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Jules Siegel is a scientifically-literate writer, photographer and graphic designer.
His works have appeared in Playboy, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, New American Review, Best American Short Stories, Best American Magazine Verse and many other publications. His introspective on living in Cancun can be read on the website www.cafecancun.com . His book Cancun User's Guide is a must read for anyone interested in traveling to or planning to move to Cancun.
We’re not big customers of the night scene here, as we usually are in bed by 10 pm, but Faera was able to combine research with pleasure while engaging in the usual teen-age social rituals. She reports:
Many restaurants offer lively, even rowdy party atmosphere, especially the late-night bars. It is not unusual in these places to have all the waiters shouting and banging as some tourist downs a slammer. A slammer is a shot of tequila and soda pop (or Coke) rapped smartly on the bar to produce a burst of foam. The tradition is that you must drink this before the bubbles subside. Then you must drink another. There are also occasional beer drinking contests that can end with people staging impromptu wet T-shirt contests with beer instead of water and then taking their clothes off and diving into the lagoon to clean up.
If you aren’t a good sport, beware of certain restaurants on the lagoon, where customers and waiters alike are occasionally thrown into the water for misbehaving—or for behaving too well.
The greatest surprise in cultural conflicts comes with the traditional birthday cake ceremony at Carlos ’n’ Charlie’s. Mexico’s birthday song, Las Mañanitas, is enchantingly touching. After the candles are blown out, the waiter picks up the cake with one hand and tenderly offers the honored birthday person a little taste with a fork in the other. As you joyfully lean forward for the treat, he mashes the whole cake in your face. Onlookers applaud and shout and bang silverware and dishes.
Mexicans who are wise to this will sometimes protest strongly and beg to be excused from the ritual. The waiter will assure them that he has no intention of putting the cake in the face, just the little bit on the fork as a symbolic gesture. As soon as the victim relaxes—pow!—the whole cake, right in the kisser! Then a second cake is brought out to be eaten. The preferred cake is Pastel de Tres Leches—Cake of the Three Milks. This sounds quite típico, and it is, but not quite the way you might expect. The three milks are Carnation, Nestlé, and Nido.
People let go at night in Cancun. The Hotel Zone is utopianly permissive, a park-like zone of complete safety. The city of Cancun itself is one of the most prosperous in Latin America. Everyone is working. There is a little petty crime and fraud, of course, as everywhere, but the police blotter mostly consists of routine automobile accidents and domestic rows.
You can walk safely almost anywhere in Cancun at any hour. The places where you can’t walk safely are not easy to find. You really do have to be an explorer to find that sort of adventure here. Meanwhile, the sheer relief of being able to stroll quiet streets with children playing and the delicious smells of meals being prepared is a special magic that Cancun cherishes deeply.
If the town is safe, the Hotel Zone is absolutely eerie in its pervading sense of invisible control. There are plenty of resorts with beautiful beaches, but try to come up with the name of a beach you can walk on at 4 am in perfect safety. Cancun was designed from the beginning to provide hassle-free vacations. Peace is our most important product.
Violations of public decency are usually limited to occasional spontaneous stripping on dance floors and to kissing couples getting a little carried away and beginning to perform acts more usually left to the privacy of the hotel room. These, too, are mostly handled in the most discreet way possible. Although there are police everywhere in the Hotel Zone, credit card fraud is about the only crime vigorously prosecuted by the police. This is serious, friends. The credit card is the life-blood of Cancun. They like to keep the life-blood clean, right? Do anything you like, but pay the bill! Bad plastic can produce police sirens and will result in jail if fraud is involved.
It’s fun without limit, but within limits, if you can understand the seeming contradiction. You see the same sign over and over again: “Open from 7 PM to ...?” The limit is there, but it’s not necessarily the same every night.
Eventually, of course, all nights give way to dawn. Have you ever watched a full moon setting over the green jungle against violet sky on one side, while the first glow of the rising sun blushes the sea pink with morning pleasure on the other? For the truly ultimate Cancun night life experience, try a barefoot walk on the beach with your dearest friend and practice your favorite form of exhilaration. Where else but Cancun are you safe to do this, plus all of the above?
Written by Faera Seigel for www.cafecancun.com
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