The small San Blas saddlery was filled with ‘cowboy’ paraphernalia; a loosely organised collection of saddles, stirrups and lengths of leather and ropes in a variety of colours. A father and son browsed, with the shop proprietor in close attendance, it was a rite of passage, choosing the young man’s first saddle. They spoke in hushed, collaborative tones, the owner occasionally interjecting a word of wisdom.
It seemed a little like a teenager choosing their first car, looking at the sportiest, fastest cars their money will buy, while their older, wiser parent tried to direct them towards more sensible, safer options, with lower insurance premiums.
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My feelings about witnessing this touching scene, which is probably quite common in Mexico were mixed. I felt privileged to be able to share in the moment, but it also seemed slightly voyeuristic, intruding on a private moment, between a father and son. It remains however, one of my most memorable moments from San Blas, Riviera Nayarit.
Big boats of San Blas
The day had started early, our guide collecting us immediately after breakfast with the promise of seeing the “big boats”. This seemed like a translation issue and I was expecting to see “tall ships”, those graceful three-masted schooners that appear to travel with ease. Ships which have evoked poetry and epitomise the romance of sailing.
These big boats however, proved to be the remnants of an old fishing fleet, several rusting vessels, moored at the quay of the town. Disappointed? Not in the least, in the early morning golden glow of a rising sun these beautiful old boats were equally evocative. Their tall masts provided the perfect perches for pelicans and magnificent frigate birds, while huge winches, thick cables, hulls stained with rust and marine diesel, a landscape of industrial machinery which provides its own form of beauty.
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Next, a short stop at the beach where I underestimated the heat of the early sun, discovering for myself just how hot it can become. I’d removed my sandals to enjoy some sand between my toes, a decision, which I was to instantly regret the moment my feet hit the sand outside the shade. Desperately, hopping and skipping across the beach towards a nearby shelter, in genuine pain! Fortunately, there wasn’t any permanent damage, except perhaps to my dignity.
A morning browsing the market followed, fresh fish, hot chillies and smiling faces, it felt like familiar ground, as markets have always been favourite subjects for photography. They are a colourful barometer of the society, residents and visitors alike seem to descend upon the market, looking for a bargain for dinner or a souvenir to take home.
There was still time to wander around the town, browsing shops like the saddlery, strolling around the colourful town centre. People, young and old meeting under vibrant trees in full bloom, sheltering together from the sun. Like the market, it’s a cultural hub, a social centre, where locals can meet in pairs or small groups, maybe to pass time together, or perhaps before moving off to a bar or restaurant.
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I spotted a little girl in her bright, lace dress waiting impatiently for her dad to open her ice cream, another private moment which seemed a privilege to share.
Finally, just before leaving the town, a scruffy looking man carrying several large fish crossed the street in front of our vehicle. Flashing a broad toothless smile, he strolled off, weaving between the oncoming traffic; a final enduring image of the fascinating culture of San Blas.
Prying maybe the secret art of the street photographer, providing the viewers with small insights, a glimpse into another culture. Maybe there’s a little bit of a voyeur in all of us.