|“Swingin’ in a hammock in the palm tree shade…”|
When we first moved to Isla six years ago, I jokingly asked a Mexican friend, “So, how do you have sex in a hammock.”
His face turned bright red in embarrassment and he chuckled. “If you sleep every night for one year in a hammock, I’ll tell you,” he replied.
Hammocks are common in local homes, strung across the main room maximizing space in a limited-size home, and providing comfort for the entire family. They were originally developed in Central and South America as a portable method of keeping the sleeping person cool and reasonably safe from venomous snakes, scorpions and disease carrying insects.
These useful accessories eventually make their way into the Yucatán Peninsula area of Mexico a couple of hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish explorers.
|Manuel Jesus Pech Pat – in his Isla store|
Around 1590 many European naval sailing ships were using the idea of a canvas sling hammock, to accommodate more sleeping spaces in cramped quarters and to prevent the sailors from being injured by rolling out of their bunk beds during rough weather.
Many sailors became so accustomed to this way of sleeping they brought their hammocks with them while on shore leave.
In recent years, during the Apollo Space program, the Lunar Capsule was equipped with hammocks for the captain and the lunar module pilot to sleep in, between space walks.
Originally made from tree bark and sisal modern day tropical hammocks are typically woven from either cotton or nylon yarns. Several villages like Ek Balam and Tixkokob near the City of Mérida specialize in making hammocks for sale in Mexico or around the world. They are hand woven by men, women and children, while the larger hammocks might be made on a loom.
|Located inside the Mercado del Artesano on Abasolo|
On Isla Mujeres, a display of colourful hammocks caught my eye as I was walking past the Mercado del Artesano in centro on Isla Mujeres. I stopped to chat with the vendor, Manuel Jesus Pech Pat. He was born in his family village in the Yucatán, and has now lived on Isla for forty-two years.
Manuel told me that the average chair hammock takes about sixteen hours to create, while the larger two-person hammocks take up to thirty-two hours to weave. A good hammock will have the knots in the twine at the ends, not in the middle of the sleeping area. The weave will be reasonably tight and even.
|Manuel weaving a hammock|
Chatting as he demonstrated the hand-weaving method of making hammocks, he hardly looked at what his hands were doing – muscle memory preforming the intricate stitches. He and his uncle Julian Cauih share the little bodega. On sunny days you can see Manuel walking the beaches selling his hammocks to tourists and Cancun day-trippers, while his uncle minds the store. Stop in for a visit at their store and check out their supply of hammocks, blankets and handwoven jackets. Their store is in the Mercado del Artesano on Abasolo Street, facing the Poc-Na hostel.
As for the original question to my now very good friend; well we didn’t fulfill our part of the bargain by sleeping in a hammock every night for one year, so I never did learn the answer to the question. More research is required!
Lawrie & Lynda
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