What a first night! 6 hours of music, dancing, and falling in love.
At first, my host Ezri, Manu and I walked around the center of Veracruz, then focused in on a courtyard with a stage in the middle. It felt like Cuba, or how I like to think Cuba will feel. The salsa was very Cuban inspired – high energy and very Caribbean. After wearing ourselves out dancing, we ended up at a rock bar. When we were passing by, at first, I thought it was a CD playing, but it turned out they were actually THAT good! Metallica, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Doors, System of a Down… some Mexican rock bands – it was all incredible. We stayed there for 4 hours easily. I haven’t head banged so hard in a very long time.
I found 3 ballerinas at the bar. One of them reminded me a lot of a girl I knew 14 years ago, whose name I cannot remember – tiny, beautiful, delicious. All three were cute, very cool and very fun. There was none of that bullshit normally associated with good looking girls, particularly ballerinas. We laughed and talked, though it was hard considering how loud it was and how crappy my Spanish still was at that point. That smile, that tiny, perfectly shaped body, the hair, the eyes… I was smitten. I just need to be sure to keep myself calm. I don’t live here, I have a lot of traveling to do even around Veracruz, she is busy with dance and work… but how I want to see her again, to kiss her… Diana.
Ezri and Manu (two incredibly cool people) finally dragged me home toward sunrise. We spent the rest of the night sharing stories. Manu, who is a musician and a clown who travels around Mexico when not in school and earns his keep by performing on the streets, had plenty to tell. Ezri, a chemical engineer, engulfed us in such a glow of warmth and acceptance, it felt like we had been friends for years.
A few days later I went up to the northern part of Veracruz, around Xalapa, to discover the first of 3 major coffee growing regions of Mexico. In Coatepec I finally found a place in Mexico with some semblance of coffee culture, though still almost entirely lacking in taste. They grow fine beans, and even roast them well, but fail to make a decent cup. Like the incredible art I mentioned before, marred by a lack of curation (museology), the coffee here is only limited at the point of presentation. There is an exception, El Café de Avelino, in Coatepec; so far he is the only exception, but even he falls somewhat short of what I make at home. But it is undeniable that he loves coffee – he crushes the shells with his hands and smells deeply of the beans. He roasts in small batches to taste and examines the coffee to understand its flavor and character before he makes larger batches to sell. He is a true lover and poet of coffee.
I’m sleeping in a bed, a real bed! Even though it is only for a couple of nights, I am relishing every moment! It has been a very long time since I have felt a mattress beneath my increasingly sore back.
On my way to Tlacotalpan from Xalapa I was confronted with a scene I am still struggling to understand: paramedics collecting money, like beggars, from cars on the road because they lack the funding to fix ambulances and buy supplies. Oh Mexico! Is there no limit to your corruption?
Tlacotalpan is the home of the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria in Mexico – one of many excuses for people to get together, drink prodigious amounts of alcohol, and play incredible music. . Because we are in Veracruz, the predominant form of music is Son Jarocho. With fandango dancing, and dozens of guitarists playing simultaneously in the street, in bars, and on stages around the little town, there is a constant rhythm permeating the air. The music has a very particular dance associated with it. It is not like a salsa or any other ballroom dance, rather it is folky, with hard shoes and a box to give the stomping sound greater volume and allow it to become a part of the music. In fact, there is no Son Jarocho without the dance.
Ezri, along with Ida (yet another guest staying with her), met me at the festival. As per Ezri’s modus operandi, Ida turned out to be a wonderful person with whom we got along as if coming to this festival was a tradition of ours.
After 2 days of endless music and dancing, a bonus of hearing Ricardo Delgadillo live, and having all of my things and person drenched by the unceasing rain, I decided to head back to Verazcruz in preparation for Carnaval.
I have now been in Mexico for 4 months – more than half of those days involved music of one kind or another. I have been to more concerts in the last 4 months than in the 3 prior years. It feels so wonderful to have so much music in my life.
In the days preceding Carnaval, instead of resting in preparation for the insanity, I spent the daylight hours wandering in markets and the nights dancing salsa. And then all of a sudden it was upon us. The streets instantly swelled with people, and the smell of beer and sweat permeated the air. What I thought was a lively and colorful city before, managed to become even more so. People from all over Mexico, and the world, began pouring in. Music blasted from every corner, costumes began appearing, and church bells rang ceremoniously all through the day and night. The very first paseo (procession) felt like it would suffice to celebrate the beginning of Lent, but it was only a taste of the wilds to come. The costumes! The pulsating rhythms of hundreds of drums, the brass crashing of horns… feathers and beads and paint and glittering sweat. Many of us could not be contained in the stands and we made our way down, over the railing and into the moving midst of frenzy. We played and danced and sang, we made love with our eyes, and demonstrated our prowess with our hips. I can’t count the amount of beautiful women with whom I danced, and with whom I could have easily continued the night – their hunger and lust unmasked in this masquerade. Their luscious, jet black hair, full, moist lips, curves that artists dream of painting, and shiny caramel skin… and then as suddenly as it began, I found myself with my two friends squeezed onto the back of my steed, riding home in the cool of the morning.
At the end it was the company of Ida and Ezri that I preferred. Though we had known each other for about a week, it felt as though we had long since been friends. We laughed, and cooked, and danced, and always had the most wonderful time together. So much so, that when I was getting ready to leave the heat of Veracruz for the cool of the mountains in Oaxaca, I surprised myself by asking Ida to join me. I had been alone for so long, and I was finally used to it – I finally understood myself and what it was like to be alone, but there was something that drew me to her Latin soul encapsulated in the antithesis of a Latina body – white skin like marble, hair the color of a sunflower, and the eyes of a Finnish, cloudless summer sky. I could not take her (yet) on Georgia as she was fully packed, but we agreed to meet in the first city in Oaxaca – her going by bus, and I on my trusty KLR.
What followed was a month of pleasant comradery with her and two other bikers that joined us, debilitating infections, idyllic virgin beaches, breathtaking landscapes and endless days of off-roading.