set up for what I assume will be night time raves on the beach, and even now various beach side restaurants are playing nameless beats for the sun worshipers lying beneath their rented loungers.
It is a very different place at this time of year. Not necessarily bad, just different. It has an air of excitement to it, not an excitement I am likely to join in with as my raving days are well and truly behind me, but you can feel the joy and fun this crowd of holiday makers are trying to soak up. It is very different for most than it is for us. We live here now, this is our life. We could go to the beach every day, wander the streets aimlessly without time as a factor.
For these people bobbing their heads to the music and exposing huge amounts of flesh to their peers, this is a fairly rare event. Time off to have fun and leave their cares behind. A chance to let loose, to lie on the beach, swim in the sea, eat at restaurants every night, and buy memories from the local vendors which seem essential when you’re on holiday, but will likely end up at the bottom of a box in the back of the cupboard when they get home.
But why not? Jesus died/rose/ate chocolate eggs but once a year. So go out and enjoy it. Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus for giving us Semana Santa / Easter.