In a whirlwind decision, I stuffed clothes in my bag and headed to Tabasco. It all started late one night when my friend Maggie (from New Hampshire) and Hyramzu (a tabasqueño studying here in Mérida) were sitting in a park eating our favorite galleta ice cream. This past weekend was Carnaval, aka no school until Tuesday. While Mérida is very well known for its weeklong celebration, I was antsy to leave the city and see something different. Out of the blue I asked Maggie if she wanted to fly with me to Monterrey for the weekend. I had already researched this possibility, and knew a round trip plane ticket would only cost 700 pesos (In other words, it would be like traveling from San Francisco to Chicago for $70 roundtrip.). However, Hyramsu quickly invited both of us to his home in Colmalcalco, Tabasco. Since touring with someone who knows the region is always more fun and informative, the decision was easy. Tabasco here we come!
We arrived early Saturday morning after a nine-hour bus ride sprawled out in an almost empty second-class bus (While most people would rather travel in first class, my codo ways would rather save money. The only downside I see is that the bus has no bathroom, but that is canceled out because that means the back row actually has seats perfect for laying down and getting a decent night’s sleep.). From then on, the weekend was a blur moving from one activity to the next. As Comalcalco is known for its chocolate, we went on a chocolate tour, ate an alligator-fish called pejelargato, visited the zoo in Villa Hermosa, saw the Olmecan ruins, and had a fabulous Valentine’s day dinner complete with an entertaining show of Karaoke.
We also spent a lot of time with Hyramzu’s family who was very excited to get to know us. Hyramzu’s father works for Pemex, the petroleum monopoly run by the government in México, and his mother sells anything and everything. Both are kind and inviting. His mom is your stereotypical Mexican mother- always offering too much food and making sure our every need has been attended to. Hyramzu has three other siblings, two of whom still live at home. The whole brigade was very accommodating and excited to talk with us about everything from food to whistling to religion. Being a caballero, Hyramzu (and his family) did not let us pay one penny throughout our whole time in México (This is something I still struggle with. In the U.S., going out to eat with friends almost always implies that everyone pays for their own part. In México, going out to eat almost always implies the gentleman pays, even if it is not an actual date.). The day we left, the family eagerly asked us when we would be coming back. From the moment we arrived, Maggie and I instantly felt integrated into their home and family and cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and kindness.
Despite all the fun activities, the trip definitely reinforced my discovery of how quickly cultures change. While Mérida is one of the most tranquil cities on the planet, Comalcalco is bustling and Villa Hermosa is a congested mess. People in Tabasco drive offensively, or in other words, if a car is coming and I want to make a right turn into their lane, I’m going to step on it and go and assume they are going to stop. Traffic laws, while already are more chaotic in México than in the U.S. appeared to be nonexistent. Another huge difference is the way the people speak to each other. Unlike yucatecans, in Tabasco people tend to drop the s’s in their words and put a lot of emotion into each phrase, giving them a Donald-Duck Italian mobster like accent. Everything is much more passionate and much less formal.
All in all it was a wonderful eye opening experience. The poverty is much more apparent in Tabasco than in Mérida and much harder to avoid. For example while children do sell gum in the streets in Mérida it is not a common sight. In Tabasco, every street corner seems to have a child working to try to make ends meet. However, I do not regret even a little bit missing out on Carnaval in Mérida. Yes, five days of fiesta would have been fun, but the experience I had in Tabasco was unforgettable and irreplaceable.