Spanish Study and Guided Travel in Mexico

spanish teacher in Yelapa and Sayulita, Mexico observes the culture

So this is Christmas!

So this is Christmas! Changing Times

One night on the new malecón (sea wall )in Puerto Vallarta, I walked the beautiful new pedestrian pathways, and enjoyed the relaxed setting now closed to road traffic for half its length.  Many of the numerous statues  had some or many adults and children climbing them and interacting without being spirited off by NO TOCAR(don’t touch) signs or policemen. The only flaw in the landscape was a giant green plastic Christmas tree that had no resemblance to any magnificent evergreen I’ve ever seen. It didn’t match the good taste applied elsewhere on the malecón.  I cut it out of all my pictures. In the daylight I was appalled to see it was a giant Coca Cola ad! Each two dimensional ball, measuring about a foot in diameter, held a picture of Santa in some compromised relationship with one to six bottles of Coca Cola.  There were smaller paper balls also hanging, saying, “Mi malecon, el orgullo de Vallarta” , my malecon, the pride of Vallarta.  But it’s a stretch to see how anyone could be proud of this artless unnatural Coca Cola billboard!  According to Bay Vallarta magazine’s editor, Juan Espinoza Lozano, the Christmas tree is a symbol that reminds us of the tree in paradise, the fruit from which Adam and Eve ate, and were banished with original sin. Jesus came as the promised Messiah to reconcile man with God. In some regions in Mexico, “el niño Dios” brings toys to the children who have behaved well throughout the year.  All this, he points out, is slowly disappearing because of a person in red named Santa Claus who has taken his place, clear proof of the marketing influence of the north. This disappearance hasn’t seemd slow to me, but alarmingly rapid.

some of Mexico's best sculpure on Vallart's new malecon

the Malecon, el orgullo, the pride of Vallarta!

The message: Santa = Christmas= Coca Cola is outrageous. How boldly they are undermining the traditional images with the same false idol that was offered in the US and Canada in the 1930s. It’s what drove me and many others away from Christmas. I’m not trying to be the Xmas Grinch, but conspicuous overconsumption of plastic Christmas gifts and the marketing of a happy = material Christmas is not what the world needs. No more than it needs Coke!

Coca Cola sponsors Christmas on the malecon

Coca cola is not the pride of Vallarta

I have not spent many Christmases in Canada in the last 25 years.  The commercialized aspect of Christmas has never sat well with me.  I would usually go away to Mexico to enjoy the peace and the more traditional aspects of Xmas. One year, my first on mainland Mexico, I was at the Posada Cañon del Vata, in Puerto Angel, where my hostess Susana, brought out a carrot cake iced with cream cheese frosting, topped with a beautiful fuchsia shade of bougainvilleas and candles. We celebrated Christ’s birthday.  I was thirty years old and honestly had never really experienced that connection with Christmas prior. Since then I’ve celebrated with families on the twenty-forth of December, la noche buena, the night of Christ’s birth. After  a big dinner , lots of laughter, and lots of stories, the kids happily swing at a Star of Bethlehem piñata or two, long into the night.  At on dinner I recall their weren’t enough forks for people to eat more than six at a time, but we couldn’t have been happier.

The traditional nativity scenes of animals surrounding the barn and manger of Christ’s birth, with wise men, and other players, used to be created under the Christmas trees of many homes here in Yelapa, which were barren of gifts. It’s less common now, but a welcome sight. Rosita at Casa Playita by the dock, still takes great pleasure in lining up the animals, and adorning the scene with moss, little plastic trees. A six year old girl I met this weekend in La Hermita in the mountains, added crocodiles to her nativity scene which were eating dogs in the scenario, an interesting twist by this budding action film director!

Puerto Vallartan’s created their nativity scene on the malecón, at a great distance from the Coca Cola tree, a few weeks after Coca Cola’s early grasp on its spot. It really shines in contrast both in meaning and in originality. There are the three wise men, the baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary along with the expected cows, sheep and burro, against the backdrop of the Bay of Banderas. As one couple pointed out, there was even a chicken, complete with real eggs on a wooden crate on a bale of straw, enjoying the ocean view.

Nativity scene on the malecon

First breakfast for the Holy Morning!

I delight in gift giving, and constantly pick up things for loved ones wherever I am, and give them whenever.  I appreciate the spirit of gift giving. I fear we’re exchanging the message of Jesus’s birth  for the message of consumerism, and we and future generations will lose what grounds us.  Traditions and myth are what hold us in place, culturally and spiritually.   I’d love to hear from you about what is special about Christmas; what are your traditions.  In whatever way you celebrate, I wish you spend time in meaningful relationship to your family, friends, creatures and place!

Ringing in the New Year! With or Without a Calendar

I actually escaped the coast this year on December 31st, so I could recover from a few intense weeks of classes, and get a good nights sleep – not something anyone in Yelapa would have had.  Tucked away in the tiny town of San Sebastian in the mountains where no restaurant was even open after eight p.m., I was guaranteed a quick recovery! Today, January 1, the school band is shaking up the earth with a rousing tuba, trumpeting, drumming  greeting of the New Year for all the docile dwellers, in case they missed the changed of date and year!

San Sebastian Street band greeting the New Year

For the rest, there’s a calendar free from every hotel and business. I went out a week ago and scoured Vallarta looking to buy some Spanish language or bilingual wall calendars to give out as gifts. They don’t sell them, they told me. “Unbelievable,” I said, wondering at the impossible task of navigating the days of the year without one. They give them away. Well, no one was giving them away anywhere I went in Puerto Vallarta. I did finally buy three, the last three, from a book store, that shipped them in from another gringo haven, the Lake Chapala town of Ajijic. By the time I left San Sebastian on Jan 2,  I had picked up one free calendar and been offered two more!

Katherine from Nanaimo, Canada on her way home from Vallarta, asked where she could buy a calendar. I had sent her already to the best souvenir store, Lucy’s Cucu Cabaña, and when I stopped there I was thrilled to see the very famous images of Jesus Helguera on an advertising calendar – much more advertising area than the tiny bottom strip of calendar area. But it was a calendar, and better yet, it had the stunning images of Jesus Helguera, with romanticized depictions of Mexicans in dance, life and work. In later years he painted natives and warriors  pumped on natural hormones, ample muscles flexed in the act of hunting, praying or carrying off their scantily clad maiden rescued from harm’s way. In the 1940s hardly anyone had a calendar that didn’t feature his work. For more on these images, see .  Check out Lucy’s Cucu Cabañas on Basilio Badillo 195, Zona Romantica (Colonia Emiliano Zapata).

Calendar Art by Jesus Helguera on calendars Lucy's Cucu Cabañas

See the following Post for description of my new offerings at the Yelapa English Spanish Institute  – Group Class discounts to match prices of  ten years ago, to boost the economy and bring you to Mexico. Also Classes are also offered on Skype for those who can’t get to Mexico and want to charge up their Spanish skills and keep developing them for the next trip you can afford to take!  or get in touch via: for study tours with your language teacher and guide!
or phone: 011 52 322 209 5220


1 Comment »