I want to tell you a story: When I am at my dad’s house, I like to watch him hang-up his hammock after he’s had a siesta. When he gets up, with great agility, he unhooks one side and with one hand, hangs it around his forearm; with a few turns, he wraps it around like a rope, and then circles the free end around it, finally pulling it through the middle. He pulls on the loose end, and then hangs the hammock up on the hook on the wall. He does all this in a matter of seconds. The hammock stays put, an attractive and functional ball that keeps the space in order in a way that would make Marie Kondo jealous.
I have seen my father go through these steps many, many times and I must admit that I still can’t copy him – it just doesn’t work for me. And, boy, have I tried. I have even watched all kinds of tutorials on the internet, explaining the simple steps to do this simple task, and I still can’t do it.
With my clumsiness, I feel like a traitor to my Yucatecan heritage: the art of hanging up a hammock is something that should be innate to all residents of the Península and taught from generation to generation, from father to son: it is a life skill that is also a lesson in order and simplicity, a discipline that is both useful and lovely.
Especially during the hot and humid afternoons of the Península, there is nothing more refreshing than settling into a hammock and slightly pushing your foot against the wall to rock yourself into a gentle snooze when your eyes close shut. Let’s not forget that this crescent shaped half-moon of sleep, as a poet once put it, is an essential piece of furniture in any self-respecting Yucatecan home.
Back at my father’s house, for example, each room, except the dining room and kitchen, have at least two hammock hooks. There are at least a dozen in my dad’s home. Decorative and useful at the same time, like the veins in Gothic cathedrals, hammock hooks serve a purpose and are an indispensable part of Yucatecan furnishings. A good hammock hook is simple and modest: it’s there without being seen, kind of invisible, but when you don’t have one, you definitely feel its absence. They usually look like a metal shell embedded into the wall, with two holes meant to hold the hook from where you’ll hang the hammock.
The most common hammock hooks are made of metal, either stainless steel or an aluminum alloy; the hook where the hammock is actually hung is made of the same material, although there are decorative ones made of hard wood, embedded into the wall. The most traditional ones are known as “Eses” (eh-says) as they are shaped like the letter “S.” However, they can also be shaped like crosses or fishing hooks; more modern, elegant T-shaped versions are now becoming the norm for newer homes.
Common in the Caribbean, the hammock is a large industry and tradition in Yucatán. There are various sizes that range from twin or full to king-size and are made from cotton or synthetic fibers; woven by hand or in series; simple, or so elaborate they look like they were created by a designer. There is even a National Hammock Day: July 22.
While I await the arrival of this important date, I will continue to practice how to take down, fold, and hang up a hammock. I refuse to believe that at my age I still can’t do it as tradition dictates.
By Alberto Chuc
I like to travel through books and in the real world, activities that I combine whenever I can.
Photography by Alberto Chuc for use in Yucatán Today.
Esta entrada también está disponible en: ES