Living in Yucatán has infused my life in an indescribable way. Here, I have the privilege of having the sea just minutes from home, and since I was very little, it has been a part of me. I remember the days when I would come home looking like a cooked shrimp (sunburned red); I’d take a bath to get rid of the salty water, my mom would cover me in moisturizing cream, and then I would go to bed a happy girl, having spent the day making figures in the sand, and collecting pretty seashells.
Being a Yucateco means loving the beach in all its forms, since it is so versatile that it adapts to each one of us. Even if you don’t like swimming, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy. You’ll find people who only go to the beach to savor their favorite dish there, such as tasty shrimp, delicious octopus or a traditional fried fish. There are also those who choose to spend entire seasons on the beach; in my family’s case, it was very common to rent houses for weeks to enjoy the holidays.
As for sports and other water activities, a good number of Yucatecos enjoy sailing, wind and kitesurfing, or water skiing; others, taking a boat or jet ski ride; the options are endless.
The sea means different things to different people, but, while some of us may be hesitant to admit it, we all love living near it. Let’s be honest, who in Yucatán hasn’t organized a spur-of-the-moment day trip? Throwing towels, bathing suits, and homemade sandwiches in a beach bag, because that is everything a good Yucateco needs. And not to mention during vacation season, when we know we’ll bump into half the city at the beach, and we’ll only have a square foot of sand per person. Even then, you can’t say no to a beach day.
How grateful we should be to know that all it takes is a bus to get to our favorite beach (and yes, each family has their favorite little corner of the Yucatecan coast). To arrive and meet its residents, who accommodate us, and temporarily make us part of their daily lives: shopkeepers, bakers, Merengueros, restaurant owners, fishermen and many other smiling faces that share their space with us.
Along the entire coast, you will find an endless number of cooperatives (small worker collective associations) of fishermen and boatmen who have organized themselves to become tourist guides, and who not only provide tours to visitors, but have taken it upon themselves to ensure the sustainable conservation of the places where they live. They are the best companions you could wish for on your tours, not only because they know every corner of their land like the back of their hand, but also because it is their land, the land of their parents, and the land of their children; in every conversation you have with them, you’ll see how easy it is for them to convey their love for their home, and with good reason.
I cannot fail to mention what we all, visitors and residents, have in common. That feeling you get watching the sea on a cloudy day, when the breeze is cooler than usual and the waves are raging, or, on the contrary, the sea becomes flat “like a plate”, giving us a sensation of peace in the midst of the storm; when you enjoy a night by the sea, listening to the sound of the waves and contemplating the stars, whether in the company of friends, family or your partner; or just a sunset, in every shade of yellow, pink, orange, and purple that you can possibly imagine.
For us Yucatecos, living here has made a part of our heart belong to the sea; the memories formed from our childhood to our adult life are priceless.
So, dear reader, if you are visiting our lands, give yourself the time to visit one of our wonderful beaches, which, as you have read, have many ways to captivate you. Talk to its residents and embark on the adventures that its cooperatives offer. And if you live here, continue to explore them, and keep letting yourself be charmed by everything they have to offer.
By Arianne Osalde
Yucatecan marketeer with more dreams than what’s healthy to have. Loving every corner of my beloved Yucatán, but waiting each December to enjoy the “heladez” (and presents, really).
Photography by Marilu Gómez, and Cassie Pearse for use in Yucatán Today.
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