Spring 2010

Cozumel, Mexico is a United Nations named Island of Peace.

Almost all photos can be clicked on to see the larger version.

Spring Blossoming Trees

The Golden Shower tree is a deciduous tree that blooms in May.  The flowers are delicate golden yellow drop clusters.  The tree is native to southern Asia, but found its way to the island and is pictured here in the middle of the boulevard of 30th Avenieda.

The grand finale for spring blossoming trees in Cozumel is the Flamboyan tree aka Royal PoincianaTree.  This tree originated in Madagascar but was introduced to the Yucatan in the late 19th century.  It was planted all over the Yucatan near Mayan huts and in parks and villages.   The tree seems to have been on the island for a long time because of the many mature trees you see all over the island.  It is a spectacular tree that brightens up the island. There are many other blossoming trees in pinks, blues and other yellows.

 

Here is a green razorfish. They can dive and borrow into the sand very quickly. They also have some really strange mating behavior. When spawning and the female releases her eggs, these bad boys will quickly swim into the cloud of eggs and get a quick few bites of the nutritious rich eggs. Poor survival technique for future generations if you ask me.

 

The water delivery system in Cozumel, at least in the older homes, involves either a well or connection to the city water and a systern. Next step is a bomba (pump) which pumps the water up to the roof and into a tonako (large black tank). These tonakos get dirty. Sediment accumulates in the bottom and needs to be removed. So we have our tonakos cleaned. Meet Jose getting into the job.

Bios

I couldn't resist adding Doris to my Cozumel bios. Doris is from Austin, Texas, but has  been coming to Cozumel since 1978. I like to call her a frequent flyer. Doris is a diver. Well, I guess that isn't unusual. Most of the visitors that have been coming to the island that long are divers. But Doris is unique in that she started diving when whe was 67, 17 years ago. She is now 85. Doris has uncommon energy for someone in the mid-80's. She lives on 15 acres in rural Austin and religiously mows the lawn - I am guessing on a riding mower, but nothing about Doris would surprise me. She removes unwanted stumps on her property by using a pickaxe - herself. She was offered early retirement from Xerox and didn't hesitate, she had some plans. Since her retirement she has learned some new skills. Diving came a bit later because at 57, she thought she was too old. So first she learned repelling and snow skiing. She also took training in EMS and is a volunteer in emergency medicine in her rural area where that skill is greatly needed. She remembers when Playa del Carmen was just a place to get off the bus and get the ferry. You could look at the skyline to the west and maybe see a light or 2. I had the great pleasure of meeting Doris through my friend, Susan McGuffin, who used to own Scuba Shack where Doris dove for years and still does. Once Doris learned to dive, there was no stopping her. She frequently returns to the island to get her diving fix.

My favorite restaurant on the island is Cameron Dorado. Their fried shrimp tacos are consistently excellent. I used go there at least once a week and to be quite honest, twice is more like it. I have been noticing a stooped over elderly man walking by from time to time. I became curious about him and decided to take his photo. I asked Lalo (the manager of Cameron Dorado) what he could tell me about him. Lalo told me his name is Julio and he is indeed quite old and has no family. He lives in a very small house near there and walks by every day. Sometimes he stops and waits a little to the side of the restaurant and they take him out a shrimp torta. Sherry Davis from cozumelinsider.com was a frequent flyer at Cameron Dorado and has also noticed Julio. Sherry thought it would be a good thing to bring a bag of things that might help him out. So she gathered up some useful items and took the bag to Cameron Dorado and left it for them to give to Julio next time he came by. Lalo told me that when they tried to give Julio the bag of goodies, he refused to take it. Okay, so maybe it was going to be too heavy for him. What they then did was put a single item in the bag with his torta and that way they could give him everything over time. After the first item in the torta bag, Julio was on to their trick. So the next torta that they gave him, he checked the bag carefully and when he saw the gift, he took the torta out and gave them the bag and gift back. But the good people at Cameron Dorado were not to be dissuaded. The owner took the bag and went to Julio's house. He went inside and left the bag. Sure enough, the bag came back outside. So this broken down old soul has fierce pride. I am humbled by his determinant independence. Okay, so he is a little inconsistent. He will take money and free food.

Famous lines from "The Graduate"

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
Mr. McGuire: I mean one day they will fill our oceans and cover our lands!

Plastics are resonsible for a great deal of the trash on the island. In last summer's blog I brought up the awful situation at the Cozumel dump. People take their unwanted pets there and dump them like so much trash. Now a new company has taken over the operation of the dump from the city and what they plan to do is make it better. But there are unintended consequences for the dogs and men that have been living there. Monica from the Cozumel Humane Society has written up this story very elegantly and allowed me to include it in this blog. Click here for the story.

Here is a youtube video of a couple of permit fish enjoying a meal. They seem to be taking stones and rocks into their mouths and getting all the algae off of them. They are being followed around by some parrot fish and a trunk fish that seem to be enjoying leftovers.

One of the waterfront statues that I find interesting is this one depicting one of two men shipwrecked near Chetamal. The story goes that there was a shipwreck off the coast and all died except for 2 Spaniards. They began to survive in the new world. One marries the chief's daughter and cuz he is such a bloodthirsty Spaniard they make him the War Chief and he lives happily somewhere close to Cozumel, in Chetumal. When Cortez et.al. arrive one Spaniard is brought naked to Cortez and asks "Do you speak the King's language?" When Cortez says yes he falls at his feet and cries. Cortez asks him about the other Spaniard and the naked guy tells him about the Chief's son-in-law and how he does not think he will want to go with Cortez because he is pretty happy in Chetumal. Cortez sends for him anyway and the guy says thanks but no. The naked guy goes on with Cortez as his translator and the War Chief goes back to his tribe.

