Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If you have to stay on Isla Mujeres...

Casa Espana. Avenida Francisco y Madera.

Get off the boat Turn left. Take the first right. It is on your left.If you are looking for the real thing and want authentic experience, try this.

Hotel owner Antonio Rios Chale is a direct descendent of the Magana family. Senor Magana used to sit in a white suit and determine all transactions on the island, according to island lore. Any problem or disagreement, everyone came straight to him. According to his utterances, the participants in the feud would act. And that was that. This was before paved roads and street lights.

I first came to know Antonio when he was still working in private practice as a dentist. I had a four year old with bad teeth at the time, and probably needed some dental work myself as well. Also some letters indicating to the government that due to the necessity of emergency dental work, our tourist visas of already several months had to be extended… things like that. I remember screaming in the chair I was going to come back in my next life as a chicken, because he told me chicken had no teeth as I slunk away from his hypodermic needle in his overstuffed chair.

Thus Antonio came to be a friend, and a go-to person for me, the longer I lived on the island. I believe once I read his palms. I know that I read the palms of at least one of the women who worked for him, who I last saw dancing in the square right up in front of the knock-out band from Merida (also in white suits) with her son in a dashing hat on New Year’s Eve.

Antonio has the habit of ending any conversation with, if you need anything let me know. I used to take him up on this frequently, without realizing this was part of the direct lineage of the ruling family tradition. And thus, quite possibly merely part of his social conditioning rather than anything personally indicating that he thought of me as a friend.

The latter realization clicked one morning this time back when I ran into Antonio at one of those outdoor tables of the restaurants where he can be found on Café Hidalgo, the main drag, regular according to schedule. He breakfasts every mmorning over the newspapers with a couple of his brothers. But to protect his privacy, I will keep his hours out of this post and let you figure out for yourself when you get down here just when that is.

I think in this particular instance, I wanted to know how to put a restraining order on one of my neighbors who kept calling me a slut (ramera, in Spanish--I had gone to ask him the word to better explain the situation to my landlord). He said yes that could be done here, and the problem was probably she was Canadian. And I needed her full name.

I answered, funny, my landlord had said the same Canadian thing, and I would have to get the full name from him,

Antonio, inquisitive and supportive person that he is, inquired as to who my landlord was. Javier, I answered. Oh, Javier Ravell? My primo. . . he was a professor, and a Maganua as well, descended from the man in the white suit and thus also everything clicked…both he and Antonio in the manner in which they conducted themselves definitely carried on the family line.

So if you want a nice place to stay, with a big mirror on the way out so you can see how your tan is progressing and how you look in that new dress or shirt, small and intimate with about 13 rooms, tourists of all types from all countries, an inner courtyard with many plants and tables under palapas to eat off of, roosters that crow, frequent warbling of other birds, internet that most of the time actually works, a small pool and a PAN official in the gobierno in case anything goes wrong (he now works in public health),and a refuge from aggressive neighbors, Antonio’s place is your place, and Antonio is your man as well.

Over the years he has helped me translate articles about to go to press that needed to be rescued from the GOOGLE translator program, providing more information about altars and such than I had ever been privy to before; filled me in on the back stories of land take overs, who goes to jail and why and how PRI helps them get out when it serves their own interests, and the growth of PAN opposition for the benefit of the artesanos when PAN had complete control; pointed out the progress of the lives of the people when all I could see was the glut of the development of higher priced tourism; offered to get fireworks approvals for my daughter’s birthday celebration, and just been a good friend all around. You can rent weekly or monthly or by the night, and if you are about to lose one housing and haven’t yet negotiated the next, he will get you some room on an interim rate as well at the drop of a hat.

Six caracols if you need a place to stay in Isla Mujeres. In my book, if you want a real feel for the island, the absolute best.

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