Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

A Tale of Two Islands Part one: Just Being a Kid on Isla Mujeres Mexico

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Same family another generation – enjoying being a kid.

The experiences of just being a kid can be very different depending on where you live, or as it turns out the experiences can be very similar. 

Our Isla Mujeres friend, Freddy Medina has many good memories from growing up on Isla in the 1970’s.  

Freddy’s papa, Lucio Medina, built a strong concrete house on the west side of the island near the middle-school where he was employed as a teacher.  The house is located just off Rueda Medina, across the street from the school. When Freddy was about five or six years old he remembers attending a wedding in centro at the Catholic church with his mom and dad. After the wedding he became separated from his parents in the large boisterous crowd of people gathered to congratulate the bride and groom.  Being the only boy in the family of several girls, Freddy fancied himself as a brave little man.  He set off walking home.  It was around nine-thirty at night, the only existing road was lit with street lights that worked – infrequently.  He started out confidently, but by the time he was half way there he was feeling scared and lonely on the spooky, dark streets.
  

120 Kg Wasa caught by a family member – child is not Freddy

Thankfully for Freddy, the passenger bus was making its last run of the night south towards the scant number of houses in the little colonia.  He ran out into the street waving his arms and yelling for the driver to stop.  The driver, a good friend of Freddy’s papa, told him to get on the bus, and then he drove him straight home, knocking on the door and delivering the wayward youngster to his frantic family.  Papa arrived a few minutes later, having been out searching for his son.  Freddy said that was the only time he remembers getting spanked with a belt.  His papa was angry, and afraid for his son’s safety.  

Freddy’s father unfortunately passed away at the very young age of thirty-five. The family then moved downtown, living in a house owned by his auntie, where the present-day Fayne’s Bar is located.  Eventually they moved to a house on Matamoros where his mom and step-dad still live.  He has a very vivid memory of when his kindergarten teacher walked the class from their downtown school to Playa Norte (north beach).  He remembers it being a very long walk.  And then he smiled and added: “It was about three or four blocks, but that was a long way for a little kid.  I remember walking through the thick green bushes, and past the tall palm trees to the beach.  White sand. Turquoise water.  Fluffy clouds.  So beautiful.”


Sharks caught by fishermen – 1980’s 


In the early 1970’s island life was very simple.  Electronic games, cellphones, and personal computers did not exist.  Cameras and televisions were scarce. The television programs that were available were shown in black and white. The boring programming consisted of cooking shows, or politicians talking, so kids invented games to amuse themselves.  Freddy enjoyed the company of his many cousins; a number of them were as adventurous and mischievous as he was.  They had swimming contests, racing from the beach around a boat anchored thirty meters off-shore, and back to the beach.  Every week the boys tested themselves to see if they were ready to swim the longer circuit around the second boat, anchored fifty meters away and back to the beach.  In the evenings a group of kids would sit on the anchored boats, fishing with hand lines, discussing really important kid-stuff late into the warm tropical nights.

Close in age, cousins Rafael, Tino and Freddy found a number of ways to amuse themselves.  One of their best inventions was to create boats from the thick foam packing discarded when a new outboard motor was uncrated.  They jammed five or six kids into the foam ship and bounced around the bay until the foam broke into small pieces.  The smaller pieces were then carefully collected and the boys would spend the next two or three weeks creating toy sailboats complete with masts, sails, rigging, and keels.  When they tested the seaworthiness of their creations, the boats would either be a failure requiring additional engineering modifications, or a amazing success, sailing away on the ocean never to be seen again. 

Freddy with his beautiful mom, and five gorgeous sisters.

Nearby, Remigio, the owner of a tiny tienda created light weight kites from a combination of paper and coconut fronds.  Available in a variety of colours the kites, or papalotes, cost one peso each.  Perpetually short of cash, Freddy and his cousins decided that instead of paying the one peso, they would create their own aerial toys.  Eventually as they gained experience the papalotes grew in size, becoming more elaborate and larger.  With the addition of a razor blade attached to the tail, the boys created a fighting kite that could battle for supremacy of the sky over their stretch of the beach.  A half-buried wooden boat served as the launch site for the fighting kites, with the losers crashing ignominiously into the surf.

This was Cancun in 1970 – imagine how rustic Isla was then.

With the success of these aerial fighting machines, Freddy’s uncles decided to make even larger papalotes.  They were constructed from the heavy paper sacks discarded by the tortilla bakery.  When full, the sacks contained about forty-five kilos of corn flour.  With strong wooden ribs, and a rope to hold the kite the men waited until the stiff winds arrived in the spring to launch their creations.  Each kite required two or three men, or in the case of the younger crowd up to ten little kids to hold the ropes.  Even then the winds would occasionally pull the kids squealing with laughter towards the ocean.

And to make money to pay for their supplies Freddy and his cousins created a business – of sorts.  The island streets at that time were paved with packed sand, but at the intersection of Matamoros and Medina, the sand was surprizingly soft.  Suspiciously soft.  A handful of the cousins would casually perch on either side of the street, waiting up to thirty minutes for the rare vehicle to appear.  When the vehicle stopped at the stop sign, be it the soft drink truck, or the snack delivery van, or a tourist’s vehicle the soft sand would trap the front wheels.  One of the older boys would run up to the driver cheerfully offering assistance, telling the driver to remain in the vehicle and to wait for his instructions.  

Yadira and Freddy – at a costume party

Once the front-man had negotiated the price, every kid would jump to their assigned task; removing sand from around the front wheels, or stuffing rocks or pieces of wood into the holes to help with traction.  Next all the kids would congregate at the back and push the vehicle out.  As a precaution a large rock or piece of wood was placed, beforehand, directly in the path of the vehicle to ensure that the driver would not leave without paying for the rescue service. 

There is a history of pirates such as LaFitte, and Mundaca residing on Isla.  It would seem that the boys paid particularly close attention to this part of the island history!


To be continued next week …….with memories of Canadian friends who grew up in the 1970’s on Bowen Island BC, Canda.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

I’m sorry about the lack of photos ….. but well, cameras were very scarce!  
All of the older photos are from various family members’ collections.  The last photo of Freddy and Yadira dancing at her “dress as a Mexican” birthday party is from our photos.


2 Replies to “A Tale of Two Islands Part one: Just Being a Kid on Isla Mujeres Mexico”

  1. This is wonderful! I have met Freddy and others who have grown up on the island,but these recollections are priceless–and I love seeing the old photos.

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