Puerto San Carlos

by Leslie Godfrey in

We made our great escape from Sonrisa around noon and headed back to shore.  We ate lunch at Mare Y Arena’s Restaurant.  We order the house specialty of clams, baked in their shell with poblano pepper, tomatoes, onions, bacon, cheddar cheese and a creamy mayonnaise sauce with chipotle pepper and mustard.  We spoon this tasty concoction out onto tortilla chips and enjoy.  

Once we are full, we venture into the little town beyond.  It appears that the major industry of this town is fishing and tourism.  Each year, enormous grey whales migrate from Alaska, southward and end here in Magdalena Bay.  So, at Puerto San Carlos, there are many Pangas ready to take you out to see the whales.  Unfortunately for us, the whales have already left here to swim back north.  We have missed all the tourist action, and the streets of Puerto San Carlos are filled only with locals going about their business.

Once again, everyone is friendly, waving and greeting us warmly.  The dogs in the street snooze or explore, but do not bother us.  We walk all the way down main street, paved, and peek down all the cross streets that are only a fine, hard packed sand.  We stop at a grocery store and buy three avocados, cilantro, a bag of limes and six poblano peppers for $1.00.  

We hear loud music coming from a block over, and we think it might be live music so we venture off to go find it.  Instead, we find a young boy about age 10, standing on a make shift tree swing, with his big black dog tied up next to him, blaring a very large stereo system out of an open air three wall cinderblock shack.  He sees us walk down the street, jumps off the swing and goes inside the shack.  There are no adults around, it doesn’t seem like a business of any kind.  I am curious what that is all about.

We get off the paved street and walk down sand streets.  We meet a very cute little puppy, we see fishermen cleaning fish in their front yard, men playing pool on a tiny pool table, men working on cars or other equipment. Children are all dressed in school uniforms, and walk through town heading to wherever children spend their afternoons here.  They all turn to look at us, some laugh.  “Hello!”  a group of boys gathered around a table next to a shack call out.  We smile, wave and say “Hello.” We pass a Great-grandmother, grandmother, mother in a front yards, talking with each other while a little boy played with his soccer ball.  On their own, the buildings with bars, fences, and razor wire create a severe facade.  When you add the friendly people, the infrastructure seems out of place.  Are they protecting this fluffy little guy from us, or are they protecting us from him?

I take pictures of homes that seem to express the lives of the people who live inside.  One of my favorite photos is of a home with a fence made of fishing nets.  There are pots of plants in the yard, this home contains a person who is a gardener.  I can understand these people; I can imagine decorating my home in this way.  But, I have a hard time raising my camera lens to the wood and plastic shacks covered with blankets and clothes.  I am saddened, confused, and embarrassed to think that a member of the human race is living inside this dwelling. 

I am standing on a sidewalk that bucks with ledges, holes and two foot tall curbs, looking at a series of homes when the tightly wound knot of my self identity comes loose.  I know who I am at home; the way I interact with that world is familiar.  Not only is this place different, but I am different while in it.  This trip has started in earnest, as this is why I left home.