It is the start of our second full year here on the island of Punta Pájaros. We’ve been back on the island for two months now, and we are once again completely immersed. It is our third tour of duty. It seems nothing exists beyond our mini island nation. At this moment there are fifty-two employees dwelling on this narrow expanse of jungle and sand; it falls to us to see that their needs are met and their responsibilities fulfilled.
I know all of their stories, am consumed by them. My dreams are filled with their faces. No need to watch the soap operas that are so popular in this culture. We have our own: marital woes, love affairs and betrayals, births and deaths, health concerns, mechanical mishaps, natural phenomena, wildlife encounters.
I would like to think that we have created a new extended family here on the island. We all live together, sweat together, celebrate together, and, on occaison, mourn together. I can honestly say these are some of the most fun-loving, honest, humble people that I have ever had the priveledge to know.
This Yucatan culture is at once new and familiar to me. Coming from New Mexico, the so-called ‘mañana land’, the at once laid back and good-natured attitude so prevalent here is reminiscent of home.
There is a famous quote by New Mexico’s 97th Governor Lew Wallace about my fair home state that would hold true here in the Yucatan as well: “All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere, fail in New Mexico”. This is a tough place to do business, to get things done. Is it the heat that paralyzes progress, or the beauty? Or is it simply a fact of cultural disposition?
To my own mind we have made great advances over the last year. Though every step seems to have been mired in mud, we have achieved progress. We didn’t listen when we were told, “No hay” (there is none), or ‘Tranquilos, no pasa nada” (chill out, everything’s ok). We have insisted upon raising the bar. We insisted, and we insisted again, and in the end, we advanced a good distance in the right direction.
As much of a struggle as it may be to make strides, it is a wonderful place- the best- to enjoy life. Laughter comes easily, and affection more easily still. No one goes by their real names, rather nick names that describe their style: Perico (the parrot, chatterbox) Oso (the bear, big and round) Torito (the little bull, strong as an ox) Caballo, (the horse, deafening snores by night, incredible work ethic by day). The list goes on and on.
A few of the faces of Punta Pájaros….hover over the photos to see their names (and nicknames)