What the statue depicts is the look of horror on his face when he sees the Spaniards have arrived because he knows the doo doo is going to hit the fan. The statue's name is something like the birth of the Mexican race because he is the first documented birth of mestizos. So the family is Mayan-Spaniards. Thank you Juen for your history lesson.

The Sandiver. This fish is the most common fish of the lizardfish family. It lays quietly on the bottom waiting for prey to come to them. They can change colors to match their background. Some of the colors in their wardrobe are brown, reddish brown, yellow and blue. Their meals consist of small boney fish such as the grunts and sea basses with the occasional small crustaceans such as squid or shrimp.. These fish are "open water breeders". The females lay eggs on the lower parts of the reef and consider that the end of their responsibility.

These fish are not dangerous, I guess unless you step on them. But they sure look like they could be. They remind me of the stonefish or scorpion fish which have poisonous fins.

 

In Mayan times women made a sacred pilgrimage to Cozumel in open canoes to go to San Gervasio and make an offering to the Goddess Ix Chel. This was no simple matter. It took hours and the conditions had to be right as there is a very strong current through the Cozumel channel. This pilgrimage is done every year now as part of the recognition of the Mayan culture. They leave around 5:30 am from Xcaret. The voyage was very important because women believed that to have healthy families they needed to honor Ix Chel in this matter. From left to right below are a close look at the canoes used, dugouts. The first canoes appearing and the disembarking point (thank you Adriana Delfin for climbing up on a chair to get this shot for me). To the far right is one of the paddlers, looking fine after many hours of paddling.

 

Helmet Conch are mollusks found in the waters around Cozumel and elsewhere in the caribbean and Florida. At least they are found here now, who knows about the future after the big sand raid last fall. Scientists believe it was going to have a very detrimental effect on the queen conch and I would assume other conch that breed in these waters. King helmet conch feed on sea urchins. They are really cool hunters. They sneak up on the spiney sea urchins (which contain poisonous spines), they raise up high above them and plop down on them suddenly. The conch releases a paralitic enzyme from their saliva gland and in addition, they secrete sulphuric acid which dissolve the sea urchin shell. These beauties can completely ingest a sea urchin in around 10 minutes. I guess this is kinda fast food for a slow mollusk!

We have as of April 16 2010 we had 46 nortes this season. The 46th one brought a lot of rain. Many torrential downpours over a 3 day period. When it rains that heavy we have street flooding and even though you can drive through it, it isn't good for the car, especially one as old as Ruby (red 94 Tracker). So you are kinda stuck at home where the satillite isn't working because of the rain. The animals get a little cabin fever and outdoor critters lose their homes to flooding. When that happens, they seek other shelter. My first clue that there was a problem was my Aby, Tuffy, doing his "OMG what is that" body language. I saw an ant on the floor and said, aren't you being a little mellow dramatic cat. It was right about then this snake came flying our way. What ensued was a lot of yelling, scampering, broom sweeping and general chaos spattered with me yelling, Magoo LEAVE IT and stuff like that. The snake wouldn't be chased out the door and went under the stove in the back room where my dinner was cooking. Hmm, now what! Okay, I have friends and I was sure one would come help me. But no such luck. I couldn't find anyone that could come help. So, I closed off the back room and tipped the stove. I couldn't see if it was under it and while l held the stove up, so I swept the broom under it. The snake was curled up against the wall. I had already propped the door to the outside open, so it was a pretty easy task to keep the snake heading in that direction using the broom. All the while I was reassuring myself that there are no poisonous snakes on the island. This little beauty can keep on controlling pests, just not in my casa. I determined the snake to be a Yucatan Cat-eyed Snake. Harmless and rather pretty.

The spotted drum fish is one of the favorites of people on the island. I found one not long ago that was shallow enough I could photograph it. This is an adult drum. They are pretty spectacular, but the juveniles are even more spectacular. The diet of the drum is mainly crustacaeons. The juveniles have been seen exhibiting cleaning behavior on other fish.

I rarely see these so it was a great treat for me to be able to be so close and get these photos.

You have often heard me complain about the condition of the horses, especially the carriage horses here in Cozumel. Well here is one that looks to be in pretty good shape. So what have I got to complain about then? Well, notice how he is tied so his head is up all the time and cannot be lowered. I noticed him as I drove out the transversal road to go to the other side of the island.When I returned a couple of hours later, he was in the same spot tied the same way. I consider that cruel. I would love to be able to tie the owners up in an uncomfortable way with no food or water and leave them for a few hours. Maybe then they would have a clue as to why it is cruel to do this to an animal.

Spiny orbweavers like the one to the right are common on the island. These spiders look a bit crab like and come in a variety of colors and sizes. They range from the southern United States to throughout Central America and as far south as Argentina. These spiders are highly beneficial and are not considered dangerous.

 

 

 

Vignettes

In June Cozumel had the rare treat of a concert by Korean pianist, Joo Hee Lee. She played splendidly, it brought tears to my eyes, even on a poorly tuned baby grand piano. The audience sat at rapt attention. Except perhaps, the young adult downs syndrome man next to me who softly snored throughout.

Mornings and evenings lately have brought the raucous sounds of green parrots flying over. I thought they left the island in the summer, but maybe not. Maybe we will once again have a parrot flock on the island that lives here year-round.

Once again, thank you Juen for editing and for your storehouse of island trivia.
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