This past weekend our family did some local sight seeing and visited a beautiful area next to one of the nearby lagoons – specifically, Laguna del Carpintero, or Carpenter’s Lagoon in English. This lagoon has a busy 4-lane highway running along side it – but for a few hours every Sunday morning the road is blocked, leaving a nice big paved (if still bumpy and crack-ridden) path for joggers, bicyclers – and my personal favorite: rollerbladers. Lots of families walking about; kids laughing and running amok; folks walking their dogs (on leashes and without). One of our main objectives of living in Mexico is to try and travel and see and experience as much as we can, taking advantage of having our home base here. It’s been a little over three months and unfortunately we haven’t seen much yet, but maybe I’m being too hard on us. What with unpacking, setting up house, trying to find a routine with work and school – and also fitting in down-time, we just haven’t traveled or seen much as of yet. I’ll admit that we’ve also been waiting on the weather to cool off a bit before we tackle any outdoor adventures – so out we went this morning.
Since I hate crowds, for me going exploring on Sunday mornings is the perfect time, because as I understand it, most of the populace here are in church – specifically, Catholic church. Actually, Catholicism is the dominant religion in Mexico, with about 82.7% of the population being Catholic as of 2010 (according to Wikipedia). Our family isn’t too religious which is why on a Sunday morning we’re out enjoying the sights, weather and family time together rather than sitting in church… but you know what? I honestly think that enjoying life with family, in and of itself, is a form of worship and I betcha the big guy upstairs agrees with me… but, boy-o-boy the subject of religion is not something that this blog will ever touch upon. But I will say, before putting that subject away completely, that we’ve seen some really beautiful churches here. I bet you could plan an amazing travel event simply visiting one amazingly beautiful church after another through the entire country.
Our port-city of Tampico is along the Eastern side of Mexico, along the Gulf of Mexico, and is almost completely surrounded by rivers, swampy lands and lagoons. Here’s an interesting quick history lesson about Tampico via Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.(which is a lot more reliable than Wikipedia): “The city grew around a monastery founded on the ruins of an Aztec village by a Franciscan friar about 1532. Destroyed by pirates in 1683, it was not reoccupied until 1823, when Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna ordered that the site be settled. In 1829 a Spanish force was defeated at Tampico by Santa Anna. It was occupied for a short time by U.S. forces during the Mexican War (1846–48) and also in 1862 by the French.” So down-playing the violence obvious in this brief history lesson (yes, there will be a test at the end of this blog): Aztecs and pirates – how cool is that?!
Back to our Sunday morning – via research online I can’t figure out just how many lagoons are around us, but we really enjoyed the Laguna del Carpintero. If you come and visit us we’ll be happy to take you there (on a Sunday morning, of course). And, although we didn’t see any Aztecs or pirates, I’ll share some things that we did see.
Just like home, we saw lots of families out and about, playing and laughing and running and eating. It turns out that it doesn’t matter what language you speak: children laughing and the hum of background conversations sounds exactly the same. The smiles were the same, too. People walking hand in hand, some jogging, some doing that ridiculous fast walk with their hips swaying back and forth and pumping their arms furiously (you look silly doing that no matter what your ethnicity is). Games with balls, jump rope and other toys could be seen, some taking advantage of the big open road that was available for the morning. And, unfortunately, here too there are parents staring at their electronic devices in their hands rather than giving any attention to their children (the irony here is that while I’ve been typing this blog my littlest hija keeps asking me to play a game… but I just told her I’m busy… and what the heck? We just spent ALL morning together – doesn’t that earn me some time to myself?).
Unlike home – we had to pay to use the public baño – 5 pesos to be exact. That was interesting, and I have to wonder where that money goes as it apparently does not go to the up-keep of the facilities.
Here’s a photo of another sight we saw – a small mobile carnival-ride park. It seemed really run down – not sure if you’ll be able to see that in this photo. No offense to any carnie-people who may read my blog, but we don’t let our kids ride these mini colorful death-traps in the U.S., let alone let them do so in a country whose safety-practices could use some improvements. We also passed an area that looked to be a high-ropes course with a zip line attachment (a three-story chain-link fence monstrosity with wooden bridges, tire swings and rope climbing walls). There was no one on it so I’m not sure if it’s open to the public or not. Hubby and I just mentally added that as yet another item our children will not be trying – although I’m pretty sure our youngest hija would totally be up for it.
Speaking of death-traps and sights we aren’t used to while strolling through the park back home, another common sight (at least by the lagoons) here are crocodiles. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised what with the heat and the swamps and the water – but as the photo at the beginning of my blog cautions – they are a common sight at the lagoons – and they are big suckers, too! Like baby-Godzilla sized, although to cut back on the exaggeration a bit, the ones we saw today were about 5 feet long and seemed nice and plump, as in, well fed plump. There is a four-foot fence that runs between the water and the sidewalk – but this fence, like lots of other things around here, looked like it could use some repairs. And thanks to our over-active imaginations, we couldn’t help but wonder if some of the places where it looked like the fence had been damaged or torn (from the water side!) was maybe these baby-Godzilla’s trying to bust through. And remember that zip line I mentioned? It runs right over this crocodile-infested water – I am not exaggerating. Which, come to think of it, might explain why these crocs looked so well fed… ? Anyway, do you know what the difference is between an alligator and a crocodile? I don’t but FYI: that’s also going to be on the test later…
Also along this stretch of waterway was an iguana enclosure – filled with lots of iguanas with long spikes and longer claws, which, in my opinion are just mini-crocodiles. We didn’t linger here much but it was interesting to come across and see, be it in kind of a yucky-don’t-want-to- come-across-one-of-these-in-the-wild ways.
Speaking of the crocodile-dented fencing – along one stretch of it near the water was about a 20-foot stretch covered in locks. Around the world, cities from Moscow to Rome are filled with fences, bridges, and poles adorned with padlocks. These “Love padlocks (also known as Love Locks)” are a custom by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love. It was sweet to come by this custom here.
The weather that morning in Tampico was pretty much perfect. Azul filled sky with little to no clouds, the lagoon’s calm water sparkling and shimmering in the sol, a nice cool breeze and very little humidity.
As much as we continue to miss the U.S., it’s mornings like this one that reminds us why we are here in this beautiful country, so far from home. We’ll look out for pirates and crocodiles, remember to always have money on hand for the bathroom, and maybe add a love lock of our own down by the lagoon. One beautiful morning like this out with family, exploring new sights and sounds is worth hours and hours of stress-filled driving conditions, epic cockroach chases and exhausting language lessons.
TEST TIME: the first person to email me the correct answers to this test will receive a wind-up chicken the next time I see you in person (no kidding: these chickens are very popular with the street sellers here – you know you want one):
1. What’s the name of the lagoon we visited?
2. What year was Tampico founded?
3. Per the: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System – who is more likely to be hurt on carnie rides: girls or boys?
4. What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
5. What squishy creature did hubby step on about two months ago?