|Naval Officers, participating in Dia de la Marina|
Exuding confidence in their smartly pressed dress-whites three naval officers relax on the upper deck of the UltraMar ferry.
A flotilla of boats, both public and private, is headed out to Manchones Reef between Cancún and Isla Mujeres. It is June 1st, the Diá de la Marina, a floating remembrance day celebrated with speeches, prayers, and the laying of colourful floral wreaths on the ocean.
The Diá de la Marina was created by the Mexican government on June 1st 1917 in celebration of the first time a Mexican merchant vessel – the Tabasco – departed with the officers and crew composed totally of Mexican born seaman. Before this date, the captains, chief engineers and officers of the Mexican vessels were all foreigners, presumably Spanish born, but foreigners all the same. The Diá de la Marina wasn’t celebrated nationally until June 1st, 1942. That’s when the crews of various ships – torpedoed by German submarines in the Second World War – were honoured.
|Local flotilla headed to Manchones Reef|
The modern Mexican Navy has approximately 56,000 personal plus volunteer reserves. It boasts a total of 189 ships, and 130 aircraft that are used to patrol 11,122 kilometres of coastline. The naval base on Isla Mujeres was established in 1949 with an eye to help protect the mainland, assist with protecting the PeMex oil fields near Campeche if needed, and in later years to intercept Cuban refugees or arrest drug-runners.
The naval officers and crews also respond to any natural disasters, specifically the cleanup after powerful hurricanes such as Gilbert and Wilma. Mexico City is home to the Naval Medical School, while Veracruz has the Aviation School, and the Engineering School. Members of the Navy as well as state police officers, and firefighters are trained for marine search, rescue and diving in Acapulco.
|Laying wreaths on the water|
Our local celebration of the Diá de la Marina was well-attended. The colourful flotilla of pleasure boats, over-loaded with family and friends, jockeyed for prime positions.
Everyone wanted to be close enough to hear the speakers and able to see the flower wreaths being lowered onto the water.
There were a few close calls. Passengers using their hands and feet pushed away a-too-close boat, shouting instructions at the captain in rapid-fire Spanish.
“Get back. You’re too close. Stop!”
|A few boats were too close for comfort|
One young ensign stood proudly at the rail of the UltraMar ferry, smiling at the sight of so many people paying their respects to his colleagues.
For me, his quiet pride was the best part of the experience.
|Proud Naval crew member|