Monday, January 7, 2008

Cancun Surprises


Mayans have Chinese blood, a local man tells us. The man has mixed European and native Mexican blood, and speaks nearly perfect English. Any evidence? I ask. "See that woman?" He points to one of the hotel staff walking by. "See her eyes?" I glance at her as she glances back at me, suspicious. Indeed, the Mayan woman's eyes look more like mine than his or my husband's. Further, the Mayans have names such as Chu, Chen, and Qi. "Those are Chinese names," our companion says positively. I find myself unable to dispute.

And the Mayans have Mongolian blood, he adds. "You know about the Mongolian spot, right?" "No." "You don't know?" He is genuinely surprised. "The Mongolians have a black spot here," he places his palm on his lower back, where the tailbone might be. "And the Mayan kids have it too. It disappears at twelve." Some Mayan children will even offer to show their black spots to tourists.

Doll in Bread

Last night, we bought a loaf of fruit bread from a Mexican supermarket. This morning when we sliced the bread, a tiny white plastic figure emerged from within. We brought the figurer to our hotel concierge, Andy. Her eyebrow leaped. "You found that?" She said something about a child who finds the doll is responsible for bringing food to the celebration on February 3rd. This is what I found on the internet afterward:

Rosca de Reyes
Three Kings Sweet Bread

Rosca is the name given to any ring-shaped bread or cookie. This sweet bread was once used by the friars to evangelize: a small doll, representing the Christ child, is baked right in the bread- "hidden", to symbolize the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops on the day of Los Santos Inocentes, the Holy Innocents. This treat is traditionally served on the festive Three Kings Day, when the children receive their toys. Whoever gets the slice of rosca with the doll in it has to provide the tamales and atole for the next party, on Candlemas.

Caribbean Blues

"How many blues?" A Mexican girl named Pamela asks me. We are looking at the blue waves of the Caribbean crashing on the beach below the balcony. Surprised by the question, I turn to gaze at the soaring waves again. Before the question was asked, there was one blue; now there are many shades.

"Fifty six," Pamela says.

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