Christmas in Manzanillo

The fridge groans under the weight of anticipation. Bottles of fine wine, imported cheeses, dark rich coffee beans, homemade bread and peanut butter from Ajijic. Baskets of berries from a roadside vendor, fresh papaya, pina miel (honey pineapple), juicy yellow watermelon, tiny sweet limes and a 2 lb. bag of Santiago Bay sea salt. Okay, maybe not from the local del mar but it sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Perched precariously on the half sack of Indio is the hecho a mano pineapple cheesecake I made yesterday, choosing that particular online recipe for it’s promise of not requiring an oven. We did not eat the luscious looking dulce for our Christmas dinner last night, having sated ourselves on goat cheese and basil stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto, mushroom risotto and broccoli souffle (which DID require on oven, but as it was early evening, the heat of the day had retreated from the kitchen, thank god).

Today is Boxing Day and the mexican families will start arriving to Manzanillo en masse, having celebrated Navidad in time-honoured tradition with their large boistrous families. Some will alight with staff and bodyguards in tow, the men and women slim and fit, their homes on the beach polished and prepped in anticipation of their arrival. Some will roll in, 10 to a carload, the ubiquitous white plastic chairs in tow, coolers full of Coca Cola, beer and their favorite home cooked foods. And some will come for the day, taking over the Boquitas at the end of the bay. A puebla unto itself, the Boquitas are a 1/2 mile of thatched roof palapas filled to the brim with icy cold margaritas, cervezas, coconut frappes, ceviche and aquachile; barbecued huachinango, flayed open with roasted chiles and garlic; camarones served cold, hot or diablo; frijoles in homemade tortillas fried crisp and topped will cool thick crema.

Weaving in and out of the sea of humanity are the roving musicians of questionable talent but unquestionable heart, the Pan man whose basket full of sweet rolls, cakes and cookies has him continually surrounded by children, and of course the sellers draped with hammocks, dresses, sea shells, gourds and jewellry, all plying their wares. Out front on the slip of playa where the tables end and the ocean starts, you encounter the cart vendors, selling everything from homemade ice cream, fresh papaya and mango dusted with chile and lime, piles of unshucked oysters nestled on fast melting ice, bags of salty snacks drowned with piquante Valentina’s, the local ‘ketchup’. Finally there are my favorite vendors. The carts piled high with brightly coloured beach toys, a mobile plastic zoo if you will. Each cart appears to have a life of its own as it moves slowly down the sand, its proprietor hidden from view inside the menagerie. My favorite is the elephante but they are a rare beast so I may have to settle for the dolphin.

On a Christmas spent away from family and friends, it is a comfort to be surrounded by vibrancy such as this. I love my husband, I love my dog, and I truly love this place. I am also poignantly aware of the absence of my own large boistrous ‘family’ and this year, more than any other, I yearn for their individual and collective spirits. Guess the pineapple cheesecake will have to suffice. Along with a walk on the beach, a swim in the ocean, and the love of my own little family right here. Feliz Navidad y muchas besos y abrazos mi familia. Te quiero todos!

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