Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

The art of communication and miscommunication

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“Please put the toilet paper on the waste basquet.” 

A sign posted inside the public washrooms at one of our favourite island restaurants always makes me giggle when I read it.  Just one small word, on instead of in, and the whole purpose of the sign is destroyed, in a humorous way. 



Seasoned travelers automatically get what the sign is trying to communicate; put your used toilet paper in the waste basket.  There is no sewer system in many parts of the island, or in many other parts of Mexico, only holding tanks.  Business owners ask their customers to place all used paper products inside the waste paper cans reducing the number of times the tank must be pumped out, and hopefully reducing the number of times the system overflows onto the street.  It’s not our favourite thing about living in Mexico, it is what it is.


Another confusing sign can be seen at the crumbling edge of the Punta Sur cliffs.  It severely admonishes: “Do Not Close to the Cliff!”  Sure, I won’t close to the cliff, if I only knew what that meant.  It does sound kind of scary though.  Maybe the sign painter meant – don’t walk close to the cliff?  Don’t run close to the cliff?  Or maybe, don’t stand at the unprotected edge of the cliff as people have been known to fall off trying for that perfect tourist-selfie.  

Other signs on the island deliberately use humor to get the point across.  “Live Nudes!  We don’t have any, but we do have frozen drinks.”  

Bet that sign makes a lot of guys do a neck-twisting double-take as they putter along Rueda Medina in their rented golf carts.  

Or the sign that used to be across from the passenger ferry terminal where thousands of Cancun day-trippers arrived hourly; “Husband day care, while you shop.”  I’m sure more than one shopping-bored husband pointed to the sign, and said, “See honey, they will take care of me while you look for souvenirs.”  Then gleefully handing over a fistful of cash waved goodbye, “Have a nice time, dear.  I’ll be right here.”

M. Watt photo
But the signs we enjoy the most as the hand-painted, kid-produced signs reminding everyone to protect and care for local critters.  There are signs about iguanas printed in rudimentary English: “Take care me, make part of your world.  Signs about the crocodiles living in the marsh near Hacienda Mundaca.  And hand painted signs about the annual migration of the protected blue crab, posted at both Sac Bajo and Punta Sur, reminding drivers to slow down and let the critters cross the road.  


Watch out for migrating blue and red crabs
The large blue and the smaller red crabs like to make the trek, from land to ocean and back again, during moonlit summer nights. Unfortunately not all of the crustaceans survive this summertime ritual.  Some get squished, providing tasty morning snacks for squabbling birds or cannibalistic crabs.  In case you missed the words “protected blue crabs” and are considering a tasty feast – think again.  And besides, after watching the crabs feast on iguana poop, er, no thanks, I’ll pass.

Signs – the art of communication and miscommunication.  It is one of the challenges of translating from your own language to another language.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  

I have on occasion, okay many times, written or said something in my rudimentary Spanish that means something other than what I intended to say.  Like the time I posted in a blog that I was feeling very hot, as in temperature, but the Goggle translation said I was hot, as in sexy.  Thankfully our friend Vivian emailed the correct words, and I fixed the blog post. We had a good giggle over that little error.


That’s what is so great about living in a small community on a tropical island, friends laugh with you.  

It is all a part of communication – mistakes and all.

Hasta Luego
Lawrie & Lynda





Pretty clear message – D Adler photo


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